As I sit here watching my 6-year old take her ice skating lesson, I catch myself asking God to help her be successful in passing her test. I’m asking Him to help her listen to her coach, apply the instruction, and succeed in mastering the skills she needs to learn to pass when she takes her test today. I’m asking Him to make the coaches amiable so they might overlook any small mistakes. I’m asking God for these things because, in my mind, success defined this way (passing her test) would mean her happiness. She’s failed this same test twice already, and she was so disappointed each time. I hate to see her disappointed. My mommy heart wants to see her happy, and another failure won’t elicit that result, at least not in the short term.
You might be thinking, “What’s wrong with praying for those things?” Well, nothing. It is perfectly okay to pray for these things…But what stands out to me as I pray is the part that is missing. It’s the part of the prayer where I acknowledge that she is His first, and mine second, and that He knows what she needs before she even asks for it (Matthew 6:8). It is the part where I step back and see the big picture, and acknowledge that maybe failing a test 3 times produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:4).
How many times has God shown me His character and love through my failures? And how many through easy wins?
What is the lesson that is most important for my child to learn? There are so many life lessons to be learned through skating, through sports in general. It’s hard to think of a better tool for teaching perseverance, obedience, submission to authority, character in failure, or accepting consequences for our actions. There are so many worthy things for her to learn through this experience; all of them edifying, and all of them able to teach her an attribute of God. But the most important of all may be a lesson for her mother. A lesson to remember how God defines success.
See, because God is sovereign, success for Him is a given. It’s guaranteed. So with God, it’s not about the finish line. He knows handing us a gold medal won’t teach us anything. God measures our success by our hearts, by our obedience to Him, and our reliance on Him. In relying on His strength and trusting in His wisdom, we are free to become everything He intended for us to be.
God sees through the lens of eternity, and knows that failure is a key ingredient for producing perseverance, which we will need if we are to fight against the powers of darkness in this ever-darkening world. Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. —James 1:4 NIV
So, I change my prayer for her to pass her test into a prayer for her to know these truths in her heart: I want her to know she has immeasurable value and worth before she even wakes up in the morning, long before she ever steps on that ice. I want her to know that she could fall every 3 seconds, and I would still think she is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I want her to know that win or lose, stand or fall, pass or fail, she is God’s precious daughter whom I love more than I could ever tell her. And I want her to know that no accomplishment here on earth, no matter how monumental, will ever compare to the indescribable joy of being with Jesus in glory one day.
I pray that she knows all of these things, and I still pray that she will pass her test. Except, it doesn’t have to be today. I pray that, when she has learned the portion of diligence and tenacity that God deems requisite, she would know the joy of accomplishment and who supplied it. And that she would celebrate a thousand times more than she would have if she’d gotten it right the first time.
Of course, she passed. Because, you know…God’s got style.