My father’s arms


Barbara Johnson tells a very inspiring story in an old book “Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul.”

Someone said that encouragement reminds a person of the “shoulders” he’s standing on and the heritage he’s been given. That’s what happened when a young man, the son of a star baseball player, was drafted by one of the minor league teams. As hard as he tried, his first season was disappointing, and by midseason, he expected to be released any day.

The coaches were bewildered by his failure because he possessed all the characteristics of a superb athlete, but he couldn’t seem to incorporate those advantages into a coordinated effort. He has become disconnected from his potential.

His future seemed darkest one day when he had already struck out his first time at bat. Then he stepped up to the batter’s box again and quickly ran up two strikes. The catcher called a time-out and trotted to the pitcher’s mound for a conference. While they were busy, the umpire, standing behind the plate, spoke casually to the boy.

Then play resumed, the next pitch was thrown – and the young man knocked it out of the park. That was the turning point. From then on, he played the game with a new confidence and power that quickly drew the attention of the parent team, and he was called up to the majors.

On the day he was leaving for the city, one of his coaches asked him what had caused such a turnaround. The young man replied it was the encouraging remark the umpire had made that day when his baseball career had seemed doomed.

“He told me I reminded him of all the times he had stood behind my dad in the batter’s box,” the boy explained. “He said I was holding the bat like dad had held it. And he told me, ‘I can see his genes in you; you have your father’s arms.’ After that, whenever I swung the bat, I just imagined I was using dad’s arms instead of my own.”

James Hewett tells us his experience. Hewett says: “When I was a small boy growing up in Pennsylvania, we often visited my grandparents who lived nine miles away. A thick fog settled over the hilly countryside one night before we started home. I remember being terrified and asking if we shouldn’t go even slower than we were. Mother said gently, “Don’t worry. Your father knows the way.”

You see, dad had walked that road without gasoline during the war. He had ridden that blacktop on his bicycle to court Mother. For years, he made those weekly trips back to visit his parents.

How often, when I can’t see the road of life and feel that familiar panic rising in my heart, I hear the echo of my mother’s voice: “Don’t worry. Your father knows the way.”

I love my father. He taught me a lot of lessons about life and work. Years ago, when he got weak and could hardly walk. I look at him and understand that one day, if God were gracious and Jesus tarried, I would be in the same condition. Before he moved into my house, I envisioned the day we would both sit on a sofa in front of the TV and watch soap operas or movies together. He would love that.

I was out of town doing a two-day leadership thing the day he moved in. I got a call that he suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. We never got to watch TV together, and the last time we were together was in the ICU. In his state, I would not know whether he can still understand me, but medical science seems to say that the last physical sense that leaves the body is the sense of hearing. I kissed him on the forehead, told him I loved him, and whispered that I had everything covered. I will take care of the family, and he can rest and be with his Maker. Strangely, after those words, he passed.

Many of the things I do right are because I had my “father’s arm.” And the lessons learned from him are precious. This I have my father to thank.

But beyond this, we all have a heavenly Father who also looks after our interests if only we could take the time and attention to respond to Him. The Word of God says I can do everything through God, who strengthens me. Now you tell me. Isn’t that playing with my Father’s Arm?

Happy Father’s Day.

(Francis Kong’s “Inspiring Excellence” podcast is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms).


Barbara Johnson, Reprinted by permission of Barbara Johnson (c) 1998, from Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jim Tunney, and Mark and Chrissy Donnelly.

Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 201.


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