As I sat through my daughter’s high school awards ceremony last Friday, I silently disavowed my recent three-part blog series. In my head I cursed myself—how could I have thought that it’s valuable to not put my kids in more activities?
Students were getting up one after the other to play Chopin on the piano and Vivaldi on the cello and receive awards such as Outstanding Athlete, Outstanding Musician, and Top Scholar in every grade. With each award presented I wondered if I might be able to discreetly erase everything I’d written on the internet about prioritizing what matters for our kids. Or I thought, maybe no one would notice when I got home and marched all my kids down to our local music school, took them to soccer tryouts, and hired a Latin tutor.
The final portion of the evening was reserved for Special Awards. The principal asked all of the students nominated for such an award to stand. My daughter stood and my jaw dropped because she hadn’t said anything to me about any nomination. When she sat down I punched her in the arm and texted my husband that our oldest had been holding out on us. She whispered to me that she had been nominated for the Perseverance Award, but was sure she hadn’t been chosen.
The award presenter cited the first chapter of James. She said the recipient had exhibited verses 2-4 and 12—a person who had remained steadfast under trial. This recipient, she said, had received a new family at the age of 12, learned English at the age of 13, had moved from Asia to Europe at the age of 15, and had courageously embarked on boarding school as a Sophomore—that’s my kid! While she walked to the front of the auditorium, my tears caused me to shake in my seat, overcome with gratitude to the Lord for seeing her through to this moment. Moms near me were reaching for Kleenex and sharing in my joy.
Truly, my girl deserved that award. She has endured “trials of various kinds,” unimaginable to most kids her age. Through tears I texted my husband all manner of emojis and exclamation points. He wrote back, “She certainly has done well in persevering. Tell her if she continues to develop that character trait, it will serve her far better than perhaps any other award given out tonight.” That—that—is the truth, I thought.
The other awards are indeed to be celebrated—I rejoice with those students and their parents. They worked tirelessly to develop their skills in music, athletics, and academics. They all genuinely honored the Lord that evening with the gifts that He had given them. He will use them for His glory as they move on to college and careers around the globe. Their skills on display are acts of worship.
But perseverance is an act of worship too. This award reminded me that I don’t need to fret about music or sports or grades. God Himself has equipped my kids. Ephesians 2:10 testifies, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Our kids are His handiwork—their abilities in school, sports, and the arts are the works of His hands—not our hands, not our kids’ hands, but God’s hands. Their gifts in kindness, love, faith, perseverance, tenacity, serving, and other virtues are given by their Creator for His glory and their good (Roman’s 8:28).
Not only did the Lord ordain the specific gifts my children would have, but He also ordained when and where they would live (Acts 17:26)—the very opportunities in which they would be able to use the gifts He gave them. And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the community that He gave my kids for their growth and edification—praise Him for the body of believers who have invested in my girls.
God calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus and run the race he set for us (Hebrews 12:1-3). He calls us to exercise the unique gifts He’s given each of us in the unique time and place in which He has set us. I don’t need to freak out that my child cannot play Chopin on the piano—that’s not the gift God gave her. Instead I can rejoice—and boy do I—that He gave her perseverance.
What matters for me, as the mother of my girls, is that I am stewarding them well. God calls me to number my days and theirs (Psalm 90:12) and to make the most of the life and breath and everything else that He has given us (Acts 17:25).
We can look at our kids and their abilities and say, “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Pslam 118:23). And then we must carefully steward their lives and their days according to God’s handiwork. From piano to perseverance—it’s up to Him, for Him.