Life gets busy fast, and before we know it all of our priorities are out of whack because we try to keep up with everything that is going on in our lives. We commit ourselves to several different things and we stretch until we're about to break in half.
One of my biggest regrets is putting sports in front of everything else. I loved softball, but looking back now, all those long weekends spent on the ball field were not worth it. Travel leagues expanded tournaments into Saturday and Sunday, and occasionally Thursday and Friday as well. I was exhausted all the time and I had no time for anything else. Church has always been important to me, but during my travel ball years, I hardly ever could go because of my commitment to softball.
What had happened to me? My priorities were sports, friends, family (only sometimes), and God was last.
I played on many different teams, and rarely made time for God on Sundays before we hit the field. Fortunately, I ended my softball career with the best team and with coaches that placed God first in their lives, and before each game. Although, being on the ball field and praying on Sunday was not quite the same as praising God from the pew at church.
Family meals were non-existent. No one had time for them. Whenever I did have some free time, I was too tired to hangout with any friends. I hardly had any time to myself, and I am the type of person who needs time alone to recharge my energy.
During my sophomore year of high school, I was playing travel volleyball during the winter months. We practiced on Sunday afternoons, which allowed time for Sunday morning church and youth nights. Tournaments were only played on Saturdays, so it was the best of both worlds. God came first, and I could still play the sport I loved. I was sixteen years old and thought I knew everything.
But what about family?
One of my biggest regrets is going to practice one Sunday afternoon while my parents and brother went to the hospital to visit my great-grandfather. He had been diagnosed with cancer, but nothing was too serious yet and he was just experiencing some balancing issues. We thought we had more time, so I chose to give my loyalty to the team instead of him.
I'll forever regret this mistake.
Not too long after that, on Christmas day in 2013, he died suddenly. It wasn't because of cancer, but the Lord wanted to bring him home before he could suffer. I was supposed to see him a few days later and celebrate Christmas with that side of my family, but I never got to see him again. I wish I hadn't missed that trip to the hospital.
My family was able to listen to him tell stories of when he served in World War II and be there in the moment and visit at the hospital. My dad taped the stories on his phone, but it wasn't the same for me. I missed my opportunity to see him one last time.
There is nothing wrong with loving a sport. The problem comes when we place sports before God and family. The order should have been God, family, friends, and then whatever else. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says: "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun."
Putting God and family first doesn't mean sports, theater, art, band or any other extracurricular activity has to be given up completely. There is a time for everything.
Funerals are never easy to deal with. I missed a scrimmage volleyball game because of my great-grandfather's funeral. Did I wish I could have played? Sure. Do I regret missing the game? Absolutely not. No reason could have caused me to miss his funeral.
When another close family relative died during my senior year of high school, I insisted on going to the funeral. I was going to miss class and part of volleyball practice after school, but I didn't care. Family comes before sports in my life now.
We spread God's love by spending time with others. It can be done in a ball game by how you treat your coach, your teammates, and your rivals, but God must come first above all else.
And when it came time to set the bat and glove down or throw the volleyball shoes in the back of my closet, I was okay with walking away. My life was not over just because sports were no longer a big part of my life. God will never leave me, and my family will always have my back. Placing God and family before everything else made the transition much easier on me.
It may have taken me sixteen years to learn the order of my priorities, but it is a lesson I will never forget. People matter, and being there for others in times of need is what God intended for us to do. Always remember, God, family, friends, and the rest is up to you.