My younger daughter is getting ready to try out for the select team in hockey. It's an all-star team of sorts. It's been her goal all year to make that team. This is the first time she's done a tryout of any kind where kids get cut. We've done the tryout thing with my older daughter in soccer, but my younger daughter has never had that experience.
Making the team isn't a foregone conclusion for her. In my opinion, she's right on the cusp of being good enough. I hope she makes it. We're behind her 100 percent, but there's a chance that she won't.
And right now, I'm most concerned with what her reaction will be in either scenario -- making it or not making it. You see, as much as I want her to be good at her sport, as much as I want her to make the team, it's more important to me that she shows character no matter what happens. I want her to be a reflection of Jesus in either situation.
So, even as she gets ready for tryouts by doing her best at hockey practice, we're working to get her ready at home to be a person of character when the list of names is read.
We want her to be a gracious winner and a gracious loser. We want her to be able to swallow her own disappointment if she doesn't make the team and congratulate her friends. And we want her to be able to show humility if she does make the team. We're not asking her to not be excited or sad. We are asking her to be humble and not mad.
She may only be 9 years old, but how she acts makes a difference. It makes a difference to us, and it makes a difference to God. Even at 9, she's a picture of Jesus to those around her. However, she can't be ready to react to the situation in a God-pleasing manner unless we've gotten her ready at home.
When our kids are faced with difficult situations where emotions and expectations are high, it's easy for them to react completely based on those emotions -- unless we've prepared them for the situation. And, as parents, it's easy to write that reaction off as a product of the emotion of the moment. "She's tired" or "He's competitive" are often excuses that we make for our kids' reactions. But that's not what God asks of us or our kids. God asks us to follow Him and to be examples of Him to others. That means our kids' reactions do matter even when they're tired and cranky, even when the situation is full of emotion.
The Bible doesn't say "Follow me when your emotions are in check." Jesus simply said, "Follow me." Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:3, "We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited." We don't want a single reaction in a moment of high emotion to create a stumbling block to Jesus for others.
So, the next time you know your son or daughter will be facing a tough choice about how to react in a moment of high emotion, get them ready. Talk about how they can react before that moment arrives. Talk about how God expects us to react. Talk about how others will judge Jesus based on their reaction. Spend some time role-playing reactions before the moment. The more practice your child has, the better equipped he or she will be in the emotion of the moment.
No matter the how important the moment is to your child, how he or she reacts to the moment is what's important to God.