My older daughter got home at 11:30 last night. It was 12:15 before she got to bed. And it was a school night. It's a rare night that I let my daughter stay up past midnight on a school night. She was exhausted this morning, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
This photo was taken by a friend of mine last night at Winter Jam -- a huge Christian concert. That's my daughter (the one with the long hair next to the guy in the Blackhawks cap). She's in between two really good friends, and she's got arms raised worshiping God together with them.
That picture sums up so much of what I want for my kids -- to know and worship a great God and to have great friends who also know and worship that great God.
So much of our kids' lives from middle school on is focused on goals. It's about getting good grades, playing well in whatever sport they play, deciding where to go to college and what to do with their lives. And in that mix, relationships can get lost. Our kids can form surface relationships with their peers that never really get to the heart of what's important in life.
Those three kids in that picture are busy. My daughter plays really competitive soccer. The guy on the left plays hockey at an elite level. The girl on the right is a talented ballerina. They commit hours and hours to schoolwork and activities. It would be easy for them to miss out on the gift of friendship with anyone outside their chosen sport or activity.
But these kids and the others on that row that you can't see have learned that it's important to have friends who understand not just who you are, but whose you are. They know that when the going gets tough, you need friends who have your back, who will pray for you, who will understand you.
That girl on the right doesn't know much about soccer, but she knows my daughter. She knows how to make her laugh. She knows how to just be comfortable with her. She knows about my daughter's heart.
That guy on the left may not play soccer, but he knows all about how difficult it is to play a sport at a high level. He knows how hard it is to be injured and how sometimes you just need a little bit of encouragement when you've had a bad practice. He also knows how to make my daughter laugh and sometimes roll her eyes.
There's another girl just to the right who's not in the picture that has been my daughter's friend literally since birth. Even though they've changed and grown apart a bit, she still knows more about my daughter than just about anyone else. She knows when it's OK to push and tease and when she should back off. She knows my daughters favorite things and her fears.
You see, I don't really care if my daughter ever plays another soccer game. I'm not really concerned about what she's going to do with her life when she grows up. All those things will take care of themselves in time.
What I am concerned about is that my daughter grows in her relationship with God and that she is surrounded by people who love her and are pursuing that same relationship. Because those are the lessons that are going to stick with her for the rest of her life. Those relationships she forms today -- the ones that are based on a mutual love and passion for the things of God -- are teaching her how to forge those relationships with others in the future.
And if there's one thing I want for my kids, it's that they are learning now how to create meaningful relationships in the future. I want them to have friendships that go beyond the surface and dive into the things that are important. Because grades and sports and plans for the future are important, but having a relationship with God and great friends to support you in that relationship are the most important.