Have you ever tried and tried to do something and kept failing - or found that even your very best just wasn't good enough? In fourth grade, it happened to me all the time, and it drove me nuts.
But God eventually helped me through those times, and I began to win. I say "eventually," not because God held back on me, but because I held back on Him! Let me explain through just one example.
At this time of year, I could hardly wait for spring, and for long, warm days. And it wasn't just relief at the fact that winter was over at last. It was the excitement over the arrival of a new cricket season. I was always desperate to oil my bat, loosen my shoulders, and strike a ball or two.
You'll probably have guessed by now that I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere (south of the equator), where cricket is the summer game most widely played in English-speaking countries.
I loved cricket, but I was smaller than all the other boys on our team, and I didn't do as well as I wanted to. So, I became an all-rounder, hoping that if I didn't have success as a bowler, who's like a pitcher in baseball, I might score a few runs as a batsman. It seemed to double my chances of doing something reasonably well. This called for more practice than the other players needed, but I did it willingly.
Because I worked so hard at my game, every time I did well in a cricket match - like taking a wicket (similar to striking someone out in baseball) or scoring a few runs as a batsman - my dad would buy a huge bottle of soda for the whole family to share over dinner that evening. Even if my improvement was slow and unimpressive, every step forward was rewarded with a dinner time celebration. As you can imagine, I became quite popular with my brothers and my sister.
My father also helped me by hurrying home from the office every afternoon to practice with me on the lawn behind our house. There wasn't much room to swing a bat at a ball without breaking a window or two, but Dad was a good sport, and never complained. "A few broken panes is a price worth paying to produce a keen cricketer," he'd say to my mother, who I don't think was ever truly convinced!
Dad and I would bat and bowl until it grew dark, but my game didn't improve as much as we'd hoped. One day, he stopped in his tracks and said, "Have you ever thought of praying about this?"
This was a new idea to me. What could God possibly know about sports? - and the game of cricket in particular. "After all," Dad explained, "God is the real source of your ability. If you want to do your best, you need to know where your 'best' comes from. You need a standard to shoot for - and there's no better standard than God's. In sports, that would include obeying the rules, being generous to opponents, and keeping a sensible perspective on winning - and losing.
"In striving for the best," he said, "you should try to let every thought and every action grow out of your daily talk with God. Every morning before school, reassure yourself that you cannot be separated even a moment from God's love and care and guidance.
"God's ability to express Himself is unlimited, and as God's children, we share in that ability. God's arms are wrapped around you as tightly as your hands are wrapped around your cricket bat, and He helps you to concentrate better in all you do, to stay calm, to be confident."
Dad went on to say that Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, made it plain that "we are all capable of more than we do" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 89). No limits. No hesitation. No butterflies in the stomach.
Nine weeks later, just before Christmas, I made my first "fifty" (50 runs in one inning) and bowled out five opponents. We had three bottles of soda that evening, and as we raised our glasses I said quietly, "Thank you, Father. We did it." And everyone knew exactly what I meant.
I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.