In a few days I’ll be watching an old friend play soccer in the Women’s Professional Soccer  league.  We played together on the same club team as kids.  She was/is an amazing soccer player, and I am tons excited to see her play again.  As I’ve been getting everything ready for the trip, I’ve been reflecting on some of the games we played together, the different tournaments won, awesome goals scored, etc.  I’ve also been reflecting on how she and I were very different players.

My friend is a striker.  Tall, powerful, fast, and most importantly, possesses tremendous poise in front of the goal, enabling her be a tremendous goal scorer.  I, however, wasn’t quite so fast, a tad bit sorter, and lacked any poise in front of the goal.  My strengths came in a different form.  I had a great vision for the field and a great touch on the ball.  I’d be the one placing a long ball onto the foot of my friend, in stride, so that she could score that amazing goal.  I was good at what I did, and she was good at what she did.  Each with different strengths, but worked together, along with all our teammates, to form an exceptional squad.

At some point as I was nearing college age, my dad was trying to put me in the very best position to be recruited by my goal colleges.  Seeing my weakness as a forward, and acknowledging that without goals, a team can’t win, and the skill of being a great striker was rare, he pushed me to improve in this area.  I am grateful for my dad’s desire to help me, and can appreciate the need to improve my weaknesses, but I think he missed a very important truth; in the past few days, I have come to realize that this truth extends beyond the soccer field.

We have all been create differently.  We each have different interests, different innate abilities, and inclinations.

My strengths lied in my ability to control the ball, to see the field, to create plays.  My friends’ strength is in taking to ball to goal, and scoring goals.  For her to try to become a midfielder, or me to attempt to become a star forward, are futile.  Our giftings are different, and that is okay, even good.  Her best chance for success is continuing to strengthening her innate strengths.  My best chance at success is continuing to improve my strengths.

The same is true in life.  I have three children, and they are each very different.  They have different personalities.  Different likes and dislikes.  Different strengths and weaknesses.  My job as their mom is to guide them to become what God wants them to be. Trying to get my middle child to be just like my oldest isn’t fair to either of them, and is likely to fail.

I think we all probably have preconceived notions of what a successful child looks like at 16, 17, 18 years old.  I know I have an image in my head of what a productive young person looks like.  I want my kids to love reading.  I want them each to find some sort of trade or skill they master: for my girls, sewing, fabulous cooking skills, gardening.  For my son, woodwork or plumbing. In my head, having such skills makes them ‘better people,’ ‘better’ men and women.

There is nothing wrong with learning such skills, and I do hope my children develop and interest in such things, but the key is that it’s their interest.    I cannot impose it upon them.

My job isn’t to determine what they will become, although the controlling nature in me very much wants to.  Rather, my job is to pay attention to God’s leading, and watch for what God has already put in them.  I am to help them find what God wants them to become.  At some point in their development, as they grow and mature, my role will become one of coach and mentor.  My role will be in exposing them to what is out there and to help cultivate their own innate interests and giftings, as they are revealed.

It’s be easier if I could just decide everything for them, and they’d simply fall in line, but life isn’t that easy.  There are some parents who attempt to do just this; the results are always rather ugly.  So, with submission to and trust in God, I will press forward in encouraging each child in his/her uniqueness.