Today was a very special day for my eight year old. She competed today in the AAU Georgia State Championship in gymnastics. She came away winning the First Place State Champion on beam, Second Place State Champion on floor and Third Place All Around State Champion. It was precious.
But, as we moved through this last season, experiencing all the various successes and joys, and sometimes failures and sorrows, I really began to dig deep to understand why we are doing all of these activities. What is the purpose for these things in the lives of these children to whom God has entrusted me.
The Lord has given me some wisdom in this. It is not to "be great" or to win or to be first. Though that seems to be the focus of the parents with whom we interact at these events (whether it is ballet, baseball or gymnastics), this focus is not even close to where our hearts are centered. Our hearts, throughout all of these things should always be towards our Lord, focused on bringing Him pleasure and glory in all that we do. If it is hitting a baseball, writing a book, doing a cartwheel or turning a pirouette, it is for God's glory and pleasure. It is a form of worship: To use the gifts, talents and abilities - the mind and body that God gave us - for His joy, His glory - and to give Him the credit and glory if success follows.
I seek to help my children understand that it is not for them, for their benefit, that they are doing these activities. It's for Him because He gave them this special work - through the gifts, talents or passions he has developed in them - and it brings Him joy when they walk in that. It is His glory, His joy, that we seek. We are worshiping God when we do that work which God has given for them to do. It becomes an eternal work - when our hearts are truly focused on Him throughout it. It is not wood, hay and stubble that will burn as the deeds we do for our own glory are.
I've quit praying for my kids to win. I can't tell you how many times I sat there, biting my nails praying like crazy that my son would get a hit, or pitch a perfect game, or my ballerina would get the part she wanted in the Nutcracker or my gymnast would win first place. Yet, I realize now that it's not about them. It's about Him. My prayers are now mostly praise that God is their God, that He has blessed them, that they are fearfully and wonderfully made and are His children, and that they would simply bring Him glory; whatever would bring God the most glory is what I pray would be. Amazingly, as I've changed my heart in prayer, my attitude has undergone a dramatic change. I am totally at peace. Whether they win or lose, I feel the same - focused on God and His glory. When they lose, I'm not nearly as troubled or sorrowful, when they win, I'm joyed, but not as relieved and overwhelmed (as if our happiness depended upon this win). It's astonishing what this shift in focus has done for my own heart as a parent.
Yet, more than anything, it blesses my heart the most when I hear my children actually getting this. That's when I begin to really swell with excitement. When they confide their own personal prayers during the event, I know the reason we do all of this. It is to reach their hearts and build their dependence upon and their understanding of God, as well as grow them in their walk with God as they learn to truly worship Him with their lives.
Praise be to Him!
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1