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Evil at Play

As softball umpire, it’s my privilege to observe exciting game plays up close. It’s been a joy serving the game as “Blue”—a common nickname for softball umpires. The position carries great responsibility and requires impartiality. On days when one of our Homespun club teams takes the field on my watch, I don’t see them as my team. Even when my sons play while I’m umpire, I don’t see them as my children. I’m there as an unbiased servant for both home and away teams, and I always hope for good sportsmanship and clean play.

I pray during the pre- and mid-game field inspections. While walking the diamond and checking for debris, obstacles, base placements and equipment, I speak to God. I ask Him to help me make fair calls, observe all the plays, and recall the applicable rules.

One noteworthy game in 2014 was between two under-14 girls’ softball teams. As usual, I did the field inspection, prayed, called the teams together for the pre-game talk, and, from my position behind the catcher, started the game: “Play ball!”

Two young adult coaches, male and female, led the away team against Homespun. Their opening pitcher had a dirty mouth, brazenly talking with her teammates using unsavory language. In their dugout, right next to first base, the talk was also rowdy and foul. From my position behind the catcher, I could hear the young girls curse and speak sexual obscenities to each other as well as their coaches. They even sang indecent team songs describing sexual intercourse, with their coaches also joining in. Although it was fine weather for a ball game, over the field hung a dark spirit.

I had never encountered anything quite like this. Homespun’s play was pathetic, a marked difference from their usually competitive form. They couldn’t field or bat or run, but instead fumbled and floundered in a noticeably disturbed state. On my watch, I always hope each team enjoys a fair chance. However, the foul spirit ruling the field made that impossible. The disturbance in the spirit was palpable. Dirty banter between the foul-mouthed pitcher and her team continued unabated—vulgar conduct by an entire team and their coaches.

No softball rules were being broken, though one could say that foul language represents unsportsmanlike conduct, which calls for a warning. I could warn them to stop their foul talk and eject the next offender from the game. But such action could provoke them to take offense, walk off, and forfeit the game.

“So what? Warn them and eject them if they’re wrong,” we could say. Is that what they deserved? Were they using foul language as a tactic? Should I make a judgment against them? Two teams of players in uniform traveled a long way with their equipment for a game of softball. Spectators on both sides came to watch their kids play. Above all, I was responsible to make a good judgment in God’s sight. What would the Judge of Heaven rule? What was His call? Before resorting to drastic measures, I felt that asking God was wise. Right there during the game, I prayed in my heart about the matter.

Behind the metal frame of my umpire’s face mask, tears ran down my cheeks as great compassion for those foul-mouthed girls and their indecent coaches sprang up in my heart. God answered me as soon as my questions formed as thoughts. Their foul talk came from hardened, dirty hearts and promiscuous living, a culture at their school and the area where they live. For them, this was normal behavior. He revealed truth to prevent misjudgment. Right there and then, while calling the game, I prayed for them, crying out for all their hearts to turn toward God.

The foul spirit remained hanging over the field. After that inning, while players changed sides, I again walked the field for inspection and prayed. I asked God to remove this foul spirit and to silence the foul talk, replacing it with an open spirit in which both teams could play a good game. I walked back and play resumed without a confrontation.

To my amazement, they replaced their first pitcher with a well-behaved one. Their fielders were now civilized. In their dugout everything was calm. Both coaches and their players ceased all foul talk. Sleazy songs were no longer sung. The heavy spirit had lifted and I discerned a welcome openness in the air over the field. The Homespun team played to their usual standard and both teams exhibited their softball skills without hindrance.

Although that second pitcher was weaker than the first, the away team never reverted to the first pitcher for the rest of the game; unusual for a team facing stiff opposition. The spirit on the field remained open.

I don’t recall who won, but I recall my joy and thankfulness at witnessing God bringing instant peace on the playing field without a nasty fight. I appealed to the Umpire in Chief of the Heavens for a good game of softball on Earth. Instead of ejecting players or coaches, in His wisdom, God ejected the evil spirit for both teams to play in peace.

What occurs behind the natural veil of our world? This testimony is one of several that shows we aren’t mere material beings living in a material world—even on sports fields. Daily there’s more at play than our natural senses can detect. We shouldn’t only factor our minds, bodies, and material resources into the equation of our lives.

Let’s pay careful attention to God and our spirits within the invisible spirit realm as mentioned in Ephesians 6 verse 12.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 6:12 — Webster’s 1833 Revision

Foul spirits shouldn’t be tolerated. Instead, let’s readily appeal to God who has authority over all.