By Tori Hook, Contributing Writer
Fifth-year senior Simeon Bell has been playing baseball since he was twelve years old and held the coveted captain position on the Asbury University men’s baseball team this year, until he unexpectedly dropped off of the team a quarter through his last semester. “Some people might call it ludicrous or say that I’m not dedicating myself,” admitted Bell, “but after I [came] to Christ, I just felt that baseball had been a cage over me.”
Bell grew up in a Christian family and was homeschooled until high school, emphasizing that he always “believed [himself] to be saved,” even though he’s come to realize that his plastic version of faith didn’t come close to the real thing. He started playing baseball at age twelve – “really late for most people,” he added – and quickly fell in love with the sport, discovering both a talent and a passion for the game. Bell described the culture shock of mainstream high school as “really challenging in [his] faith.” It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school, though, that the pressures of “outside life” started to hit Bell. It had always been clear to him that a sinful lifestyle was a choice, but it wasn’t until tenth grade that Bell convinced himself to “make those decisions, and step into a world of idols.”
Bell’s idols consumed his life, and he spent the remainder of his high school years “living in the darkness.” Bell, shaking his head slightly, candidly listed the idols that would take over his life: “girls, and, of course, a successful life, but baseball was my number one idol.” Though Bell made plans to attend a secular university after high school, his older brother was on the baseball team at Asbury, and Bell decided he would “really rather come and play with [his] brother than do anything else.” Bell shrugged, laughed and admitted that he “didn’t think twice about it being a Christian school.” He was just at Asbury to play ball, and assumed himself to be on track for the professionals.
Though Bell confessed that “the things of God” weren’t on his mind at all when he started his freshman year at Asbury, “it was a big year for me because of a lot of really convicting areas,” including chapel services and a group of seniors on the baseball team who led prayer meetings. Soon it seemed that Bell had it all turned around, and everyone around him agreed that he had changed. However, Bell labeled this period a “spiritual high,” and explained that he went home over Christmas break and fell back into old habits, including his idolization of baseball and even a struggle with pornography.
Over the next two years, God slowly started to wean away Bell’s idols, especially baseball. During his sophomore year, Bell was injured and unable to play, and, due to eligibility issues that had been overlooked in years past, wasn’t allowed to be a part of the team his junior year either. Bell frantically grasped at his other idols, falling deeper into pornography and the drive to live a successful life. Even when Bell rejoined the baseball team his senior year, he still felt unsatisfied. After a late-night conversation with his roommate, Bell realized, “If I die tomorrow, I don’t believe I’ll go to heaven.” Bell pointed out that the Bible is clear on its command that God is not be mocked, and he felt that he had been mocking God in his flagrant sin, and finally exclaimed, “It was wearing down on me, and I just couldn’t take it.”
Bell spent the following summer with his brother and experienced a time of intense transformation. He joyfully expressed that the Lord brought him to a place of having “a broken and contrite heart” and of understanding grace for the first time. “The desire for God that he put in my life and planted in my heart, that desire has trumped all my other desires,” Bell said. In Spring 2016, Bell quit the baseball team. “I’m not saying that baseball is wrong for others, but for me it was this remnant of sin that had just continued to haunt me,” he explained enthusiastically. “It’s been incredibly freeing to know that he’s taken those other desires and thrown them out completely.” Though Bell knows that many Christians concede times of backsliding and habitual sin in their lives, Bell says, “there’s no need to ever backslide. He wants us to hate those desires so we can love the desires he offers us. Just give in.”