When You Need to Be Invisible

  • by Nick DeCola

I lifted my umpire mask, turned away from the backstop and grabbed a gulp of water. Oh no, here it comes, I thought. Three coaches walked toward me. I had just made a questionable call to end an inning.

I could feel my muscles tighten as I sensed the impending threat. I reacted. “What are you guys doing? Get back in the dugout!” I shouted, surprised by the strength and force of my voice.

Taken aback by my aggressiveness, the three men each slowed their movement. The head coach put his hands up and said, “Whoa, I just wanted to ask you about that call.”

I had become visible in the worst way. Now everyone in the stands was entranced by the confrontation about to happen at home plate.

This is bad, I thought. 10-year-old boys were leaving the field and watching my outburst.

As an umpire, I must ensure that players have a safe and fair environment in which to shine. The players and the game are the attraction, not the umpire.

When I first began umpiring youth baseball, a grizzled veteran said to me, “People don’t come to the park to watch you call balls and strikes.”

My job is to go unnoticed so the game can go forward. As I’ve umpired, I’ve learned there are a lot of parallels between the need to be invisible in umpiring and in our work:

“Ball one”

God wants to display his work. I benefit when I think less about myself and more about Him. “... whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“Ball two”

God values the hidden things that only He can see. He takes note of all my effort, whether others notice and give me affirmation or not. The Lord’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21) inspire me.

“Ball three”

God is a consistent and unrelenting source of motivation. We are to do our “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Athletes in Action®, the sports ministry of Cru®, teaches a principle called “Audience of One.” This focus of motivation applies to all areas of work and life.

“Ball four”

Challenges with work can move us toward life change. When I hear, “Come on, blue! How could you call him safe?” I might get angry, feel insecure, and spiral in negative emotions and beliefs. The same happens at work. These challenges provide an opportunity for me to believe the truth of the gospel. When we become aware of such false beliefs, admit them to God and others, and make a plan to move toward trusting Him, our lives change (Romans 12:2).

“Take a walk”

Ultimately, giving myself for a greater purpose is in lock step with Jesus’ model. His sacrifice serves as the greatest example of what it means to become a servant of others. The joy is all mine.

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