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Sitting Out for God

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 Sarah, can you please just miss one day of church and play in this game? We really need you,” my coach implored.

“Sorry, Coach. God is way more important than softball, and obeying Him must always come first,” I replied.
That Sabbath I went to church, as I’ve done since I was born, even though I knew my softball team badly needed me to play with them.
You may be wondering how I happened to be in this situation. Well, you’d have to go back to when I was about 3 years old and discovered that I had a natural knack for sports. I began  playing soccer with my big brother, then baseball, and sometimes I played basketball after school with friends. I was pretty good at all of them.
I actually started playing soccer for a team—a boys’ team. I’ve always enjoyed playing sports with boys because they test my strength, and when I beat them, it’s a bigger accomplishment than beating another girl. Anyway, most of the girls I’ve played sports with are soft and cry too much. Playing on boys’ teams has honed my skills and made me braver.
Soccer was always my favorite sport until seventh grade, when I started playing softball. I didn’t even really know softball’s rules, because when I played with friends, we had no rules. So when I was in seventh grade, I tried out for the boys’ softball team, made it, and played starting left outfielder. In eighth grade I got named team player.
Playing softball in middle school never involved playing on Fridays and Saturdays, so I thought the schedule would stay the same when I went to high school. Boy, was I wrong!
In fact, the most important day for varsity tryouts was a Saturday. Of course I missed the tryouts, so I didn’t make the team. Otherwise I surely would have been part of the varsity team my freshman year. Instead, I landed on the junior varsity team.
Then there were the Saturday games—every single Saturday. My coach really needed me to be there since I was the shortstop, and I was a very good hitter, with a batting average of .678. He tried to convince me to play by letting me know how important my skills were to the team, but my answer was always the same: “Coach, I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and I cannot and will not play on Saturday, which is the Sabbath.”
Neither my coach nor anyone else on my team knew what a Seventh-day Adventist was,  so I had to explain to them that while they’re playing games, I’m at church on Saturday, according to the fourth commandment of God (Exodus 20:8-11).
At every Friday practice my coach told me,  “We will miss you tomorrow, Scooby Wheels,” to which I would reply, “I will pray for you guys.”
In spite of my missing all those Saturday games, I was named Best Defensive Player of the year and got moved up to varsity during the playoffs to be their starting shortstop.
In tenth grade I worked with two new coaches. Right at the start I explained that I don’t play softball games from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Then I had to miss all their training sessions, but even so, my coaches didn’t penalize me.
Instead, they went out of their way to cater to my beliefs, even getting a game moved up an hour earlier so I could play one Friday. On another occasion they drove me all the way from Suitland, Maryland, after a Friday game to Takoma Park, Maryland, so I didn’t have to miss taking part in Takoma Academy’s youth Week of Prayer program.
My new coaches never insisted that I play Saturday games. It was a very hard year to miss the Saturday games too, because I had to miss playing the two best teams in the county.
The most difficult Saturday game I missed was a playoff game. I was sitting in church fidgeting and clenching my teeth, thinking that if they lost, they’d be likely to blame me. I couldn’t concentrate on the sermon—not a good thing—wondering if they had won or lost. I prayed and prayed. Later I received the good news that they had won.
Impressive stats

At the end of the season I had three home runs, four doubles, four triples, 28 RBIs, and a batting average of .734. I got second team all-county and co-MVP! I wondered if my stats would have been better if I had played in those Saturday games. Would I have gotten first team all-county? My coaches think I would have, but I had to make a stand for Christ.
As much as I wanted to play those games that I missed, I realized that I would have been  uncomfortable playing softball on God’s Sabbath day instead of praising and worshipping Him. I began to understand what Peter meant when he told the Jews: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Knowing that the freshman who had played shortstop in my place had done an awesome job helped me a lot. It let me know that as important as I am to the team, I am not indispensable. Besides, I could break my leg during a softball or soccer game, or worse, become paralyzed, and never be able to play again. Then what would become of all my skills and ambitions?
Standing for God while playing softball has also made it easier for me to turn down invitations from my friends who have parties on Friday nights. It’s also made it easier not to go to the many other high school activities, such as the homecoming football game, that are held on Saturdays. My experience has led me to a wonderful epiphany: fame, skills, sports . . . everything on this earth will soon pass away, but God and His law will never pass away.
Sarah Allsop is a high school junior in the International Baccalaureate program, a course of study that will make her high school degree acceptable in many countries. Sarah has two siblings, whom she adores and with whom she enjoys singing. Besides playing sports, Sarah enjoys eating at McDonald’s. Most important, Sarah loves Jesus and wants to faithfully follow Him and be an example to others.
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