Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cheering from the Sidelines

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch my kids participate in quite a few state playoff games.  In the weeks and days leading up to the game, the excitement and anxiety is felt by the whole family.  Sometime prior to the game, I’ve given my children the same advice.  “Don’t be so nervous that you forget to appreciate what you’ve done.  Very few people get this chance.  Take a deep breath, look around, and enjoy yourself.  And no matter what happens, I love you.”

As a parent and spectator of those games, I’ve chewed my fingernails, covered my eyes and even fallen to the ground in relief.   I’ve paced behind the bleachers, snapped pictures and cheered wildly while running down stadium steps.  In every case, my greatest wish has been to be there with my child and his or her teammates.  However, with the AIA (the entity that governs Arizona High School sports) standards I, along with the other fans, have been required to remain behind the fence or in the stands when the game concluded.  No amount of anger, cajoling, begging, or flattery could grant me physical access to the team.  And so, I was left watching from a distance as the players and coaches celebrated a victory or mourned a loss.  In those moments of greatest happiness or deepest despair, I would have given anything to be at my child’s side.  Whether it was to comfort a distraught daughter or rejoice with an exhausted son, I had hoped to share the moment with them.  But sitting on the sidelines, all I could do was shout and wave hoping for their attention.  Hoping that I could provide the support that they needed.  Hoping that they would remember my advice to enjoy themselves, to be proud of their efforts and always remember my love.

As I’ve looked back at those situations, I’ve often thought that it is not unlike our journey here on Earth.  Prior to birth, Heavenly Father surely taught us and loved us he planned for our earthly existence.  Yet as we experience this life, His own standards leave Him in the bleachers, hoping, watching, and cheering. I’m sure he would love to personally comfort us when we are weak or celebrate with us when we succeed.  Yet just like my experiences in the bleachers of football and softball games, He has to remain physically distant from His children.  And yet, He’s still there, hoping that we will look up to Him in our trials as well as our triumphs.  He wants us to turn to him through prayer.  He wants us to remember His lessons and teachings.  Most importantly, he wants us to always remember His love.
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” 

There are many times that I’ve felt “sidelined” as a parent.  Not by the restrictions of the AIA, but by my own flaws, ineffectiveness or circumstances.  It’s been in those difficult situations that my heartfelt prayers have been answered by acts of service from this humble community.  Those answers have come in the form of patient coaches who have been able to teach my children lessons they don’t want to hear from me.  They have come in gifts of tortillas when Cade separated his shoulder and in ice cream when Lauren knocked her teeth out. They come from my kids’ friends who have set good examples.  They come from dedicated teachers who realize that helping kids grow personally is as important as teaching a subject matter.  Equally, these same good people have offered sincere joy in my children’s success.  They’ve clipped newspaper articles that mention my kids.  They’ve shown interest in recent games and upcoming activities.  They have sought ways to individually meet with my children to encourage and praise them.   In each instance, I’m reminded that God does watch over my family and me.   Through the strength, assurance, guidance and support of my friends and neighbors, I am reminded of my Heavenly Father’s presence.  It is in their simple acts of kindness that I recognize His love.

Marcie Ashton