winning and losing…
I love being a football mom and #8 is by far my favorite player. He always works hard and gives his best effort. He is a leader on and off the field and I AM SUPER PROUD. For the last two years he has been the starting quarterback, but this year he is the backup. He hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet, and is suddenly one of the shortest kids on team. He has a knee condition that makes it super painful for him to run and it has slowed him down. Plus, there are some really gifted athletes on his team – and they are better and faster (and now bigger).
Ty never complains about his condition or his size. He lifts weights after school and is the only kid in his grade who shows up consistently. He puts in extra time on the weekends, throwing the ball around and working on his form with his football-coaching dad. He encourages his teammates, and volunteers to serve if there is ever a job to be done. He does the grind better than any other 13-year-old I know.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because when I see how hard he works, how he does what is right, and how he faces the challenges of being undersized and in pain, MY HEART WANTS SO BADLY FOR HIM TO SUCCEED. I’ve always liked when the “good guys” win.
Last Saturday, Ty had a game and the second half did not go well for him: he fumbled and he missed a couple of key tackles. His team still managed to pull out a win, but his coach called him out on his mistakes after the game and his head hung in shame all the way to the car. Once inside, he laid his sweaty head on my shoulder and cried. He was so discouraged.
My mom heart could hardly handle it. It’s so hard to watch your kid fail. I realize it’s only 8th grade football and that in the scheme of things it’s not a big deal, but still…my heart hurts when his heart hurts. I too, have felt the pain of giving my all and coming up short, and it is brutal.
On the way home, we talked about how to move forward after failure. Then we thanked God for the opportunity to play, sang loudly to the radio, and when we got home, I made monkey bread (food always helps with middle school boys). He rallied quickly and we had a great night.
I thought God was teaching my kid a life lesson through football, but really God was in the middle of teaching me one.
Two nights later I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for Ty’s practice to finish. As I watched, I prayed for him, asking God to help him play better so his light could shine. Practice ended and swarms of sweaty, smelly boys filled the parking lot, but my son wasn’t among them.
Instead, he was loaded down with tackling dummies and pads, carrying the equipment across the field to the storage room. He volunteered for the dirty job because he has learned that to lead is to serve. So, there he was, fresh off his worst game, serving his team.
This is what shining looks like, I heard the Spirit whisper to me softly. I am answering your prayer.
Tears of thankfulness ran down my face.
But God wasn’t done with me yet.
Yesterday morning, I dropped Ty off at school early for “See You at the Pole.” I sat in the same parking lot and watched my kid take a stand for Jesus, praying around the flagpole. There were other kids there, but he was the only boy from his grade who showed up.
See how he shines? The spirit whispered.
I drove away crying.
God’s answer to my prayer looks SO DIFFERENT than what I think it should.
So often I pray for success for my kids. But many times, the adversity I pray against is the very stuff that builds their character and makes them more like Jesus.
Ty’s challenges with sports and friends have opened the door for a bunch of really great faith conversations. It has forced him to turn to God’s word and learn how to rely on God for strength. As a result, his faith is stronger than it would be if things (like football) always went well for him. My kid isn’t afraid to serve when no one else does. He isn’t afraid to pray at the pole when no one else is. He isn’t afraid to work harder than everyone else. That strength of character, that heart like Jesus, is EXACTLY what I have prayed for.
Sometimes, I lose sight of the fact that answers to prayer may come in the form of failure, hardship, and loneliness. Sometimes, losing is winning. My kid has faced all of those things this year, and this week I got to see the fruit of it. The adversity he has faced is actually answered prayer because it is growing his character. It’s better than winning because having a heart like Jesus is the ultimate goal for him.
It’s just so.much.easier to watch my kid shine his light in success than to shine it in failure.
Lucky for Me, God knows better. And he lovingly allows Ty opportunities to grow his faith.
Hebrews 12:10-12 (NLT):
“But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands, and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
If you, or your kids, are facing adversity right now, press in. Thank God for the opportunity to grow. Trust him and his plan. Cling to his strength and let it prune you. Take a new grip. Find comfort that “the Lord disciplines those he LOVES (Hebrews 12:6). Hold tight to the promise that there will be fruit from your labor, and fullness of joy (John 15).
Be encouraged, fellow warriors, your effort is not in vain!
I’d love to pray for you. If you are in the middle of a battle or facing adversity or just need encouragement, send me a message and I will get on my knees. Let’s do this faith journey together.
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