“My song is love, love to the loveless shown. And it goes on, you don't have to be alone.” –Coldplay, A Message
“Mommy, I signed up to sing in the talent show. The auditions are April 23rd,” Kyla announced when I arrived home the other day.
I gave my daughter a hug. She grinned from the excitement. We talked about what song she might sing, about memorizing lyrics, and on and on.
But then the next morning came, and she spoke up on the way to school.
“Mommy, I feel nervous. I don’t know if I can sing in front of lots of people. And what if I don’t get picked after auditions?”
“I understand why you might feel that way,” I replied.
You see, in my teen years, I tried out for Varsity volleyball. The tryouts were held on a Wednesday night and so I had to miss youth group to attend. Since my friends would be aware of my absence, I told them to come over to the school after church.
I played hard in tryouts and when the rosters were posted, my name wasn’t anywhere. Not even on Junior Varsity, which is what I had played the previous year. I mean, I had wanted to play Varsity with my teammates but I also just loved volleyball. JV would have been okay too.
My heart beat faster. As more people looked at the list, they began to notice I was not on there. I felt embarrassed, especially because my friends from church had come over to see me and celebrate by this time.
The coach called me into her office. Her words: “We cut you because of your serves. You can’t do them, and you never will be able to.”
You can’t, and you never will be able to.
Those words have played over and over in my head for so many years.
I relayed some of this story to Kyla as we talked about fear of disappointment. “But that’s mean!” she exclaimed. “Coaches shouldn’t talk like that to kids. They should want to help them.”
“I know,” I answered. “That is true. But I didn’t give up either just because someone said those things.”
Oh, what happened…well, I worked hard. Played on a club team in the spring, came back to play Varsity the next fall, and ended up being the only freshman to start on my collegiate team. Why? Because of my damn good serves.
I continue to learn the value of evaluating harmful messages that have been handed down to so many of us from the most terrible of places. The lines and lies we believe about ourselves. The ones that somehow work their way into our believing that God thinks the same of us.
And there have been so many others. So many twisted phrases and broken beliefs that came from leaders, and other Christians, and my youth pastor (who made an assumption that volleyball was my idol and told me God would make me break my ankle if I didn’t quit).
I have played hard. I have tried hard, and I have loved hard.
The thing is that in spite of the fact that I have tried to serve and obey and love God to my fullest, He loves me harder. And His love comes with no conditions. He would love me if I had done nothing at all. That is the message I want played over and over in my heart and in my head and in my life.
It is the same message I hope to play for my daughters. It’s the message I hope they hear loud and clear as God meets them in their own confusing and difficult moments, where the words from those they respect, and also those they don’t respect, try to become an overplayed loop of accusation.
As our conversation in the van continued, I told Kyla, “If you don’t make tryouts for the talent show, you aren’t a bad person. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t loved. You won’t disappoint mommy and daddy and you won’t disappoint God. You can never be a disappointment God. You are His daughter. He made you, and He loves you.”
I said those last few words with a lump in my throat. I type them today with a lump in my throat. They are still hard to believe sometimes, especially for those of us who grew up in a works-based faith environment.*
But that is the truth. And it doesn’t matter whatever else I model and share with my children. This song of Love is the foundation I will use. We will work from that belief first. In every conversation about modesty and faith and friendship in the coming years, we will begin here. As the beloved of God.
May all of us always hear and know our God loves us with an everlasting love that holds no prerequisites, no criteria to meet in order to receive acceptance, and no stupid tryouts.
Now that’s a message worth playing. And worth singing about too.
*I can't even read this Huffington Post article without a mix of emotions. Perhaps you have "brought the best of yourself" too?