The Prayer I Meant to Pray, for My Daughter

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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.

Your Story Isn’t Boring

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In the evangelical church community, it can feel like there is a lot of pressure to “have a story” and to share that story with others as our testimony of God’s grace.  It is a powerful gospel-sharing tool—however, it is easy to get too caught up in our part of the story, rather than God’s part of it, and make it more about us and our human drama than about Him.

Hear me say, we should definitely be sharing our stories!  But, many devoted Christ-followers are feeling left out in the cold because they feel that their stories are boring, or that their stories would not inspire anyone to trust in Jesus. This is how I felt about my story for 27 years of my life.  I grew up in a Christian home, had two married, loving parents, went to a Christian school, and didn’t drink or use drugs.  Nothing terribly traumatic had happened to me, and I couldn’t really pinpoint a specific day or moment when I trusted Christ as my Savior.  It had just kind of happened, over time, and I got baptized while I was in high school. 

Fast forward to 5 years into my marriage—we started attending Watermark (our current church home), and started hearing amazing stories of God’s redemption every single week.  It was so refreshing and contagious!  You couldn’t help but want a story like those.  I remember half-heartedly asking God to give me a story like that, because I thought mine was boring. 

Sadly and ironically, at that point I had already begun my unfaithfulness to my husband.  Somehow it didn’t register with me that I was already writing my own part of the story—all the broken, awful, heartbreaking parts of the story.  At the 6 year mark in our marriage, it was those amazing Watermark testimonies that moved my heart to repentance, and gave me the courage to trust God enough to confess the affair to my husband.  And then it was God’s turn to blow my mind. 

He brought both my husband and I to our knees in desperation, begging Him to give us hope for our marriage.  Begging Him to honor our attempt to salvage our broken pieces, and to make something beautiful from the ashes.  And He did, ya’ll!  He did. 

Oh yes, He gave us a story of grace and redemption, but even more than that, He gave us the greatest gift of all…Himself.  A true, real, living, working relationship with Him that neither of us had ever had before.  That’s the real story.  That’s the part that matters.  If it were just my story, it would be a sad story of brokenness and heartache without a happy ending.  But it’s not my story.  It’s His.

Do you see??  The dramatic part of the story is not ours! The crazy, insane, doesn’t-make-sense part is not the depth of our depravity, it is God’s amazing love that rescues us from it.  That a perfect God, who is straight-up love and goodness, sent His only Son to earth to die on a cross for our ugly, dirty, messed-up selves.  He takes us as we are, loves us where we’re at, and gives us a second chance when we don’t deserve it.

You guys need to know something about me though.  Back when I thought my story was boring…it wasn’t. I didn’t have “big” sins in my past, but I had plenty of other ones.  I was completely narcissistic, vain, and dishonest.  I lived primarily for my own joy and interests, rarely looking to the interests of others.  I was living for myself, not serving God’s kingdom or His people in the least.  I had dead faith

God could have used any of those things to write my story, because His part of it is always the same!  Radical, supernatural rescue from ourselves. 

God doesn’t save us from the world, He saves us from ourselves.  We all need His transforming grace, we all need to be rescued. 

So, my question to you is this…do you think your story is boring?  I guarantee you it’s not.  But there is a chance you might be blocking God’s part of the story.  Not in the sense that you have some power that God lacks, but in the sense that God doesn’t force His love upon us.  For God to write His part, we have to admit we are broken beyond all hope without Him. 

Are you still hoping in yourself, thinking your story is boring because you’re not very broken?  Perhaps you trusted in Christ in a transactional way, like the way you would sign a contract or an insurance policy.  Maybe it was on your checklist of “things upright people do as they grow up.” 

Maybe you believed in your heart but never trusted Him the way a skydiver trusts his parachute, or the way a climber trusts his rope—like your life depends on it. 

Oh friend, I want so badly for you to experience the radical joy that comes from falling on your face, utterly helpless before God.  And then experiencing His love as He lifts your chin and says, “I know.  I love you, my child.”  Let Him love you like that.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Jesus, Matthew 10:39