When You’re Relegated to Riding the Bench

I spent my youth at the ball diamond. The sharp crack of a bat, the clang of the chainlink fence, and the smell of the softball diamond dust floating in the air, remind me of many good times. With the exception of the year I warmed the bench. It was my first year playing softball and I was about nine years old. After try-outs, I was told I could be on the team but I wouldn’t be playing much. This was partly because my twin had successfully procured her position and I don’t think the coaches wanted to say yes to her and no to me. In my enthusiasm. I agreed to the deal. 

To say it was my most challenging sporting year would be an understatement. Riding the bench is hard. With the exception of a couple of innings of play, I sat, the dust from the diamond, coating my skin and lips. I tried to be upbeat, cheering on my friends but all I really wanted was to be put in the game. I knew I could do it if I was just given the chance. 

Isn’t that what we all want? The chance to prove we can do it.

It’s why riding the bench is the pits. We sit around waiting; in our jobs, in relationships, in our dreams, maybe our health, when all we really want to do is show everyone what we’ve got. No one wants to ride the bench in sports or in life.

But it’s on the bench where some valuable lessons are learned if you can get beyond the longing and resentment.

Sitting on the bench teaches you:

Humility. Your ego and pride have got to go, as you sit there on that hard bench, your very clean jersey announcing to everyone around, that you haven’t played. At. All.

Your job as a benchwarmer is to encourage your teammates, even though you really want to be the one out there, making plays. You’re learning that it isn’t all about you.

Patience. You have to wait your turn. It may be a really long wait. My father-in-law pointed out that as a “bench player” you still have to be prepared, in case you’re called into the game. You have to pay attention to what’s going on. The reward of actually getting into the game may be a long way off.

Perseverance. Any of us who have warmed a bench, knows it takes a lot of grit to stay with it. You want to quit. You want to have a hissy fit. But you still show up to every practice and give it your 100%. You work hard to be ready. Quitting is not an option. It tests you. Is this what you really want? Is it worth all the pain and waiting? Because if it is, you’re not going to give up. You’re going to keep going and keep training. You are going to endure the wait and be ready when your name comes up.

Riding the bench forges character in a way other circumstances can’t. I’m not going to lie, it’s not pleasant. It’s a season that will challenge you like no other. 

If you’re in a place right now where you’re riding the bench, I feel your pain. It hurts and it’s frustrating but if you stick with it, you’ll come out the other side, refined. And eventually you’ll get the nod from the coach. I did.

I tried out the next season and made the team. As a full fledged member. I played competitive softball for the next decade. I did some bench warming but never like that first year. I never took for granted that I would play either. But the patience and perseverance paid off and I enjoyed many summers with my friends playing some great softball.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5: 3-5 NLV

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