The "pop" of a ball striking a mitt filled the quiet summer afternoon as Dad and Matt threw the softball to each other. "Don't you like softball, Matt?" Dad asked. "I thought you were really interested in going out for the team."
"I am interested," Matt said with a sober face as he threw Dad a pop fly.
"I thought so!" Dad smiled as he whizzed back a knuckleball. "Have you tried out yet?"
"Nope." Matt answered quietly, hoping Dad wouldn't hear, but he did.
"Why not?" Dad asked, pounding his fist into his mitt as he waited for Matt's return ball.
"I dunno," Matt said, pitching an underhand.
Dad's little frown looked more puzzled than aggravated. "Why don't we take five with a glass of iced tea?" he said. When they were nicely settled on the patio chairs with chilled glasses in front of them Dad asked, "Do you want to tell me about it?"
Matt became very interested in his shoelaces, bending his knee and re-tying them.
"Well, I dunno, I guess I'm just scared I won't make the cut," Matt murmured.
"Mmmm!" Dad nodded. "I've been afraid, too, at times. However, a famous man once said, ‘Not failure, but low aim, is a crime.'"
"What does that mean?" Matt asked.
"It means that aiming at nothing is more of a crime than failure!" Dad said with a smile.
"Yeah, but everyone is scared sometimes, aren't they? I mean, nobody wants to fail in front of his friends!" Matt said defensively.
"You're right," Dad said, "but if you stop thinking about yourself and keep your goal in mind, failing won't hurt so much. Did you know that Thomas Edison failed over and over again when he tried to make a light bulb that would work? He said, ‘I don't think of it as failure. I've just found a thousand ways not to make a light bulb.'"
Matt drank some tea and scuffed his shoe on the cement.
"Look at it this way," Dad continued. "Every time you fail you are that much closer to success! If you try out for the team and fail, and the guys laugh, laugh with them. Then they won't be laughing at you. Just laugh and say, ‘I'll try harder and make it next time!'"
"I guess that might work," Matt said doubtfully, "but it will be scary to try out."
"Yes, it probably will," Dad replied, "but it is worth trying. I'm still afraid every time I try to make a big sale. I'm afraid the customer won't buy! But if we pray when we are afraid, the Lord will help us to overcome that fear."
"Yeah, well, tryouts are on Friday. I guess I could give it a whirl," Matt said.
"Good man!" Dad said, smiling. "Let's do a few more throws, OK?"
The week passed quickly and every day Matt felt nervous when he thought about the tryouts, but he remembered that Dad was praying for him, and he prayed too. "Lord, I'd like to make the team, but if I don't, help me to try again and not give up. And help me to remember that I'm one step closer to success."