“He will exercise you by giving you little things to do, and in due time He will give you big things to do, very big…”
“Adam, do you wanna come with me to church this Sunday?” Zac Stott, who is member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and my former teammate, persistently asked if I would attend sacrament meeting with him before our Sunday afternoon games.
“Nah, I’m good,” I would proudly reply. In all honesty, I believed waking up an hour earlier for church would throw off my pregame routine.
Looking back, I was spiritually out of shape, and my faith was sedentary.
Since I was a teenager, this question from James, chapter two, has always stood out to me: “wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”
It took a long time to answer this question, understand it’s fullness, and actually START ACTING in faith.
Before being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, in 2005, I played collegiate ball at Western Michigan University. During those years at WMU, my testimony of Jesus Christ took a back seat to my Major League Baseball dream.
It was difficult staying active in church activities because there were only a handful of people attending the student branch in Kalamazoo, MI.
However, it was positive influences like Jim VanderRoest, the president at the WMU student branch, who cared more about me than my attendance at church.
He showed up at my college games because he was genuinely interested in seeing me fulfill my dreams on and off the field. Often times, Jim would saunter into Hyames Field at Western Michigan by himself and would quietly watch me play. His support and positive influence has always lifted my spirits.
While I was attending Western Michigan I also met a WMU Bronco football player and his wife, Rob and Kyrsten Haas, who were also members of the church. They are a beautiful couple right out of a modeling magazine whose beaming spirits radiate over thousands of miles.
Their influence gave me a glimmer of hope for my own future family. Because even though I was a busy-traveling athlete, just like Rob was in college, I was convinced that one day I could also marry in the temple to one of Heavenly Father’s beautiful and wonderful and spiritual daughters.
However, it wasn’t until 2007 in Chattanooga, TN when my testimony amped up exponentially. Surprisingly, we didn’t have a game one Sunday, so I went to sacrament meeting. I hadn’t taken the sacrament, or had even attended church in over two years, but it felt like home. Zac Stott would’ve been so happy!
Coincidentally, I ended up sitting next to Jonas Shackleford and his three sons, who were all avid baseball fans. His wife Amanda was giving a talk that day.
After sacrament meeting, the Shackleford family invited me to dinner at their house that night! As I stood there talking with them in the chapel, I thought, “man, these Mormons move fast!”
I said I would be there for dinner, but then I went home, took a nap, and woke up with an urge to cancel the dinner plans.
Very slowly, I shook off my insecurity and pride and went over to their house. I crawled up their driveway in my dads’ ‘99 Chrysler Sebring and looked up through the windshield at their beautiful home, which Jonas had built with his own hands.
I rang the doorbell, and all three of the Shackleford sons greeted me like I was Derek Jeter. The smell of the savory feast tried to escape the front door, but instead punched me in the nose.
I took off my shoes, walked across the smooth wood floor where Jonas and Amanda welcomed me like a brother. Right then I thought to myself: I want something just like this for my own family someday.
Looking back on that day, I’ve learned that it wasn’t the beautiful, cozy house, and it wasn’t the fancy feast, but it was the respect and appreciation that the Shackleford family so willingly offered me.
And it could’ve just been the right time in my life, but that day I learned that it is the love and willingness to serve one another that fills and completes a home.
Being under the influence of these many spiritual and faithful brothers and sisters, I found myself digging deeper into my suitcase, grabbing my scriptures and putting them on my nightstand along with my patriarchal blessing.
Every Sunday from that day forward, I chose to attend sacrament, sing the opening hymn and partake of the sacrament; always reflecting on the influence of Jesus Christ.
For many people, these small acts of faith might sound trivial, but they gave me life.
My patriarchal blessing reveals that, “He will exercise (me) by giving (me) little things to do, and in due time He will give (me) big things to do, very big, but only as (I) prepare (myself)…”
May I add, that we will do very big things, as we choose faith and surround ourselves with spiritual influences and reject the influence of this world.
In 2009, I ended a four year relationship with a good girl who has a solid family, but who said she would never have anything to do with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A lot of that was my fault, because I knew I could’ve been a better influence in her life.
However, that broken road led me to the most beautiful girl and the best mother that my children could ever have.
I met Callie (one of Heavenly Father’s beautiful and wonderful and spiritual daughters) in 2010, and she has endured the ups and downs of marrying a professional baseball player. I love her more each day as we continue on our adventure together with our two beautiful children: Juliet and Adrian.
Was it just the right time in my life? Was it the aroma of the Shackleford feast that stunned my olfactory receptors and woke me up? What was it that allowed me to “Shake off the chains with which (I was) bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.”? (2 Nephi 1:23)
I have faith that blessings of direction and guidance for my own life have come through the eternal influence of Jesus Christ, and through spiritual influences like Zac Stott, Jim VanderRoest, the Haas family and the Shackleford family; along with so many others.
I pray today for opportunity and an abounding faith to be that same beacon of light in my own family and in other lives as well.
I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, for the people who strive to be on a more covenant path and who inspire me, and for the many tender mercies I’ve witnessed by following the many spiritual influences in my life.