When my son Ryan was in high school and trying to get a chance to play college baseball, I took him to a Prospect Camp at a small college in Georgia. The college had a successful DII baseball program, and its coach had a good working relationship with many of the coaches from similar-sized schools. The two-day event was just a chance for Ryan to get seen by some recruiters/coaches and possibly get a nibble of an offer from one of them.
For me, the highlight of the event was a panel discussion that was held for the parents. With all of us crammed into the college’s auditorium, and with seven or eight of the college coaches sitting at a table up on the stage, the host school’s coach provided a very informative presentation regarding the ins and outs of how to get your kid recruited to play college baseball. Afterward, any parent who wanted to ask a question was given the opportunity to do so, and each coach on stage was expected to give his answer to the question. As I think back on that night now, two questions in particular and the answers they evoked are still etched in my mind.
One question had to do with academics. The mother of one of the players attending the camp was a teacher who advocated for students to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes in high school. Since she believed that taking such classes was the best way for her son to prepare for college, she figured the panel of coaches would confirm that belief by saying something like, “Yes, we especially look for players who have strong academic resumes.”
Unfortunately for her, however, she got her balloon popped when she discovered that not one coach on that panel was a fan of taking the harder classes. To a man, each coach said that all he looked for academically in a player was a bare minimum G.P.A., SAT score, or ACT score, anything that would allow the player to qualify as academically eligible to attend the coach’s school. Rather than put in the extra study time required for AP classes, the coaches suggested the player devote the extra time to making himself a better baseball player. Even when that educator mom became visibly upset and attempted to argue with those coaches, not one of them backed down from that answer. The gist of what they told her was, “Your son taking the AP classes might enable him to more easily handle college courses, and it might also help him earn more academic scholarship money, but what we are looking for is his skill as a baseball player rather than a student.”
The second standout question had to do with travel teams. One father asked, “If my son has to choose between playing for his high school team and playing for his travel team, which team should he choose?” I have to admit that I almost scoffed when I heard that question. My kneejerk reaction was, “He should play for his high school team because he’ll want to play with his friends and fellow students and represent his school.” I knew that dad’s question had struck gold, though, when every coach on that stage began to blush and sheepishly grin as if he was going to have to admit something that until then had always been kept top secret. Several of them even looked at each other and started laughing as if to say, “Do you want to answer that one first?”
You can probably guess where I’m going with this. Despite the fact that colleges are supposed to work hand in hand with high schools, not one of those coaches would say that it was more important for a kid to play for a high school team rather than a travel team. Their reasons were numerous. Generally speaking, travel teams consistently play better competition, provide better coaching, play on nicer fields, and give a player an overall experience much more on par with what college baseball is like. This is all especially true if a player attends a high school that has a baseball program that isn’t very good.
As I think back on those two memorable questions/answers, I realize that each one serves as a perfect example of opposing agendas. What is the agenda of high school teachers and educators when it comes to getting a teenager prepared for college? It centers around academics, bookwork, advanced classes, etc. That agenda is all about helping the kid become a successful college student. But what is the agenda of college sports coaches when it comes to getting a teenager prepared for college? It centers around the kid excelling in a specific sport, training year-round for that sport, honing that craft, etc. It is all about helping that kid become a successful college athlete.
Likewise, what is the agenda of high school coaches, principals, and administrators when it comes to high school athletics? It centers around high schools having the most successful teams possible in terms of victories, player participation, parental support, community enthusiasm, etc. But what is the agenda of college sports coaches? It centers around colleges having the most successful teams possible.
Now let’s apply all this to the Christian’s relationship with God. What is the Christian’s agenda when it comes to this earthly life? It centers around health, wealth, comfort, pleasure, easy living, etc. It is all about making this world as much like heaven as possible. But what is God’s agenda for the Christian when it comes to this earthly life? It centers around adversity, trials, tests, persecution, etc. It is all about enabling the Christian to grow spiritually and causing this world to look less and less appealing in contrast to heaven. That’s why God doesn’t come riding in and save the day every time the Christian has a problem.
Let’s face it, even though we all want to live in the mountaintop experiences, the truth is that we grow more spiritually and acquire more wisdom in the valley experiences. God knows this about us, and so He either causes or at least allows valley experiences to come our way. Keep this in mind, Christian, the next time you find yourself in such an experience. If you are praying for one thing but God keeps sending the exact opposite, you should acknowledge that two different agendas are in conflict. God can’t grant what you want for yourself without forgoing what He wants for you, and He is simply not willing to give up on what He wants for you. It’s not that He doesn’t love you or want good things for you; it’s just that He has a different set of good things in mind for you. Your job is to figure out what His agenda is for your situation and thank Him for the good things He is accomplishing for you by way of that agenda. You see, when you learn to do that, then you’ll begin flowing with the current of His lesson plan for your life rather than trying to swim upstream against it.