Updated on November 23, 2014
On Little League and Muscle Memory…
What on earth just happened? My fourth-grade body stood between home plate and the pitcher’s mound in stunned calm. I was a catcher on the “Cubs” little league team. My girl-friend and I joined the boys playing ball; after all, it didn’t say girls “couldn’t” play. So we did. (And the next year they created girls’ softball…but that’s beside the point.) It was solidly the 80’s and my fluffy ponytail hung out the bottom of my helmet as my catcher’s mask rocked in the dust, being torn off in a flurry of movement.
Over and over my coach had me do this one drill. Over and over I sprung from my crouched stance, picked up a slow-dribbling ball, and hurled the thing to the first baseman. Over and over. Over and over. My fourth-grade eyes rolled in practice as I knew what drill would be mine to keep doing. What my fourth-grade mind didn’t realize is that the vast majority of little league hits end up right where he was drilling me to go: dribbling between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. And in our little league shock, defense could get an extra beat as the batter always seemed a bit shocked to actually hit the ball.
So there I stood. Between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. Watching the first-base umpire call the runner out as the first baseman caught the ball I threw. (Did I throw that? I must have.) I didn’t remember getting up. I didn’t think through getting to the ball and throwing it. I had no concept of tossing off my mask and heading for the ball. And there was my coach, cheering away! His incessant drilling paid off. So ingrained was the habit, I didn’t have to think about it–the right reaction just happened.
And I calmly picked up my mask, put it back on, and returned to my crouch…playing it off as if I’d done that every day of my life. Really, I HAD done it every day of my practice; I just didn’t believe it would ever come naturally. But when the moment came, my instinct took over. Muscle memory jumped into gear before my conscious brain had a chance to intervene.
I find the same is true with reading scripture. Talk to near any teacher and they will tell you how they read scripture best. Morning, evening, lunch breaks. On the beach, in the car, on audio book. As many people as there are, there remain that many different ways to read the Bible. And yet, the scripture doesn’t prescribe the where and the what and the time we should read.
God is so incredibly unconcerned with form. He doesn’t really care how we read the Bible, or at what speed, or with what level of linguistic understanding. If He did, He would have spelled it out. That’s why He can speak through NKJV or NASB or NIV. Because He just wants us in it…even if we don’t understand the depths of the words we read.
He wants us praying, even if we cannot see the point.
He wants us seeking, even if we cannot possibly imagine what good it will do, or how it will “all work together”.
He wants us drilling over and over. So when the time comes that we need it, we won’t even have to pause–we will know right from wrong, truth from heresy, and the difference between godly submission and abuse by a tyrant.
Do the drills, whatever that looks like for you. Seek His face during whatever time of day does the job. Pray to Him in whatever words, songs, or writings you must. Do the drills. For when the day comes that you need instinctive, godly reaction, the drills will pay off.