Some days, I think I am afraid to hope.
For the past year…Ok, it has really only been a week, but it has felt a little long. For the past week, my youngest daughter has been quite focused on her class election at school. Her class is studying government and learning about elected offices so each student had to run for two offices. McKenzie was running for Governor as well as Chairperson of the Uniform Committee. This might be hard to imagine, but she was much keener on the idea of winning governor although she was more than willing to be fully committed to the job of uniform chairperson if chosen. She worked diligently on her campaign speech, stayed in from recess to work on it, asked me for honest feedback, and worked with her sisters to come up with her catchy slogan, “You won’t be wrong if you vote for Song.”
In the middle of dinner, she stood up to practice her speech in front of all of us, and that cute, enthusiastic smile on her face just made my heart skip a beat every time. She talked to me about the election after school, on the way to school, at night in her pajamas as she crawled into bed. She told me about campaign posters, and lunchtime conversations, and at the end of every conversation she said something like, “I am so nervous. I really want to win.” I hugged her and said something motherly like, “I hope you win too, Sweetie, but I love you just the same no matter what happens in the election.” This resulted in a look that was a cross between, “Ok, thanks, but I still want to win and you have to say that stuff because you are my mom.”
As Election Day grew closer, McKenzie’s nerves increased. We started to pray together about all of this. We prayed in carpool on the way to school, at night before bed, even in the kitchen before dinner when she walked in, did a cartwheel, and said, “Ahhh, Mom! I am just so nervous!”
In our prayers, I always asked God to give McKenzie peace and to help her to trust Him in the waiting. And then I always prayed something like, “Lord, we really want McKenzie to win, but I just want You to help her with whatever the decision is. Help her to know how much you love her and we love her and that no matter what the results might be, that You are with her.”
Ok, all of these things are good things to pray. There are no guarantees that an 11 year old will win the class office she wants to win. We all know that several fifth graders won’t win this election and will most likely cry and wonder why they weren’t elected when they worked so hard and wanted it so badly. I just know that as the week progressed, my own anxiety was growing, and I became fully aware of how much I didn’t want McKenzie to be disappointed. I was already imagining McKenzie coming into my office at the end of the day, lip quivering, trying to keep it together until she would fall into my arms and whimper, “I didn’t winnnnnnnnn.”
And then I would consider how hopeless I feel every time there is a situation like this, and I have no idea what to do with the disappointment or the tears or the pain. And so if I am honest, I was adding a lot of those disclaimers to my prayers so that if or when McKenzie lost, she would be a little more prepared to lose.
So on Friday morning, I was standing in a long line at the store, quietly distracting myself by looking at my phone. I had seven unread emails and immediately noticed one from McKenzie. I quickly opened it and read, “I won governer!!!” (ok, her first task as governor will be to learn to spell it correctly, but I digress.) I stared at those three words and smiled big. And then I started to cry.
During this past week, McKenzie never once said, “Ok, I am going to run for this election, but I know I won’t win, so I am just going to prepare myself for that and then I will be ok when someone else in my class wins.” She hasn’t learned to live like that yet. Instead, she threw her whole heart into the election, worked extra hard on her speech, thought every night about what it might look like to be Governor, felt anxious and nervous on election day, shared that the anticipation was killing her, and she couldn’t wait to find out if she won. McKenzie and I both knew that she might lose the election, but you know what the difference was between us? McKenzie’s heart stayed joyful and hopeful, while my heart became heavy with fear. McKenzie didn’t focus on what she might lose. I focused on all the ways I needed to prepare for the pain. I stopped asking God to let her win and just basically said in my heart, “Lord, just help me to know what to do when she loses.” And when I saw her email, that she had actually won, I felt like I heard, “Why are you always so afraid to hope?” And in that teary moment, I thought about all that I don’t pursue because of fear. Fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of the pain that might be there as well.
I believe God wants us to trust Him regardless of whether life makes sense or not. But I also think He wants us to remain fully engaged with our lives regardless of what the outcome might be. What would that look like for you today? What are you afraid to hope for?