In her defense, the circumstances were less than perfect. The weather had snapped cold and her horse did what horses do when it gets cold (they get a little excited--so do I for that matter because cold weather = hot chocolate). Nonetheless, her execution was sloppy and she continually missed her goal after several attempts.
I stood there watching her, beaming with pride. Yeah, she was struggling, but I wasn't interested in perfection, or even in the accomplishment of the goal--I was interested in the attitude with which she was making each attempt.
Each endeavor was made with sincerity, focus, patience and a jovial laugh at herself when it failed.
And then, she would try again.
I was so proud of her. I offered a bit of advice here and there, then sat back and watched her figure it out, little by little. Never did she become overwhelmed with the difficulty or with spunkiness of the horse--she gave herself grace to mess up so that she could try again.
On her final try, she nearly missed again, but at the last moment she was able to swing her horse around and her feat was accomplished, though awkward at best. She walked her horse back to me, saw the grin on my face and beamed back.
She knew it was far from perfect--but I told her how proud I was of her effort--I could not have been more pleased! She left that day feeling accomplished, as she should have, and I walked away with a new realization...
Grasping how I felt towards my student during this time helped me understand how God must feel towards us. Circumstances are never perfect--but God isn't interested in a perfect performance from us. He's interested in how we RESPOND to the imperfections we face every day. Do we throw up our hands and pout? Spend time frozen with fear because we think He is angry with our failure? Or can we laugh at ourselves and try again, knowing that our effort in and of itself is a delightful sacrifice to our loving God…
Next week, my student will come back eager to try again. She will be excited to see me and she will try her best to please me again because she knows she can please me. And she knows how she can please me. She knows I am pleased with her every time she gives me her best effort. If we would stop pouting at God for not giving us perfect circumstances, or stop doing nothing because we fear failure, maybe then we could start doing something that actually pleases Him:
Try our best.
And maybe then we would realize that God IS pleased with us, and we could be excited to try again too.
"But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Hebrews 11:6
"But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Hebrews 13:16