I had just finished my second year of playing Junior College baseball and had no idea what I was going to do the following year. I did not have any offers to play at the next level and had no backup if none came. My only plan was to play another season for the Clarinda A’s in Iowa that Summer and trust that God would direct me from there. As unnerving as that may seem, I honestly had such peace and confidence in God that He was going to lead me right where He wanted me.
Two months earlier, God had awakened me to the reality of my utter need for Him. I had always known that He was there, and that at some point I should probably start to take Him more seriously. But there was always something that seemed more appealing to me, always something other than Him vying for my focus and source of fulfillment. These lesser things did eventually prove inadequate, and painfully so. Yet when I was at my worst, He reached down in love and rescued me.
As I’ve reflected more on that time soon after God saved me, I am amazed at how God led me to just the right book at just the right time. Two stand out the most.
The first book landed in my hands while I was still in Temple, TX. I can remember randomly walking around in the Temple Mall (I don’t normally just walk around in the mall, so this must’ve been God’s leading :)). Probably after grabbing a bite to eat, I wandered to the other side of the mall into a bookstore.
In those days, I never read books that weren’t assigned for a class (didn’t read many that were assigned, either, ha). But I was drawn to that particular store that day, and specifically to Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado. This book chronicles the life of David, highlighting his ups and downs and God’s personal care and leading along the way. Lucado’s imaginative and Biblically rooted prose poured right over my weary soul. The pages turned so quickly…it felt like this book was written just for me.
The story of the second is greater still. After I had made it to Iowa I quickly started a Bible Study with some of my teammates. A member of the family that was in charge of our team, Pat Eberly, noticed this and gave me a book she thought I could use to help lead the guys. It was entitled Home Field Advantage, a sports themed devotional journeying through the Gospel of Matthew.
This book was written by a college baseball coach. And one of the players this coach had sent to play Summer ball in Clarinda several years before had taken a copy and left it there, with the hope that it would be a blessing to someone on a future team. I read that book from cover to cover and was so encouraged by it.
Later that Summer, I was offered a chance to walk-on and play for Baylor. Soon after arriving in the Fall, I met a guy who would change my life. Ben Johnson, the area Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Director, spent so much time teaching me how to follow Jesus. He taught me what it meant to be a disciple-maker.
And if you’d believe it, guess what I soon discovered about him?
His Dad, Elliot Johnson, was the coach who had written Home Field Advantage. God was leading me all the way!