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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Step(s) (11/29/12)

TITLE: The Lesson is in the Steps
By Frankie Kemp
12/06/12


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I saw it there, mixed in with the sweat soaking up and darkening the gray of his t-shirt. I saw the frustration beginning to boil, and the way he set his mouth differently as he turned the direction I was sitting watching with the other mothers. I saw the little flick of his thumb and fingers when he recoiled from what his coach told him—when he circled to make the return journey to the long line of pole vaulters waiting their chance to make another run down the runway to the bar. I felt him poised to throw his pole down, take his jump cleats off, and say, “Let’s go, Mom. I’m finished. I want to go home.” I saw it, but the coaches didn’t see. I wanted them to see and say something to rescue what we were all about to lose, but they didn’t. They just didn’t.

I sat there, watching every move he made while trying to look like I wasn’t watching. They were pushing him--these coaches who knew more about pole vaulting than anyone in our state, these coaches who had told him they could make him jump higher. These coaches who had sparked the idea in him that he could beat the 3A state record were just about to push him over the edge of that place where he finally gave up on himself and a dream. He was out of gas, running on fumes, and I knew. I wanted them to make him believe it and want it again. I could only imagine what he was carrying around inside him every day. He had stopped sharing his secrets with me weeks ago. But I felt it, all the pressure he was putting on himself and all the pressure I had put on him. The weight of it all and the weeks of working and sweating and giving up other pursuits to sweat without being able to see the reward had broken something in him. That pressure and the pressures of trying to understand who he was when other strands in his world had begun to unravel had crushed something vital—something I really liked seeing in my son. His fight was gone, and so was his want to.

I tried to give him an encouraging look and an “It’s okay” nod, but he wasn’t having any of it. He didn’t trust my brand of belief in him anymore. He wouldn’t even look at me, or if he did, it was to offer an accusing glare. I battled myself, too, as I sat on the sidelines and watched his steps again. I fought the battle between accepting the truth pouring out of him and not wanting it to be the truth. I sat, hoping him SOMETHING, anything, whatever it was going to take to get him over that next bar that he just couldn’t get over. I whispered a secret prayer, “Don’t let him lose this, too, Lord. Don’t let ME lose this with him.” I couldn’t make him believe and love it again.

Looking back now, it’s all another memory of another day that replays in my mind--another day that I sometimes wish I could get back and somehow reshape. What if we just hadn’t gone to practice that day? What if?

The Lord doesn’t let us operate with “what if” thinking one moment longer than His Sovereignty allows. He’s taught me much about who He is since that one day. Being found by Him is in the run toward the bar—not in the getting over and not in setting records. Knowing Him and knowing ourselves is in the steps we take and the ones we give up. He’s in the frustration and in the sweat, and He’s even in the steps that break us or change us or give way to different steps. Ultimately, He is the author of our steps. It’s not us. Sometimes we have to experience loss to understand bits and pieces of Him that we can see no other way.

My son was the vaulter, but in some curious way, he took me with him, and we shared separate journeys on the same runway. His steps were mine, too, but neither of us was as in charge as we thought we were. Learning to be satisfied with that truth is a never-ending pole vault lesson, but it’s worth it, and we have a Coach who sees us and won’t ever let us give up.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Camille (C D) Swanson 12/06/12
This was uplifting and will serve as an inspiration to those who read it. Thanks!
God bless~
Joanne Sher 12/12/12
Excellent descriptions and emotional pull here - and a well-shared lesson. Will remember this one. Great imagery!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/12/12
This is an intense piece. You did a grand job of building the characters and the conflict. It prompted a flashback to my son's last high school swim meet. For four years he dreamed of qualifying for states and he was crushed when he missed it by one one hundredth of a second, as his mom I felt the pain as deeply as he did. Your story reminds me that God loves us and feels our pain and failures far more than we can imagine.