No one would have faulted him for being nervous. In fact, most probably would have expected him to be at least slightly unnerved. Yet when asked after pitching a masterful complete game in game one of the World Series whether he had been nervous, Cliff Lee responded quite matter-of-factly, “I really never have been nervous in the big leagues. This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life; it’s what I enjoy doing. I put all the work in between starts . . . there’s no reason to be nervous if I did all the work. The game is the time to go out there and have fun . . . and trust your teammates and your skills.”
Listening to the interview, I was struck by Lee’s confidence. Confidence in the skills he had spent years practicing. Confidence in his teammates to have his back and cover his mistakes. Confidence in his coaching staff to provide strong leadership and appropriate guidance. In some ways, his confidence almost seemed absurd. He was, after all, pitching in the home of the greatest team in the history of baseball. He was surrounded by tens of thousands of screaming fans and dozens of reminders of the great players in history who had roughed up pitchers as good or better than he. He was going up against one of the most potent Yankee lineups in the last few decades. Yet during the game he looked so relaxed the commentators noted it was like he was throwing batting practice, not pitching the opening game of the World Series in which his team was the underdog.
It is interesting how often church people talk about the circumstances in which they find themselves living. If you listen closely you can hear all kinds of conversations about the devil’s well-chronicled history of success in convincing people to accomplish his purposes. You can hear all kinds of chatter about the hostile environment of people who seem to want Christians to fail and see dozens of reminders of those who have gone before who have been roughed up by evil. You can hear all kinds of short-sighted speculation about how it’s harder than ever to live a faithful life in these times.
It is altogether appropriate to have a healthy respect for your opponent. But there is a huge difference between worrying yourself into losing before you’ve even taken the field, deciding you’re likely to lose before you’ve even thrown the first pitch, and throwing yourself fully into practice and preparation, aligning with a team to watch your back and cover your mistakes, and submitting yourself to the leadership and guidance of a coaching staff. It seems to me as we enter into the Yankee Stadium of life we have no reason to be nervous. This is, after all, what we’ve spent so much time preparing for, and we have a wonderful team to support us and an unrivaled coaching staff to lead us and to guide us!