It also seems that everywhere I go he's the talk of the town; from the bagger at the local grocery store to attendees at a bridal tea to the hygienist at the dentist office, all offer their congratulations. File this under the list of things I love about living in a small(er) town: the pride of the community when one of her own "done good."
It is strange, though. I confess that, while I revel in the shared sense of pride in his accomplishments, I am also a little uncomfortable with it. I never quite know what to say other than "Thank you" (and I do thank you, all of you who have offered your words of encouragement and support--it means so much to us, more than you can know).
People, well meaning friends and family who love me, have congratulated me (me!?) on a job well done. The truth is, I may be the mom, but even if I wanted to I couldn't take any credit, mainly because I know quite well that I do not deserve any. I know all too well my insufficiencies and inadequacies. I say he's had fabulous teachers and he has. I say that he has been entirely self motivated and he has. For my part, I did read to him and I made sure he had food to eat and I did the very best I could juggling the impossible duties of mommy-hood four times over and I begged the Lord for sustaining grace and I got up the next day and I did it all over again.
Not exactly a testimony of triumph.
And besides, supposing I did want to think it's all on me, what sort of pressure would that place on my other children? We do not expect all our kids to be the same and one of my greatest concerns is that they will see our joy here, in this, and think it a mandate to go and do the same. Everyone's different, I am fond of saying, and so too our trials and triumphs both.
Truthfully, I tremble in fear at that part of me that would dare take some sort of credit. I am also afraid of either of us, my boy or his mom, getting the big head, becoming puffed up, indulging in pride rather than choosing humility, allowing the thrill of award and accomplishment to become an idol.
So if you were to offer me your congratulations I would most likely claim it all to be grace. That is true, more than you can know, but I am also a tad uncomfortable with that response. I know you've heard many a coach or player give thanks to the "Man Upstairs" for the blessing of victory and perhaps you too have rolled your eyes at the insinuation that the Lord God Almighty is somehow only the God of the victorious. I always wonder if that coach or player had lost, perhaps in a devastatingly humiliating fashion, would he/she still give thanks and acknowledge the goodness and blessing of God?
Thus when I tell you that these goodnesses that have come our way are all of grace, I would want to add something of an clarification, asserting that when I say it's grace I do not mean that those who do not receive similar accolades are thereby not quite so favored. Quite the contrary. What I do mean is that the Lord has indeed blessed us but we know that these blessings--just like anything and everything else in our lives--aren't granted to us because of some sort of merit on our part. Yes, my boy has worked hard and we are proud for him to receive recognition for his diligence. Others work hard too and we know that.
I know that blessings (and trials too) are meant to teach us something about ourselves and then ultimately something about the Lord Himself. Consider Paul who asserted his thorn was sent to him to keep him from becoming conceited and then James who reminds us every good gift is from the Father above. Good things, difficult things, both from the hand of a sovereign, good God.
I've observed every good gift tends to carry with it a corresponding temptation. Pride, for instance (his or his mom's). I've also noted, surely you have as well, that brilliance--in sports, in academics, in anything--can also lead to complacency, laziness, and arrogance, among other things, particularly so if we look only to the gift and ignore the Giver. Will we see our propensity to such evils and withstand them in the power of the gospel?
This world and its adulations will pass. Within a few month's time, most certainly less, the bagger at the grocery store will no longer be talking of my boy nor his accomplishments. What then? Will we receive this, the Lord's grace, with humility and gratitude and view it in the light of eternity? Were it heartache and not happiness that was granted to me in this hour, could I still say it's all grace? Given tragedy or triumph, will I boast only in the cross through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world?
Don't get me wrong. We are so stinkin' proud of our boy. We are so excited and so happy and so full of anticipation for him and his future. How we long for him to be a good steward of all that has been granted to him! Such joy, it's all grace! But this too is His grace to us: teaching us the heart of deceit that lies within and reminding us of the fleeting nature of our lives even as we delight in His sovereign goodness.
So, then, as we rejoice, we hold these things with an open hand knowing that when we reach our final reward, all merits, awards, and other such worldly designations will be utterly and completely meaningless. Our testimony will not point to all that the world esteemed as valuable and worthy--how ridiculous! Instead it will be our humble triumph to joyously proclaim that through it all--the exhilarations and the disappointments, the joys and the struggles, the happinesses and the heartbreaks--we learned that we are nothing and He, the Lord, the Savior, Christ Himself, is everything. He is preeminent in all things. We will boast in His sufficiency and we will gladly lay all at His feet, His kingdom our highest aim, His glory our one desire.
Grace, grace, God's grace.
Thus says the LORD:
"Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom,
let not the mighty man boast in his might,
let not the rich man boast in his riches,
but let him who boasts boast in this,
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love,
justice, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."