Last night my Blackhawks lost game 7 of the Western Conference Championship. With just one ugly shot, our chances of another Stanley Cup are gone. We (and I use possessive nouns to describe the team because, as any avid sports fan will tell you, we’re part of the franchise) had the lead all throughout the game. The finals were in sight and it was ours to lose. And we lost. In one second of a sudden death overtime.
In every sport, the goal is always the same: to win a championship. If a team isn’t playing to win, there’s no point in playing. And it doesn’t matter how far you get in the playoffs. Falling a little short of the goal is still falling short of the goal. It’s failing. It’s one more year of not doing exactly what we set out to do.
So there I sat, at a table in Applebees. Dejected. With a good friend sitting next to me. Also dejected. What do we do when it doesn’t work out? When we set out for a purpose and fall short?
I’m one of those guys who tends to go all in. It’s everything or nothing. And that attitude permeates into every facet of life. From ministry to parenting to whatever. I give everything, so I demand perfection. And I parent very intentionally. I take advantage of teaching moments. I speak to him the way I appreciate being spoken to. But because I’m far from perfect, I’ll sometimes miss a teaching opportunity. And I’ll beat myself up over it. Like that one moment is forever gone and the lesson will never be learned. Or maybe I speak to him like a child. And I hate that! I refuse to speak to him like a lesser person because he’s capable of understanding and responds so much better when spoken to respectfully. But I’m tired. Maybe not paying attention. Maybe living somewhere else, besides the moment I’m in. And I speak to him flippantly, only to hate myself later for it. Like this one circumstance will damage our relationship forever.
What I’m trying to say is that I try really really hard, but I’m not perfect. I wonder how many people face that same problem. And when my imperfection rears its’ ugly face again, I beat myself up. I feel like a failure. I’m ashamed of myself for getting it wrong again! And I put one day’s failures on top of another day’s failures and sometimes I begin to wonder how badly I’m screwing up my kids. Like they’re going to grow up into half people, who breath through their mouths, run into walls, and drool.
And so I read books, written by people who don’t have my kids. Whose personalities and quarks they know nothing about. And I ask other parents. And as it turns out, every other parent is just as fearful that their mistakes are screwing up their own kids. And I’ve found a very valuable truth in this process: that the parents who don’t think they’re messing up are the ones who are messing up the most. Ignorant confidence is a horrible, two headed beast.
A couple months ago, the Denver Broncos, who had the best offense in the NFL got obliterated by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. I mean obliterated. Smoked. Owned. Beat to submission. With a final score of 43 – 8. And after the clock ran out and players had their showers, it was time for the media to pounce on Peyton Manning and remind him how badly they were beat. One guy asked the question if Manning was embarrassed of the team and the game. And I loved his response. He was visibly peeved as he said, “It’s not embarrassing at all. I would never use that word. There’s alot of professional football players in that room – the locker room – who put alot of hard work and effort into being here, into playing in that game. The word embarrassing is an insulting word, to tell you the truth.”
I wish I had that perspective. I wish I could translate that into my own life. That even amidst my failures – especially my abysmal failures – I could be proud of who I am and what I’ve done. I mean, here’s a guy, who is arguably the best quarterback of all time. And yet, media and popular opinion give him a hard time of not getting the job done when it counts. And even with all these voices in his ears, he can stand up for himself with confidence and boldness. So what does he have that I don’t? I mean besides a beautiful house, fancy cars, and millions & millions of dollars.
It reminds me of this guy I read about in the BIble named David. David, amongst other things was a murdered, adulterer, and king, yet was still called “a man after God’s own heart”. But before he was a king, he was pursued by another king, with the purpose of killing him. And with this story in mind, we read his words in Psalm 23…
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the called of the shadow of death, I will free no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell n the house of the Lord forever.
Here’s a guy who has seen adversity. Here’s a guy who’s made mistakes. And yet, his confidence and his peace leads him to be still and secure. And the reason is simple, his confidence isn’t based on who he is or what he’s done. His confidence is in the Lord. His confidence is in the will of God, not the actions of man. Even amidst hardship, he’s confident in rest, goodness, love – all supplied by the Lord, not himself.
And so we can find rest. We can find confidence. But how do we maintain this confidence and rest? How do we keep our sanity? Well, indulge me for a moment, cuz I think I may be on to something…
Be confident in the work you’ve done, not fearful of the mistakes you’ve made – Sure you’ve screwed up. We all have. But you’ve also done some pretty awesome things! You’ve loved your kids in moments they were unlovable. You comforted them when they were hurting. You’ve provided a love for them that no one else could provide. You’ve done some awesome things! Be confident in that! Celebrate it! Challenge your spouse to be on the lookout for great parenting and reward that with a pre-bedtime massage. Disclaimer: I only mention that because there seems to be nothing I can do to get a pre-bedtime massage from my own wife. But the fact remains, we’ve done some wicked awesome parenting! Be confident of that! Celebrate it!
Reflect on God’s goodness – The book of Deuteronomy is sometimes called the “Remember Book” because it’s all about remembrance, of who God is, what He’s done, and what He desires from us. Chapter 6 tells us to teach our kids about God’s love, laws, and lessons “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” It goes on to say that when you are given gifts, when God supplies your needs, to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord”, who has given you and led you through so much. So in your own life, remember. Take stock of all God has done; the big and small things. Remind yourself of them. Tell your kids about them. And in remembering, find the confidence and rest that comes from knowing that God has always and always will lead you.
Allow God’s faithfulness in the past to fuel your following Him in the present – How often do we do our own thing and wonder why it went wrong? God says take a right, we take a left, and then yell at God for left being the wrong direction. God’s grace and goodness will lead us. But if we’re not willing to follow, that leadership is useless. God will care for us. But we have to allow Him to. No one knows how to raise your kids better than our Father. No one else knows their personality as perfectly. No one else knows the amount of hairs on their heads in every moment. No one else can see how each thought, each action, and each inaction shapes a person’s life. So as you parent, be in prayer and be in tune. God desires to lead your family. Just let Him. And find the rest, confidence, joy, and even forgiveness of imperfection that comes from working with the Lord.