Our daughter participated in a swim meet last week, her first in almost a year. As the heat for her first event approaches, we walk over to the diving blocks and begin looking for her coach. Suddenly, she stops and turns toward me. I notice her doe eyes wide and wringing hands, and I can see she’s nervous.
I bend down, folding my legs so I’m eye to eye with her. She smiles weakly and whispers right in my ear,
“Mama, I’m nervous I won’t do a good job. What if I’m last place?”
I smile because unlike last year’s jitters, this is not an I-can’t-wait-’til-this-is-over nervous. Rather, it’s an I’m-scared-about-how-I’ll-perform nervous. Because really, how many of us want to give a poor performance?
This time, I know just what she needs to hear. So as I rub her goose bumpy arms, I tell her,
“Remember, from the moment you dive off the blocks into the pool, you’re a success. Your only job once you’re in the water is to let your training kick in by using the gifts God gave you. Your placement in the race – the results – are for God to sort out, not you.”
She nods, throwing a glance behind her toward the pool. When she turns her face back around to me, she says,
“I just have to dive in and swim, right?”
I shake my head up and down, “Exactly, baby. And let God handle the finish.”
She exhales, turns back around and takes her place in line next to the diving block. Her shoulders visibly relax, and they stay relaxed as she steps onto the diving block. The signal beeps and she springs into the water.
After completing her race, she pops out of the pool and walks over to my open arms holding an open towel.
“That was sooo fun!” she answers, grin a country mile wide.
I can’t help but match my grin to her own because it’s true: When we use the talents God gave us, it’s suppose to be fun. But how do we put the kibosh on that kind of fun? By fretting over finishes. Of course we all hope to perform well, to stand near – or on – the top podium. But when we don’t have the burden of performance hanging around our shoulders, there is a freedom in accepting God’s will for us as well as an open space for joy to move right in.
Faith finishes some of her races near that top podium – as high as 2nd place. Others she stands further away. But after every race, her smile tells me she had a blast swimming.
There’s no use denying that there is fun found in finishing well, too. Of course. But as we move through our week working on projects whose outcomes remain a mystery, may we allow our mind and hearts to relish the race, not the results. And as we go about enjoying the work, may we look at the people in neighboring lanes – the mamas and the writers and the teachers and the dreamers – and have fun telling them great job!
And just maybe enjoy telling ourselves the same.