My daughter came home from school the other day completely devastated. She was participating in a speech competition and round one was giving a speech in class. My daughter’s speech received the highest mark, but the teacher chose to have the class vote on the top three speeches to see who would move on to the next level.
The class voted on someone else.
I could only imagine the feelings flowing through her as she hugged me and cried: rejection from her classmates; the unfairness of the situation—she had the highest mark and deserved to move on; why work so hard if it’s not going to pan out the way she thinks it should. It was a difficult few days in our house as we navigated all these emotions with her. At one point she turned her baby blues on me and said, “Can you tell the teacher that this isn’t fair, and I should be the one to go to the next level.”
Parents and leaders face these situations all the time—having to choose between fixing the immediate felt need or playing the long game.
It’s always about the long game.
Paul knew this when he wrote in Romans 8:18: “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
A lot happens in our lives and in the lives of the people we lead where we need reminding that the finish line of this race we are running is not set in the here and now, but the goal and prize is in what is to come. And we need reminding that joyous hope comes in knowing that the Spirit of the living God is working in us, helping us in our weakness and disappointment and is working everything together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:23-28).
So, I looked right into my daughter’s baby blues and said: “No, I’m not going to talk to your teacher. It’s his class and he makes the rules. You’re right, it seems unfair. But this speech competition is not going to dictate your future. The vote does not reflect your worth. I know you worked so hard and I am proud of you. Keep doing that.”
Because I know that the process of writing a speech will not be wasted, the practice of speaking in front of her class will not be wasted, the wrestling of disappointment and the sense of unfairness will not be wasted—in fact, all of this is probably laying foundations in her life that will blow her away when God works it all out in her future. That’s what God does!
There will be many disappointments as we lead. There will be many times where the hard work we put it doesn’t give us the outcome we desire. But we’re playing the long game and we’re playing on God’s team. We run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). For His glory. For His kingdom.