A Charge to My Daughter in the Face of Disappointment

Dear O——

I’ve been praying and thinking about this season you’re in with your new soccer team. Sometimes I express myself better in writing, so I thought I would write to you (though I’m also grateful for the talks we’ve had about this). Some of what I say will be practical, some spiritual—take what the Holy Spirit directs you to take, and leave what doesn’t fit. Know that I say all of this out of love for you.

It breaks my heart to see you treated dismissively—and even a bit unfairly—by your new coach. It doesn’t make sense to you; it doesn’t make sense to me, and watching you lose confidence in yourself and lose joy for the game you love is, quite frankly, trying the self-control of my mommy-heart.🙂 But in the midst of this, I want you to remember a few important things (I am working on remembering them too):

  • First, and most important, your value and worth is above all else rooted in being a beloved child of the living God, who bought you with the precious blood of his Son. No matter your circumstances, that will always be true. Do your best not to let this season define who you are.
  • Second, you have a Savior who can identify with your every human experience (Heb 4.15), and who has said to his people over and over, “I am with you.” You are never alone in the things God has planned for you to face.
  • Third, you are a player and person worthy of a coach’s time, and you’ve had many other coaches who have shown you that—that has been a means of God’s grace to you. Remember their encouraging words; be the player they say you are.

Knowing who you truly are, you can go forward in this unique season that God has placed you in. Because he loves you, you can love others. And that would be my charge to you—love others. Your soccer skills may not improve at all in this season—you may not get much coaching, and you may not get much playing time. But consider that God would have you learn something else from this season. Ask yourself, “How can I encourage the other girls on my team?” Instead of thinking about how much time you’re spending on the bench, think about cheering for the girls on the field, think about giving a high-five when the chance is there. Continue to be friendly and warm to the girls you’re getting to know. If you’ve been sidelined during a drill at practice, get a ball and start juggling, start up a little rondo with other girls in the same boat, or do some sit-ups while you’re waiting (maybe some others will join you).

You can love your coach in similar ways. Pay attention when she’s talking, and work hard to follow her instructions (I know you already do this). Move around, stay warm, and have a ball at your feet when you’re on the sidelines—send some signals that show you hope to go in. Play hard at games and practice, even when you feel it might be pointless to do so. I am so proud of you for respectfully asking your coach how you can improve and play more. If it seems right speak up again, but it also may be right to just know that she knows and trust God with what your coach decides to do with what you’ve expressed to her. The most loving thing you can do is pray for her. She is nursing a heart that is more broken than you or I can imagine with the loss of her fiancé. She needs our prayers.

I love this quote from the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon:

“It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is the skillful singer who can sing when there is not a ray of light by which to read—who sings from his heart, and not from a book that he can see, because he has no means of reading, save from that inward book of his own living spirit, whence notes of gratitude pour forth in songs of praise.”

In this season, you are learning a little of what it means to “sing when there is not a ray of light”. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world, and this will not be last time you have to learn this lesson. But I am confident that God will help you find your own “inward book” and from that place you will give glory to him.

–Love, Mom

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God Loves a Tattletale

My husband does shift work, so often he’s at work at night. He loves it when our daughters send him text messages to say goodnight. The other night, while my husband was working, I let one of my daughters stay up to get some homework done. She had plenty of chances to get it done over the weekend, but she didn’t. She really didn’t use her time very well, and she knew it—and we knew it.

The next morning, my husband came home and told me that he had gotten a text message from our daughter at 11:00 p.m. and that he was going to talk to her about how she had ended up being up that late by not using her time well over the weekend. During their conversation in which he confronted her on her time-management skills, he mentioned that he wouldn’t have known how late she was up if she hadn’t texted him. Her reply, “Dad, I knew that, but it didn’t change the fact that I wanted to tell you goodnight and that I love you.” Was she trying to butter her old dad up? Get the sentence reduced? Not this time—it was the real deal.

My daughter was so confident in how much her daddy loves her that she knew that she could tattle on herself.

And two important truths struck me about my daughter’s response. First, she knew that her dad knew about her failure. Don’t we know that too? We know that God already knows what we’ve done. But my usual response is to see if I can hide it anyway. My daughter; however, was so confident in how much her daddy loves her that she knew that she could tattle on herself. She knew there might be a hard conversation; she knew there might be consequences, and yet, she ratted herself out anyway. Why? Because she knew it would be OK. She knew the discipline would be in love (Heb 12:6). How often do I avoid God because I just don’t want to deal with my sin? Because I’m afraid I’ll somehow let him down? Because it’s just easier for me to pretend it didn’t happen? How confident am I in God’s love for me?

What if we loved God everyday in such a way that we weren’t willing to let our sin or our failures keep us from saying, “I love you, daddy.”?

Second, she was more driven by her love for her daddy than by her own comfort or the desire to hide her sin. My daughter knows how much her daddy loves being thought of while he’s at work. What if we loved God everyday in such a way that we weren’t willing to let our sin or our failures keep us from saying, “I love you, daddy.”? For the Christian, there is no reason we can’t do that. Because of Jesus, there is no wall between us and our Father—there is nothing that we can’t bring to his feet (Heb 4:16). He longs to show us mercy and compassion (Isa 30:18) and he loves us with a great and steadfast love (Ps 103:11). God loves us and he delights in being loved by us—so much so that we can tattle on ourselves.

Read with an Eye Toward the Gospel

I read a lot of blogs and magazine articles by Christian authors, and I appreciate how much I learn from this. Sometimes these authors clarify an issue or a point of doctrine. Sometimes they give an opinion I don’t agree with, and I have to think about why. Often, they encourage me. It really is an amazing age that the Church is living in.

A trend I’ve noticed lately in the Christian magazine/blogging world is articles titled something like this:

  • Ten Things Pastors Can Do to Increase Giving
  • Five Lessons We Can Learn From the Mistakes of (Fill-in-the-Blank Church or Pastor)
  • Four Steps to a Productive Personal Quiet Time
  • Eight Strategies for Getting People to Serve
  • Three Indicators You Should Leave Your Church

Personally, I’m drawn to articles like this. I’m a self-proclaimed structure-fiend and list-maker. I was a technical editor for years, and my goal was to boil information down, create easy-to-follow steps, and be concise. But I think there are some dangers in articles like this. As the Church continues to navigate the Information Age, we need to be prayerful, discerning readers who read with an eye toward the Gospel.

It’s never really that simple

Whether you’re a pastor helping a congregation wrestle with the idol of money, a church body that’s been through a scandal, or an individual making the decision to leave a church, it’s never as simple as list-style articles make it seem. There are always more factors and details than the writer could ever convey. Will the writer give you some things to consider? Yes. But is what they wrote all you should consider? No.

If we follow four, eight, or ten simple rules, strategies, or lessons, we’ll have enough money and enough missionaries, and we’ll look healthier than the church down the street.

This style of article can also give the impression that all we have to do is follow the rules and avoid all the snares, and nothing messy will happen in our churches. If we follow four, eight, or ten simple rules, strategies, or lessons, we’ll have enough money and enough missionaries, and we’ll look healthier than the church down the street.

My church was recently the case study for a lessons-we-can-learn article. Were the four lessons the author pointed out good lessons? Yes. But was the crisis my church went through really that simple? Not on your life. There were much more than four lessons to be learned. And if someone came in to my church, or any other church, and made sure these lessons were learned, would it fix everything? Not by a mile.

People are not projects

As an editor, I also wore the project manager hat, so naturally, I like lists, and articles written in this list style make me want to start checking off boxes. Is my pastor doing X, Y, and Z for missions? Is my congregation giving X amount of dollars based on our size? Check! Check! Check! Woo hoo! But when we think in terms of checklists, we often make people into projects, and we start thinking about how we can fix them or get more results from them rather than about how we can love them. Jesus loves his church from the collective Church spread throughout the world, to local congregations, down to each individual—and none of them can be boiled down to a simple project.

When we think in terms of checklists, we often make people into projects, and we start thinking about how we can fix them or get more results from them rather than about how we can love them.

Articles cannot replace the counsel found in reading God’s word, praying, and gathering with God’s people

The here-you-go, problem-solved tone of most list-style articles often makes it feel like you don’t need to look anywhere else for counsel. And that is appealing. Why? Because it takes work to read, understand, and apply God’s Word. Prayer often doesn’t give the instant answers or insights we want. And being part of God’s family on a local, tangible level is messier than being part of God’s family on the Internet. But these—the Bible, prayer, and community—are the primary means by which God speaks, and reading articles should just be a small part of that larger context.

Only the Gospel can transform

Whether it’s a list of strategies, steps, or lessons learned, no list has the power to change people; the most a list can do is point us to the One who can. Moses brought the ultimate list down from the mountain, and no one but Jesus could check everything off. When we boil things down to a simple list, we can miss the opportunity for the Gospel to shine through the weaknesses of our churches, pastors, leaders, and members. We think we can fix our church’s giving problem, erase our pastor’s scandal, convince people to serve, or have the perfect quiet time, and we make ourselves the judges of the progress.

There is so much good and helpful information for us to read, and the Holy Spirit can use list-style articles to bring clarity, to help us reflect, and to convict us of sin, so read all the three-things-you-should-do articles you want, but don’t lose your Gospel focus as you do.

Eternal Perspective

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 2 Cor 5:16

It finally happened: the shift away from how little girls relate in the world to how big girls relate in the world. I think this shift happens with boys too, but I’m more acquainted with how it looks from a girl standpoint.

We’ve moved from the simple “Hey, you’re a girl. I’m a girl. Let’s play.” of the playground to the more complicated “Let me assess how my social status will be impacted by associating with you.” of school hallways and soccer practice. My daughter is still mostly in the simpler place—she just wants everyone to be friends. So, she is struggling to wrap her mind around why girls she’s known in one setting would give her the cold shoulder in another setting. Or why someone would agree to do something with her, but then back out when another offer comes along.

“We used to play American Girl dolls together, but now she won’t talk to me. Why?”

“Why would she say she would do something with me, but then go with someone else instead?”

Here’s the reality—this kind of stuff doesn’t go away. And, in fact, for Christians, we sometimes deal with it more. I desperately wish I could put this reality off—watching it breaks my heart. But instead, I’ll think about how to give her an eternal perspective.

Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners

Jesus is a friend to sinners. I want my daughter to understand that the girls who mistreat her are sinners—but, almost more importantly, that she is too. She also has the propensity to snub someone or to look out for her own interest over another person’s feelings. The main difference between her and most of the girls she knows is that she has a friend in Jesus—she can go to him when she is hurt; she can go to him when she hurts others. Jesus offers his grace to her, and she can offer that to others.

Directing her frustration, anger, or disappointment at individuals would be to misdirect it. What she’s really mad at is this present darkness and the evil one who caused all this brokenness, not the sinners who Jesus longs to redeem.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

I also want her to understand that who she is does not depend on her friendships; it is rooted in the only One who can be a true friend. He bore all her sins and grief, and there is no one else in the entire world who would do that for her. He loves her with an unbreakable love—a love that is dependent on his loyalty, not hers. What a friend! It won’t matter if some girls on the soccer team snubbed her. At the end of her days, all that will matter is that she was counted among Jesus’ friends, and he will have a place of great honor for her.

It is hard to live in the already and the not yet. In this life she will have trouble, no doubt. She may even have more trouble because of her faith in Jesus. But Jesus is her friend now; he has already prepared a place for her—it’s true now, and it will be true then. And it should change her perspective.

Your Turn

  • In what relationships have you lost or never had an eternal perspective? How are those relationships suffering?
  • Do you believe that Jesus counts you as friend? Do you see him as the most loyal, loving, and trustworthy friend you could ever have? If not, why?