One of the summer sports I enjoy is baseball. In my youth I loved playing baseball, and as a parent, it has been thrilling to watch my children play ball. I have even had the opportunity to coach each of my three kids in their community teams.
I particularly enjoyed coaching baseball to the younger players, ages 8, 9, 10, or 11. At these ages the players are keen to learn and enjoy playing sports just for fun. For these younger players learning the basics of throwing, catching, fielding and hitting are essential to their future success.
As a coach, however, I often felt like a failure. A typical 8-9-year-old baseball game included a lot of dropped catches, misthrows, stumbles, strikeouts, tears, bumps, bruises, and error after error after error. For a lot of players, they also had to learn to become comfortable with a hard projectile aimed directly at them. The outcome for some seemed to be certain death!
Learning through Bobble Drills
Coaching youth baseball made me realize that baseball is a really complex game. Not only are there difficult physical skills required but also knowing situationally where to make a play: split second decisions all while parents in the bleachers are loudly cheering on. Often, I found consolation, though, in watching professional baseball highlights. Not only did the pros make highlight plays, but I found they often made similar mistakes my young teams did. I came to see that a big part of the game was to mitigate errors. In fact, the key statistics in baseball scoring are runs, hits, and errors.
While coaching, I knew my young players didn’t yet have the capacity to perform the motor skills they physically and mentally were being asked to do, so I changed my approach to coaching drills. For example, one drill is called the “bobble drill.” Normally, when a ground ball was hit to a player, their job was to field it perfectly and throw it to first base before the runner arrived. In reality, most of the time when a ground ball was hit to a player, often they missed the ball, fumbled it, dropped it, panicked, or even gave up on it out of fear.
In the bobble drill, when the ground ball is hit to the player, he still tries to field it without a mistake. If, by chance, he fields it cleanly, he must drop it on the ground again, then pick it up to throw to first base before the runner arrives. If the fielder misplays it, on the first attempt, that is a bobble anyway. This exciting new drill helped the young players feel that making an error wasn’t the end. As they kept trying, they could still complete the play even if it wasn’t perfect. The bobble drill also helped young players not to panic in stressful moments, and they gained confidence in this complicated game.
Proving Ourselves through Repentance
Throughout our lives we each face stressful and challenging situations which require us to make choices. In fact, how we make choices and respond to challenges is a key purpose of our lives. In our premortal existence Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ taught, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).
Lehi also taught, “Men [and women] are free according to the flesh … and they are free to choose” (2 Nephi 2:27).
What happens though if we make a mistake? What happens when you and I make errors or bad choices? Then what?
First, I think we have to recognize that just like young ball players we all make mistakes. We all sin “and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). You and I will make errors in our development and becoming. The real question is how do we respond to our errors and sins? Do we give up because we are not perfect in our performance? Do we panic and run and hide from our shortcomings? Do we get discouraged and quit even trying to obey God’s laws if failure is inevitable?
Just as a young baseball player needs repetition to refine his ability, you and I need practice in responding to errors, mistakes, and sin. This practice is called repentance. Elder Lynn G. Robbins said: 'Repentance is God's ever-accessible gift that allows and enables us to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. Repentance isn't His backup plan in the event we might fail. Repentance is His plan knowing that we will' (“Until Seventy Times Seven,” Ensign, May 2018, 22).
Hear how President Russell M. Nelson lovingly teaches this principle: “Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. …When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!” (“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” Ensign, May 2019, 67).
Repentance of errors small and large is the essence of the gospel and the meaning of our lives. It is the expression of the infinite love of our merciful Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Repenting is our expression of love to Them.
Embrace the Sweetness of Christ’s Redemption
In our journey together, let’s not fear errors and failure but choose to allow the Savior to transform us into our best versions through His merciful gift of repentance. You and I are sons and daughters of God with everlasting potential and divine destiny. As we embrace our lives in the context of the gospel and apply the sweetness of the Savior’s redemption, we joyfully prepare to meet Him again. It is then that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).