Yesterday carried a special significance for me. Three years ago, I tore a ligament in my elbow, which would end my career and require surgery in the following months. Because of this, the vessel known as "Mitchell Traver" became engulfed by an orange fence, which left a single sign reading, "Under Construction."
I remember it all - the team, the pitch, the count, the score. Trinity Christian, fastball inside, 1-2 count, we led 4-0 with 2 outs in the 4th inning.
I remember every detail of that game. I remember the pain in my elbow, and the emotional weight dragging my heart downwards after I became aware of what happened. I remember everything I felt.
But if you asked me to tell you what I saw in that moment, I wouldn't have had an answer for you. No, I didn't see much that day - I didn't have vision before I broke.
You're probably wondering what am I talking about - Am I blind? No, not physically. In fact, I have 20/20 vision. So if I can see physically, then what gives?
As a Christian, the way I see the world begins with what's unseen. I'm talking about the struggles, temptations, and sin in my heart - the battleground that's been active since day one, but seems to go unnoticed by its tenant. I didn't notice the monster growing in my heart. I hadn't seen the fires ablaze. I wouldn't listen to the bullets flying, and I never saw myself slipping into the black smoke which encompassed me.
Sure, I believed in God - it sounded good to me. But my life didn't reflect the Gospel. I simply lived in acknowledgement without submission.
The way I lived my life was careless. I lived in sin, and moreover, I lived for me. All I cared about was what the radar gun said, who came and saw me succeed, and whether or not I could get the girl I liked to date me. Likewise, I focused on how I wanted to spend my last year of high school before I entered into a whole new world of "greatness" following the 2012 MLB Draft.
I messed around in class. I remember numerous times I would show up, not having prepared a bit. I'm not certain if I ever knew when we had a test, when a paper was due, or what homework really was. I just winged it - why not right? I was planning to go day one of the draft anyway. School wasn't necessarily on my mind.
I messed around with girls. To all the men reading this, I want you to know, while reflecting on my sin in this area of my life, I see how it seriously scarred me. It wasn't funny, it wasn't right, and it brought a bill I never knew I'd have to pay. I may not have gone to strip clubs or slept around like Hugh Hefner, but the word "intentional" wasn't even in my vocabulary. When I think about where my heart was at, the words superficial, shallow, and self-seeking come to mind.
I was all about me. My goodness, was I ever.
Looking back, I see a kid who found his identity in the game of baseball. I see a guy who wanted to lust more than he wanted to love. I see a young man who wanted to succeed so badly. The exhaustive physical training comprised of early morning lifts, afternoon cardio, and far too many bullpens serve as a testament to this reflection. Moreover, I see a person who was afraid to fail. If I couldn't be who I wanted to be, what would become of me? The world would end because I was my world.
There's a verse that speaks to my heart...
"But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign in righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more...read that again.
The literal definition of "abound" is "to exist in large amounts or numbers." So, where sin is large in number, in the middle of the mess that I am, GRACE abounds MORE. And where does that grace come from? God. It comes from the Lord.
The Lord took a wrecking ball to the world I knew because He knew I was living a lie. All of which I was, all of which consumed my heart and my mind, all of which I pursued - it was all futile. It meant nothing.
So, in His great love, He said, "Enough." He denied death for me. He denied a price I couldn't bear to pay. He denied a life of futility and vain pursuit. He denied a living nightmare. He denied a life apart from Him and simply said, "Son, I'm here. Come home."
Where would I be without His grace? Where would I be without His unmatched love? Where would I be without His mercies which never end? Where would I be without His faithfulness?
"Because of the Lord's faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!"
Friends, understand that we do not fight against the things seen, but against the things unseen. The great battleground, the war for our heart, it's inside of us. The vision that I lacked, the sight I didn't have, it can only come from the Lord.
I was born into sin, just as we all are. I spent 18 years growing comfortable with my condition. The world I saw was the world I knew. How would I have possibly been able to know the blindness that defined me without the grace of God? I wouldn't have known. I would have kept walking, kept wasting time, and kept on living out my sinful nature.
So, three years later, the Lord has given me a massive gift - a mirror. Moreover, He's given me a lens through which to look into. This lens comes from His Spirit, from His grace, from His love, which is all found in His Word.
Friends, understand that this "vessel" is still wrapped in orange tape with a sign on the front which still reads, "Under Construction." However, the difference is that the crew is here, and they've been working away for quite some time now. My foundation has been laid; it's made of faith in who God is. The beams of steel, which come from His Spirit, are continuing to be placed. And the wood framing is continuing to be built one day at a time. That's the sanctification process I get to walk through until the day He takes me home.
So, I celebrate the beginning of the best thing that's ever happened to me three years ago. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to get hurt. Thank you for moving me to the sidelines for an extended period of time. Thank you for stepping in and stopping me from self-destructing. Thank you for loving me enough to save me from a living nightmare - a life without You. Thank you for giving me a lens to look through - a lens that's filled with the Holy Spirit, Your Word, and the Truth that is Jesus Christ.
As the construction continues, and He continues to lead me down the trail He's called me to walk, I take a look into the mirror He's given me. I don't look to the games, the girls, or the world. Instead, I take a look in this mirror before the day begins, and ask that He would continue to renew and restore this heart of mine.
When I looked in that mirror years ago, all I saw was me. And at the time, that was enough for me. But when you take a look at the ocean, a puddle just won't cut it anymore. After my attention turned to the Lord, He's the One I hope to see more of in my reflection each passing day.
So, I can't help but wonder, will you have the courage to look in the mirror? Will you have the humility to be real about what you see? When you wake up, and decide take a glance...who is it that you're hoping to reflect? What do you see?