He was terrified of the giant looming over him. “I can’t do it; I won’t do it,” he said over and over. This giant did not have a physical form, yet to my son, it might as well have been Goliath.
The giant was his fear. The reason: a mandatory 3-5 minute speech he had to recite in front of his 7th grade class.
The day my introverted son found out about the speech assignment, he freaked out. The assignment seemed impossible. He began planning his escape: Maybe I’ll get a contagious disease! Hopefully we will have a blizzard! Can’t you just homeschool me? Do you think Jesus might come back before speech day?
He fretted and worried, he planned and plotted; but the fact was, he had to memorize the speech – and use inflection, gestures, varied pitch, and maintain eye contact! (I am SO glad I didn’t have to do the assignment!!!)
After enlisting Google’s help in finding some possible speeches, he decided on Tim Keller’s “True and Better” sermon. My son began the hard task of memorizing a four minute speech. He read it over and over. He listened to the audio. He said it at dinner, in the car, and to the dog. Then he had to add inflection and gestures. He had to force himself to maintain eye contact, and to stop fidgeting. He had to endure constructive criticism from his parents and his eight year old sister (her criticism was received about how you think it would be!) He moaned, he groaned, at times he cried. But he did it. He worked for it. He was picking up the stones preparing to face his giant.
The night before his speech, the giant got bigger and more threatening. “I just can’t. What if I mess up? What if I don’t get an A?” The giant stood there taunting my son; willing him to give up. My son pulled the covers over his head.
I wanted him to forget about letter grades. He had prepared as well as he could. I was so proud of his effort. In my mind he had earned so much more than a letter on a piece of paper. He had prepared to fight his giant. We prayed, asking God to fill him with courage and strength. We boldly asked the Lord to fill him with power – the same power He gave David, Moses, and Daniel.
The next morning, he gave his speech. My introverted terrified son stood up to his giant and swung his slingshot. And the giant fell. My son was still scared, he was still uncomfortable, but he did it! I was so proud of him! We celebrated his accomplishment without yet knowing the grade. After all the grade was just a letter, it couldn’t possibly convey what he had learned or accomplished.
The grade was posted, and I was ecstatic to discover he made a high B! I was thrilled for him. I ran to hug him expecting to find a happy relieved 13 year old.
“I didn’t get an A,” he said not meeting my gaze. “I didn’t do good.”
Oh my heart! How do I get him to stop focusing on the result? How do I teach him that real growth, real progress comes from the process of learning? How do I make him see that I would be prouder of a C he worked hard for, than an A that came easily?
But then God held a mirror in front of my own face. How often do I measure my worth by my performance, and by what others think of me? How often do I measure my value by my accomplishments, by “likes,” by numbers of blog followers? So often I treat Colossians 3:23-24 as if it says, “Whatever you do, work at it will all your heart, as if working to please people.” When in truth it says,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
People are people – flawed, sinful, fickle individuals. We award perfect performance and applaud worldly success. We change what we admire, we grow bored of what impresses us.
But God doesn’t change and He doesn’t measure us by what we do. He doesn’t value us by our resume. He loves us because we are His. He applauds our efforts, even if we fall on our faces. He cheers for our attempts at following Him, even if we trip along the way. And He has a reward in store for us that is far greater than anything this world can offer. Compared to eternity with Him in heaven, an A or “likes” looks pretty pathetic right?
So let’s embrace these teachable moments with our children, and ask God to use them to teach us as well. Let’s keep working at living out Colossians 3:23 as it is written. Let’s try to delight in the process and the journey, instead of focusing solely on the outcome. And let’s celebrate the small victories, the stones thrown at our giants, as we fix our eyes on the One who loves us unconditionally.