“But Mom,” my son muttered as the tears began to run down his cheeks, “Blake has never made a B. Cassie has never made a B. I don’t want to be the only one who has a B on my report card.”
I am beginning to think that I am not going to survive pre-algebra this year. Every evening, my son and I sit down after dinner and begin to work on his homework. He has never struggled in a class, but for some reason he is having a difficult time this year. While many would be satisfied with a B+, he desperately wants that A. I admire his desire for perfection, his drive, his motivation, but I don’t want him so focused on a letter. I want him focused on learning.
And, I certainly don’t want him to get caught in the comparison trap.
Yes, I have three brilliant children. My oldest is a freshman, and no one has yet to make anything less than an A on his or her report cards. My children strive to be the best. They give their all. They are looking to their future. They have goals, and they strive to meet them.
I know my kids are capable of making straight A’s, but my goal is not perfection. My request is that they give 100%…and as long as they are doing their best, I’m happy. But, my middle child has reached a mountain called pre-algebra. It’s not that he isn’t capable. It’s not that it’s too hard. It’s not that he doesn’t understand. For some reason, he’s not being reached in class. He’s coming home completely confused, and we have to teach him step-by-step every evening how to solve the equations. It’s forcing me to go back some 20 years and dust off my algebra skills! And, they don’t have textbooks! So, for a visual learner (and a rusty mom), it’s been a challenge.
And now, nine weeks into school, he’s lost his confidence. He’s staring at a block test that will determine whether he makes an A or a B. And, he’s psyched himself out. He’s failing to look at how far he’s come, how much he’s learned. He’s looking at a grade instead of focusing on the joy of learning and growing. And, he’s focused on what his siblings have achieved and comparing himself to them.
And that’s a dangerous place to be.
As we talked through the tears last night, I reminded him of all the gifts and talents he has. I reminded him that this grade does not have anything to do with his value or his worth. I reminded him that his brother did not even take pre-algebra at his age (it wasn’t offered). I reminded him that his brother struggled to keep an A when he did take it. I reminded him that his uncle (my brother who he idolizes) was not a straight A student but is now a successful dentist. I reminded him that this grade doesn’t even count toward his high school transcript. We talked and we prayed and we talked some more.
But, the sense of failure and fear welling up inside of him has been overwhelming. When I dropped him off at school for his test and drove away, I couldn’t contain my own tears. The pain of watching your child hurt is almost unbearable at times.
I rallied my prayer warriors around him. We pray for his peace. We pray for his ability to recall the information he has so diligently studied. We pray for success. And, I pray for the ability to accept a B if that is what happens.
He will survive. We will survive. And we will learn and grow. After all, failure (if you can call a “B” failure) is a great teacher if we let it be. We must simply adopt God’s perspective, see things from his view.
As I contemplate this situation, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul. Just this morning I was reading the account of his conversion on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9). Saul (as he was known before his conversion) was out persecuting the Christians, standing by approving of the stoning of Stephen. He was actively looking for Christians to kill! And, in an instant, God’s light shone around him. He immediately repented and turned his life over to Christ.
Suddenly, the man who had been murdering Christians was preaching the name of Christ! Of course, the Christians were leery of him. It took the voice of God to reassure them. But, what I found interesting was this phrase:
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16
Don’t you think that Paul could have felt so unworthy of serving God? Don’t you think he could have chosen to live in his past, to wallow in self-pity for his poor choices? Don’t you think God knew all about his past—even before it was his past? Don’t you think God saw him standing by as Stephen was stoned to death?
And yet, Paul was God’s chosen instrument.
How many times do we get caught up in our own insecurities? How long will we choose to live in our less than glorious past? How long will we allow our past to hold us back from a future that God has ordained for us?
I know that after the discovery of my ex-husband’s affair, I struggled immensely with self-esteem. After all, I had given my all to this man, dedicated my life to serving God alongside him…and it wasn’t good enough. I was rejected. I hated the person looking back at me in the mirror every single day. I was having a big pity party!
God reached down and reminded me that I am his treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6), his royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). He reminded me that he didn’t reject me; he chose me! He ordained every day of my life even while I was in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:16). I am the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8)!
It would be so easy to live in my past, the rejection and pain. I could choose to let it color the rest of my life. But, I made a conscious decision five years ago that my past would not define me. I made the decision to let God use the past to mold me into his image, to let the pain and trials work something beautiful into my life. I consciously decided that I would not be an angry, bitter ex-wife, always looking for a way to get even. Instead, I made the decision to thrive!
It’s only because I know that I am God’s specially chosen daughter that I can put the past behind me. It’s only by taking God’s perspective that I have the vision to move forward. It’s only by surrendering every heart ache and pain, every regret and sin, even every accolade and accomplishment to him that I am useful for his kingdom. It’s by letting go of everything in my past and trusting him to use it for my good (Romans 8:28) that suddenly he can redeem my past, use it for his glory.
Later, after years of ministry, Paul would write to the church at Ephesus.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
I am God’s handiwork, his masterpiece. You are God’s handiwork, his masterpiece. Long ago he chose us to fulfill a purpose. Long ago, he planned good works for me…and for you. He has prepared the path for us to accomplish all that he created us to be and do. Will you let go of your past? Will you trust him to redeem your regrets, your failures, your sins, your accomplishments? Will you allow him to lead you into the purpose he has for you?
After all, he chose you!