We all want life to be easy. We want our lines to fall in pleasant places. We want to be successful. To have enough. We want upward mobility. We want acceleration.
But never have I been prouder of my husband than over the last few months as I have watched him take a job more humble than any I’ve seen him take before. And as I’ve watched him struggle to succeed at that job – one that he may not naturally be very equipped for. I am so proud of him.
We want the “well done” for a successful first place win. We want a well done because we hosted beautifully, we dressed immaculately and we behaved impeccably. But when I see my husband struggling for the hearts, the minds and the behavior of 122 freshman . . . it’s then that I say “well done”.
Not because he’s been all that successful but because he’s showed his true character by the way he’s tried. There is beauty in every failure. Every moment of not enough shows our core. And his core is so beautiful.
His core is never-give-up and I-will-hug-you-anyway. His core is work-nine-hours-a-day-in-the-classroom-and-5-6 hours-a-day-out-of-the-classroom-just-to-give-you-my-best. His core is I-will-pick-up-noodles-on-the-way-home-even-though-I-am-so-tired-I-can-barely-stay-awake. His core is these-kids-are-so-freakin-amazing-that-I-refuse-to-give-up-on-them-no-matter-how-hard-they-make-me-try. (Just to give you a feel for the atmosphere; they’re taking bets on when he will snap.)
My husband is a king. His royalty didn’t come through blood. He’s earned it.
This last weekend Naomi tearfully told me how much she DIDN’T want to try out for the track team. How she’s really not very good at running. How tired she gets. How she doesn’t really even understand all the events. As I coached her through what I felt was an important choice (trying) I said “what’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. You could not make the team.” Naomi, with a fresh burst of tears, cried out ” but I HATE failing!”
And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? We all hate failing. We hate hard work. We hate having to try and try again. We hate what doesn’t come easy.
It was then that I cried a few tears too. I told Naomi how I know that my life doesn’t look like much but how I’m trying. I told her that everyone tells me to write a book and I don’t know how to explain how very much harder being true to what is inside of me and to the words that ask to be said, is, than it looks. I tell her that the hard work of being a writer has to do with all kinds of things you’d never imagine. That sometimes being a writer is about becoming a real person and that too is epic work. I tell her of how the SEO work I do on the side feels like prostitution for me – but right now its what pays. And I tell her that I refuse to give up. That I will keep writing, and growing, and taking one day at a time, and pushing past all my fears, and refusing to be silenced. I will tell my story if it breaks me wide open. I may not look like much but I am an epic battleground every day, I tell her.
And I see how her face changes somehow and she decides to embrace the hard things alongside me. And three days into track tryouts and I have watched her come alive in such new ways. She has tried discus and shot put and distance events so far and none has come easy, none has been a special talent. But the trying and trying again. The running till you think you will die. The picking up of something you’ve never held before and the heaving of all your strength into learning the skill to throw it. These things have brought my daughter to life. A very tired, sore, and hungry kind of life
There is a way we feel when we conquer our personal impossibilities. There is a way we feel when we live past what we are able. There is character that comes through embracing hard things.
And I see heaven applauding. I see that the “well done” is not earned through success, but through effort. Through the sheer force of our determination to be our personal best. We are crowned not for accomplishment but for character.
Today I will embrace hard things.