Sometimes things just don’t happen the way we want or plan, no matter how hard we try. It’s hard to watch someone you care about face that reality. My wife and I had to watch our then seven-teen year old son do just that a few years as he competed in his last High School Wrestling match and came up four points short of a State Championship.
He has always had tremendous work ethic. When he sets his mind to something, he will work as hard as anyone to make it happen. I can’t think of a time when he didn’t accomplish the goal he had in mind. Over the last few years of his High School life we’ve watched him train, bleed and compete with injuries that put others out of the sport completely. He had an amazing High School career breaking school records, and even earning himself several entries in the State High School Wrestling Records, but not the title.
It was heartbreaking to watch him after the final match realize that he had fallen short in his goal. His first thought was about all the people he imagined that he had let down. Of course everyone was more proud of him than we could express, but the disappointment he felt was real and his to face.
The apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation (Acts 17). Paul was in Athens teaching with little success. This was not the first or last time Paul would face opposition or difficulties. Instead of being discouraged into giving up or spending time depressed about his failures, Paul kept moving forward until he was given an opportunity to speak in the Areopagus. Even then his success was apparently marginal, but it was still success and God took advantage of it.
Sometimes we forget that real success should not be measured by the goals we set, but by the opportunities we create for God’s goodness on the journey. Our son had been extremely successful by everyone else’s standard, touching and blessing many lives in the way he worked toward his goal. He had no idea how many people were inspired and blessed by his attitude, work ethic and heart. Forget the medals and awards, he was a tool for God to change lives and bless others, especially his mother and me. We can not count how often God has pulled us out of discouragement through him and his sister and brother.
He surpassed my expectations once again a few hours after loosing the state title. Just as I was about to have the fatherly talk with him about “winning some and losing some” he said, “Well since I won’t ever be the State Champion in High School, I’ll have to settle for National Champion in college.” Success is really subjective. God doesn’t need us to always come in first, just to keep going. As usual God does the rest.