While I am writing about baseball these days on Living Up to My Name, I am also deeply into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The NBA finals start tonight too, so that also will peak my interest, although not as much as hockey. I really enjoy playoff sports and tournaments. There is a certain thrill that comes with a loss meaning the end of the road for you. This do-or-die aspect to playoff time is enjoyable for casual fans but it also explains the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory that the players themselves experience by playing in the games. With the average length of a pro athlete’s career limited to just a few years, each time a year ends without the championship, it can be very hard to take.
But that very uncertainty of longevity is a part of the fabric of pro sports in general. You fight hard to make it to the pros and there is a long lineup of guys looking to take your place. That do-or-die belief is was occupied Scott Linebrink‘s mind for much of his career. It started in High School when he was cut from his JV team as you can read about here (an article that also talks about previous Living Up blog Subjects Tim Hudson and Nate McLouth). Also, check out this article from The Increase for more of Linebrink’s story. He says “I felt like every time I went out to the mound, it was do-or-die. I created pressure for myself and felt like I had to live up to this expectation. Each time I had to be a little bit better than the last.” Linebrink was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the 1997 draft. He made his debut with the Giants in April 2000, and was traded to the Astros before that season’s trade deadline. He would go on to appear in over 600 games with six different teams over a 12 year career.
In 2003, Linebrink was feeling frustrated by another season of bouncing between the majors and minors. He said “It was right before the 2003 season and I had just gone through a pretty rough year, with injuries and just not performing well. Just prior to Spring Training, I had been working so hard, and I remember coming to the realization that I was tired, just at the end of my rope… It was at that time that God really spoke to me and said, ‘When are you going to quit trying and starttrusting?’ And it was at that point I just gave up and I prayed, ‘God, I don’t know where You’re going to put me this year, I don’t know what plans You have for me, but I know there is a plan and I’m just going to trust that instead of being make-or-break every time I go out there; just trust that You’re going to put me in the right place at the right time, and I’m going to honor You with everything that I do and stop hanging on to my career so tight… I think that’s really where my faith became real to me,” he says. “I experienced God for the first time in a real way.”
His career did take an upward turn from that point. He would spend the next 9 seasons as a reliable reliever, appearing in more than 50 games each season, here he is sharing his story:
That switch of perspective, to choose trusting over trying took away the do-or-die worries and instead filled Linebrink with confidence that God was in control and by choosing to honor God as his priority, and being okay with wherever God led his career he woulds see that God has a plan better than he could have dreamed up for himself. Now that baseball is over, Linebrink contributes devotionals to The Increase website.
Here are my takeaways from Linebrink’s story
1- Quit Trying and Start Trusting – Linebrink’s story is a perfect reminder that if we try to succeed on our own strength, be it in our work, our family life, or faith walk, we will be frustrated and fail at what we try, or at very least, we will feel stress of trying to live up to expectations that we are unable to meet, like Linebrink felt. But when we trust Him and set our efforts to do it on our own aside, He often has a better plan for us than we can imagine. Now please hear this correctly, I am not saying that we get to sit back and do nothing and let God work everything out perfectly for us. We must be diligent in our work, but we need to realize that our work is not to be successful, our work is to surrender to Him and follow where he leads. Like Linebrink says, we also should remember that we will still know failure, we will still find struggles and fall short of surrendering or following God’s plan. But God will not leave us. Psalm 31 tells invites us to trust. It says
I trust you, O Lord. I said, “You are my God.”My future is in your hands. Rescue me from my enemies, from those who persecute me.”
2- Do-or-Die – We can drive ourselves crazy with worry about accomplishing our life goals and seeing things as do-or-die. There are a couple of reminders in this story that I take. 1- God will not let us down or fail nearly as much as we will. He is perfect and so is his plan. Trust Him and let Him lead. 2- There is one do-or-die. It is following God and making Him number one in your life. Doing so will lead to a life in His presence starting now, not doing so will lead to death and separation from Him for eternity. We get to make the choice. But it is a d0-or-die decision.