MAJOR LEAGUE MARRIAGE ADVICE

ben zobrist pictureSpend time around our family, and you’ll realize we like the Kansas City Royals. With a husband and two boys already big fans, I thought it would be a good gesture towards family harmony to join in. So I was excited when the Royals picked up Ben Zobrist right before the trading deadline. Well, to be accurate, I wasn’t excited right away (my husband had to tell me who he was), but after learning some about him, I did get excited.

In fact, I was excited enough that I ordered the book that Zobrist and his wife wrote, Double Play. My son also was interested, and I love to encourage most anything reading-wise, with the added bonus that we got to ‘share’ this as a bonding moment. For the past few weeks, we have vied for who gets to read it. We agreed he would read it at bedtime and then leave it at the top of his bunk bed ladder so I could retrieve it before I went to bed.

Some background – Ben Zobrist is a super utility player, meaning he plays multiple positions. He’s great at getting on base. In fact, he’s been one of the best players in baseball for a while, in one of those sneaky, under the radar kinds of ways. He is a committed Christian and married to a Christian musical artist named Julianna Zobrist. By all accounts, his faith and his family are priorities to him, over and above baseball.

The pleasure in reading this book centers less on the excitement of Ben becoming a professional baseball player (although that in itself was very entertaining) and more on the reflections around marriage I walked away with, largely due to decisions by Ben and Julianna. Here are three of them:

1. Value your spouse before you get married.

I was really taken with the high view Ben had of marriage and his future spouse before he got married. The book includes some letters he wrote to her long before he ever met her. Before I lose some of you with this gushiness, he does make fun of himself, calling these letters a real-life Nicholas Sparks novel.

I’ve never been a big fan of purity rings or the notion that there is just one person out there for you that you should spend your years looking for and pining after. That said, I do think there is something really appropriate about saying, God willing, I will be married one day, and I want to honor my future spouse right now by my actions – especially what I allow myself to view (specifically thinking of pornography here) and take part in (specifically thinking of pre-marital sex acts). The way you conduct yourself as a single person is a valuable spiritual discipline regardless of whether you get married. That said, it is also a way to love your future spouse, by fleeing temporary pleasures for the deferred hope of those pleasures being met in your future spouse.

  •  Questions for us to ponder: Are you encouraging your kids and single friends to view marriage as something worth waiting for? Do you get how pornography and sexual interactions now can have lasting, damaging effects on marriage later?

2. Marriage is a lot more about putting the other person first.

One of the refreshing things in this book is that both Ben and his wife came across as so real. Often I felt as though I was reading about two of my college friends and their love story (except for the fact that he’s a professional baseball player and she’s a professional singer!). They are very transparent with some raw periods in their lives (It is worth mentioning that she was physically molested as a child – I read this part before letting my son read it. She is discreet in sharing, so we deemed it okay for our son to read. Please make your own decision if you want to encourage your child to read it).

They also share about Ben’s depression that began when he was sent back down to the minors in 2007, how bleak and dark this period was. At a point of desperation, Julianna connects Ben with their pastor, who drops what he is doing and flies to Boston, where Ben is playing against the Red Sox. This pastor had done their pre-marital counseling and knew them well. As Ben recalls, the pastor spent a lot of time reminding him of the gospel, specifically that he was just a man, and not perfect, and that this was crucial to getting his relationship with God in the right framework. Right before leaving, the pastor told Ben,

 “You need to repent.”

“Me?” I [Ben] replied.

“You need to repent of your selfish, self-consuming attitude right now, which is that you’re more concerned about yourself than you are about your wife,” he [the pastor] said. “You’re more concerned about holding up this image about who you’re supposed to be rather than loving Christ and adoring him as your Savior. In other words, it’s all been about you.” [Page 197]

This is a great point to be reminded of in marriage. Often marriage is derailed because we begin to think way too highly of ourselves and less of our spouse. Repenting of our pride and selfishness is an important part of healthy marriages.

  •  Questions for us to ponder: How are you at putting your spouse’s desires above your own? What is keeping you from doing that? What do you need to repent of and ask God for help in this area?

3. Protect your marriage.

The baseball schedule demands a lot from its players, especially traveling for 10–14 days at a time. Sadly, that takes an incredibly high toll on marriages. In fact, the divorce rate of professional baseball players is close to 80%! When Ben and Julianna got married they talked about how they could protect their marriage, to ensure they didn’t end up in that 80%. They agreed never to go over 6 days away from each other. That means Julianna travels to many of the cities where Ben is playing. This was taxing in the beginning, but now, with two little kids and a third on the way, it is much more grueling. But they have stuck to it. This also means Julianna isn’t able to pursue her own career with much drive. Yet, they describe this decision and its entailments, as part of their overall plan to ensure marriage and family trump baseball and her musical career, as totally worth it.

  •  Questions for us to ponder: What decisions are you making to ensure you put your marriage in front of other good things? Are you taking your marriage vows seriously? Does your decision-making reflect that?

I can easily attest that reading this book was time well spent. I love that there are men like Ben Zobrist using their gifts to play Major League Baseball. I love that he is using that platform to speak of a lot more than just how to make the major leagues, but rather how to major in things that matter most in life like faith, marriage, and family.

 

 

 

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