Since it has been quite some time since my last article, I feel as though I should explain my lack of content. As my personal ministry has continued to increase, I have had to take time from other things, this being one of them. I love writing and conveying those things which I have been give, and those things which I have been taught. This article will be different than many of the others. Several years ago I wrote several short stories and since my time to write has become limited I want to share with you one of those stories. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, feel free to share it. Here is the story:
In this world one of the most difficult things to endure is heartache. As children, and I speak from experience, we have our hearts broken by our parents and usually over something as insignificant as a toy. Children want and desire things, items, or to go places and most times given the answer “no”. Of course, looking back, it seems trivial. From the child’s perspective, though, it is heart wrenching to want something so badly and then be denied. As teenagers and young adults our hearts are usually broken due to failed relationships. You know, boy meets girl, boy dates girl, boy and girl break up, and so on. Being on the wrong side of maturity, this scenario does seem to be very catastrophic. Yet, with age, patience, and maturity these things help us become who we are. Hindsight being 20/20, we are able to look back and see these things being far less tragic than originally perceived.
When we become adults, the heart aches we go through are quite different. The loss of parents, children, and other family members usually generate the greatest aching within our hearts. Seeing someone suffer through sickness, divorce, loss of finances, and drug or alcohol abuse also bring an aching heart to people. All of these things, from the
time we are children until we leave this life, tear at our heart strings. This, however, is not the kind of heartache my story contains. In very rare instances, we can experience our hearts breaking, in a way that gives us joy and inspires us. If you do not believe that can happen, please allow me the opportunity to change your mind. By trade I am not a writer, but after telling this story several times to family and close friends I have been convinced to put pen to paper (actually, fingers to keyboard), and tell my story. We all have stories. Some are better, some are worse, some are long, some are short. This one is mine.
My name is Jim Duvall. I am 46 years old and work as an advertising and marketing agent for a sporting goods manufacturer. In college I played baseball and played semiprofessional baseball after graduating for five glorious seasons. I was good, just not good enough. I took a job with one of the teams sponsors and the rest, you could say, is history.
My job allows me to travel and work with children, showcasing the latest and greatest equipment. I have always loved children, my wife and I have four of our own. I have been married for twenty two years (I hope I got that right, if I didn’t, I’m sorry honey!) We met in college and for our first official date she invited me to church. She is a great Sunday School teacher and all the kids love her. Thanks to her, I too, have learned much. It was her devotion and dedication that led me to the altar of salvation, then to the marriage altar.
My wife’s name is Natalie. She has taught Sunday School since she was a teenager and in her adult life she runs
a day care center at the church. I suppose that Nat’s love for kids influenced me enough to want to work with them as well. I eventually became a youth pastor, and I have enjoyed that far beyond anything I would have imagined.
Now that we have a little background I can get on with my story. As I said earlier, my job allows me to travel and showcase our newest equipment. For the most part I work directly with schools. Colleges and high schools to be more specific. Working with athletes and being able to impart the knowledge I gained through my own short lived baseball career is rewarding. After the demonstrations are over I always stick around to answer any questions the kids may have and sometimes it proves to be a good way to witness to them about my personal life and my faith. That is by far my favorite part.
Last spring, however, presented me with a rare treat. Our company had come up with some new face shields and batting helmets for Little League players, usually ages 10-12. It had been quite some time since I had done a demonstration for children of that age. Once they hear that you played anything resembling professional baseball or have met a big name player (which had happened several times), they become awestruck. From that point on, you have their undivided attention.
I was excited. Not only would I be able to work with the smaller children, I would be working right in my own community! I knew some of the children that would be there because they were part of our church’s youth group. Seeing some familiar little faces was going to be a very special treat and that day was fast approaching.
On the day of our presentation I was greeted by many smiling faces. As I had anticipated, some were familiar but
most were not. I waved to the children, told them about myself, who I had played for, and the baseball stars I had met. I continued by introducing the new equipment we had developed and explaining the differences between the old and the new. Once the official speech was over, the kids got to try the helmets and our other youth equipment out.
While the kids were busying themselves with the new products I spoke with the coach’s, officials, and principal’s. I assure you, talking sports with kids is much more satisfying than talking business with adults. After the “grown up” business was taken care of I spoke with the children again and asked for their thoughts on the new equipment and finished up the official part of my job.
With everyone being dismissed and the presentation being over, as I usually do, I waited around and answered any questions they had. I offered my usual “semi-professional” advice about batting, fielding, and which products “I” liked the best. Finally, before leaving, I spoke about my other job of being a youth pastor. Considering our church is in the same area as the school I invited all of them to our next Sunday morning service. The following Sunday morning I was surprised and very pleased to see some new faces in our youth group. One of the new faces in the back seemed quite familiar to me, but I was not immediately sure why. Youth service being over, I searched for the familiar face of the boy who had been sitting in the back. The boy, instead, had found me. From behind I heard “Excuse me, Pastor Jim?” In both of my jobs I have answered a lot of questions. Some of them you expect. Some of them are silly. Some are embarrassing. Some make you think. Some are funny. Apparently, some will make your heart break.
I turned to see the boy who was speaking to me. I recognized him from the Little League demonstration I had done here in the community. I’m glad he had accepted the invitation to attend our church. New faces are always a welcome sight and it gave me joy to know that some children do listen to the parts that are not about sports.
As I faced him, I was met with a question. No, I was met with THE question. A question, which, in all its simplicity, filled me with an initially deep sadness. A question which only a child could ask. The question was this: “Pastor Jim, when we get to heaven can you have your company make me a special wheelchair so me and my dad can play baseball together?”
I’m not sure if it was the question or the innocence and sincerity with which the question was asked that brought tears to my eyes. I had not noticed his disability, but will never forget his question. Here was a child who was not concerned with a disability, not concerned with being in a wheelchair, but only wanted to be in heaven to play baseball with his dad. That broke my heart.
With tears streaming down my cheeks and a voice that quivered uncontrollably I made several attempts at talking and couldn’t. I put my hand on his shoulder, knelt down, and prayed silently until I was able to gain a little composure. It was with sheer and utter joy I explained that a wheelchair would not be allowed in heaven because Jesus would make our bodies glorified. Bodies that would run and jump and not get tired. After explaining the goodness of God and all that we have to look forward to, he was crying tears of joy and saying how he couldn’t wait to get there because his dad was already there waiting on him.
It hasn’t been long since the the story now referred to as “The Question Story” took place. Each time I tell the story I get choked up. The question has always reminded how innocent a child really is and how we should all be so lucky to find a part of that innocence within ourselves.