My 2015 postseason with the Mets was a really special time for me. Not only was I playing really well, but my relationship with the Lord was thriving. Each day I would go into the ballpark, grab my lunch, and head into our conference room for a while before stepping onto the field. As I sat down to eat I would open God’s Word and begin to dive into the Proverbs.
Just as with any practice that you continually engage in, the message of these Proverbs started to really stick in my mind. Then, walking onto the field for the game, I would replay these verses in my head and experience a great peace about whatever situation I was in. Heading into the batter’s box I would be chewing on what I read that day.
The wild thing is that during that time I kept hitting homers and therefore people kept wanting to interview me after each game. For those seven games I was able to have my heart in a really good place for those interviews. Having God’s Word on my heart in those moments allowed me to intentionally deflect the attention off of myself so that I could see those around me and lift them up.
There’s a difference between deflecting praise because, as a Christian, you’re supposed to and deflecting praise with an authentic and thankful heart. The second attitude is much more rewarding and fulfilling than simply going through the motions.
After those games I made a few errors in the World Series. I distinctly remember seeing a few newspaper articles that were less than kind, particularly the New York Post’s headline: “DAMN MURPHY.” But what was really cool for me to realize was that Jesus loved me just as much in that moment as He did when I was hitting those seven home runs. He loves me when I’m at the mountaintop and He loves me when I’m in the valley—there’s not one moment when He is pouring out less of Himself for me.
Both of these moments are part of my story. Eventually everyone is going to struggle; you will never be good enough for long enough, and inevitably people will stop cheering for you. But Jesus loves you enough. He doesn’t need you to perform. His love is not dependent on your circumstances, your notoriety, or your success—He loves you for you.
That truth is really hard for me to wrap my mind around sometimes because I like to perform. I tend to always think that the harder I work, the better I’ll get. It’s easy to think the harder I work for Jesus, the more He’ll love me but that’s just not true. He couldn’t love me any more than He already does. And it’s in these moments that I experience and understand the truth of His Word.
One of the Proverbs that has changed my perspective and attitude in the game is Proverbs 15:1:
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” —Proverbs 15:1
I used to get really riled up and scream at the umpires. When I did yell at them, I wondered why they would get so upset with me but when I read this verse it suddenly made perfect sense to me. No wonder these guys wanted to kill me when I screamed at them!
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” —Proverbs 1:7
This Proverb helps me recognize who God is, what He’s done for me, and who I am in relation to Him. He wants us to fear and know Him. To do this, I need to seek less of myself and more of Him. When I do seek God first, I begin to understand just how great He is.
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” —Proverbs 17:3
This Proverb is one that has really stuck with me throughout the game, no matter what I may be going through, God will use it to bring me closer to Him. Postseason games are super high in intensity. There were a few times when I almost threw up beforehand because I had so much anxiety. But when I’m put through the fire, God is sanctifying me to become more like Jesus—He needs to melt the dross out of my heart in order purify me. Though being in the fire stinks sometimes, God is always going to press into the areas of our life where we need to surrender to Him. He’s going to turn up the heat because He loves us.
Baseball is one of those areas for me; I’ve always struggled with finding my identity on the field. But God continues to show me that I am uniquely loved, not because of what the scoreboard reads or what the media says but because of what Jesus did. My identity is found in Him.
Daniel Murphy is a regular contributor of The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.
Check out Daniel’s full profile on The Increase Baseball: https://theincrease.com/author/danielmurphy/
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