Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, when God is trying to use our circumstances to change us.”
Born prematurely as the 20th of 22 children, Wilma Rudolph was paralyzed by polio and also came down with both scarlet fever and double pneumonia. Her doctors felt she would never walk again but by the time she was 12, she had regained her ability to walk and took up running as a sport. Eight years later, through hard work and physical therapy, she overcame her disabilities and became an Olympic champion. And she also set three world records!
Would she have achieved as much without the difficult circumstances she had to overcome?
My guess is that likely the challenges she faced served to grow the grit and resilience she needed to accomplish her incredible feats. Clearly her path to recovery and on to greatness was not an easy one.
I wonder how many children in our nation today, with circumstances like hers, would actually even be encouraged to try to overcome such odds? We tend to be more about coddling our kids. To overcome major challenges somehow goes against our desire for comfort and ease. Yet growth is often wrapped up in the struggles we dismiss, and so is resilience and the birthing of confidence.
How often do we wind up removing the very challenges our kids need to learn and to grow?
When they are afraid to try, we allow them to back down.
When they are anxious about how they will perform, we remove the risk.
Removing the challenge feels like the kind and nurturing thing to do at the time, especially for the timid child. But removing the challenge may also take away any opportunity to experience the joy of success, as well as the pride in overcoming a fear AND the chance to grow and change through these experiences.
Too often we try to use God to change our kids circumstances, when God is trying to use their circumstances to change and grow them.
Getting rid of discomfort should not be our aim in raising kids. We should instead teach our kids that discomfort (within reason) is a part of the normal process of growth. Learning to ride a bike is uncomfortable at first. “What if I fall and get hurt?” Taking a test is uncomfortable. “What if I fail and look dumb?” Jumping off the blocks to race in a swim meet is frightening for a beginner. “What if I come in last?” Performing in one’s first piano recital is terrifying. “What if I forget the notes?” Kids need to personally comprehend that to achieve great success in anything requires the willingness to risk greatly as well. And to sometimes even fail.
Challenges have an element of uncertainty – discomfort. But each time your child faces a challenge, and grows through the experience, their confidence leaps as well. What joy can be found in these achievements – however small they may seem at the time. I was amazed this week to hear on the news that a five year old Chinese boy became the youngest pilot ever to fly a plane. While I am not advocating this practice, I fear that in our country, we practice the opposite – expecting only those things that are free of fear and risk and consequently void of true growth and achievement.
I can only imagine the hard work – first one step at a time and then one race at a time – that Wilma went through to grow from a sickly, crippled young girl to an Olympic Champion. Her journey undoubtedly included discouraging times and failures along the way but she did not give up. She is known to have said, “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.“
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7