“Don’t swing at pitches in the dirt.”

BaseballSwingDirtFlying-300x235My dad must have said this to me over and over again as he was teaching me to swing a bat.  That and “keep your eye on the ball.”  I needed both pieces of advice.

It’s easy to get up to your turn at bat and swing at anything coming remotely close to the plate.  After all, you’re there to hit the ball and you can’t hit it if you don’t swing, right?  You have (perhaps) even odds of hitting the ball if you’re swinging but you’re guaranteed 0% chance of hitting the ball when the bat rests on your shoulder.  So most of us get programed to swing, swing, swing.

But when the ball is coming at your feet, you have milliseconds to decide if you’re going to try to hit it out of the dirt (more akin to golf) or let it go.  The advice my dad always gave me?  Don’t swing at pitches in the dirt.  You can’t hit them and even if you did, the ball is not going anywhere but a foot or two away from you.  It’s a “ball” (as opposed to a “strike”); let it go.

Not only is this a good piece of advice if you’re playing baseball, it’s excellent advice for life as well.   How many times do we come across situations where someone throws a “pitch in the dirt” and we’re faced with milliseconds to decide if we’re going to swing at this very low pitch or let it go.

Here’s the advice of Proverbs 19:11:

 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

There are two key points we need to see and they are bound in two words, “wisdom” and “glory”.

The word “wisdom” can be understood as “discretion”.  In other words, our discretion yields patience.  And why is that?  Why can’t we swing at every pitch in the dirt and defend ourselves?  If the person is wrong in their accusation, why can’t we address it each and every time?

Sometimes you do.  But the reality is—read this slowly—you can’t address it every time.  You’ll do nothing but waste a lot of time defending yourself.  Your discretion yields patience.  With wisdom (from God), you’ll know when you need to address it.  Most of the time, however, you’ll need to let it go.  After all, “Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you” (Proverbs 2:11).

Then there’s the word “glory”.   The Hebrew word refers to a quality of being magnificence or splendid.  Taken in context, we can gather that we are better people when we “overlook an offense.”    It’s not that the offense exists only in our imagination, but we are gracious enough to overlook it.   With this kind of “glory”we can live lives clothed “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12b).

Bottom line: this jewel of wisdom speaks to our Christ-empowered ability to make HUGE allowances for the frailty and sinfulness of humanity.   With the Lord’s help, we can allow most of the pitches in the dirt to pass us by and not allow ourselves to wallow in the mud.

So whatever you do, “Don’t swing at pitches in the dirt!”