Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Achievement (03/08/12)
TITLE: Straight A's...Please?!
By Helen Curtis
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My parents were wonderful; they always assured me that it was the 'effort' column that they were more interested in. What was it they said, "As long as you did your best and tried your hardest, we're proud of you." In my mind, they just didn't get it. Being 'average' just wasn't good enough for me; I wanted to be the best, and it was so frustrating putting in an above-average effort, only to achieve an average result.
Now, some twenty years on and a parent myself, I am far wiser than the past-me. I look for the effort my son has put into his work, the respect he shows to his teachers and fellow classmates, and whether he tries his best, regardless of the result. I understand now that ability can be learned; a child can be shown skills in how to conquer tricky mathematical equations and methods to remember, "i before e, except after c," in English, but what is far harder to teach is character, as it's at the very heart of who we are. Without strength of character, our achievements are rendered null and void, pretty to look at on paper, but of little or no value to our friends, family and society, and most of all, to God.
Like me with my boy, God looks at our attitude, our character long before he looks at the things we have achieved, especially if through our own strength and human-wisdom. A brilliant orator may win many awards and be quite wealthy; does this make him more successful than the missionary preaching the Word of God to a village of fifty in the African plains? A lawyer might be known as the most successful in her firm, the one who goes in the hardest and reaps the greatest rewards for her clients; should it therefore be assumed she achieves greater things than the lawyer-of-fifty-years on the 'seedy side of town' reaping not money, but respect and dignity for poor legal aid clients? And what of the school student who graduated from the most expensive private school in town and then pays their way into an illustrious career in corporate management? He has all the appearance of success, but for this young man, it's nothing more than a bleak, smothering facade, as he follow his parents' dream instead of his own.
The Bible tells us, "People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”1 We can be so tempted to look at the facade of our own lives, and those of others', and make so many assumptions from what we see. Oh how the Father longs for us to see people through his eyes, using his measure of achievement.
One of the finest examples of this is the beautiful story of the widow presenting her seemingly-insignificant offering to the Lord at the temple. The Pharisees mocked her, declaring how pleased they were that they brought so much more to the offering than she. If only they had seen past their self-importance and recognised just how much she achieved in that moment, giving to her Lord everything she owned out of love for him, not duty or accolades from people she didn't even know. 2
Lord, help us to see our fellow brothers and sisters with your eyes, eyes that see past their outward appearance and straight to the heart of their character.
1. 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
2. Luke 21:1-4
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