School is back. The groans in your house are because along with seeing friends, teachers and coaches comes homework, quizzes and tests. With the latter comes pressure.
We test to understand what a child learns and rightfully so. However, straight A’s used to add up to a 4.0 and now they somehow go to 5.0. I’ve asked lots of questions over the last 4-5 years, but honestly I couldn’t explain a high school GPA to you. More kids than ever are headed to college, and entrance requirements are more difficult. So, our kids face mounting pressure to perform, rather than learn.
The outlet at school used to be sports, but sports aren’t much different. Sports may be worse. If a kid was a good baseball player a few decades ago, he made a little league all-star team and played in a city tournament. When the tournament ended, so did the baseball season. Now, a good baseball player is expected to be on a travel team and play as many as 50, 75 or 100 games a year.
Stressed out kids feel a sense of not being able to measure up. I heard this weekend more kids than ever deal with anxiety because they feel they have to purchase acceptance. They have learned this trait from parents, who also fear they might not measure up.
Is it fair to say our desire to be the best and achieve the best has gone astray?
We kill ourselves and those we love to meet a moving standard of enough. Trying to measure up, pass some invisible test to impress others, when the others we’re trying to impress are too busy struggling to measure up themselves to even notice. It’s easy to spend myself on an unarticulated, nebulous level of performance, which if reached, allows me to think I’m “okay.”
Against this backdrop, Psalm 127 offers some relief:
“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to His loved ones.” (ps 127:2)
In the very next verse, we’re told children are a gift from The LORD. I think the point is our work, our unspoken expectations; our measuring against the world’s fearful standards isn’t why we have kids.
Before we demand our kids to excel and meet the new standard, I think it’s worth evaluating the origin of the standard. Am I trying to raise a child that’s measures to be better than the rest or do I want them to merely do their best, and learn to trust their Heavenly Father with results?
Ultimately, we want our kids to know they are loved. We want them to love God and others, sharing His love with them. We want to raise our kids to spend themselves for the sake of the Kingdom.
One of the greatest joys of being a follower of Jesus Christ is the knowledge that I am in good standing with God Almighty. Because of what Christ has done, and our faith in Him, we have been made right with our Father. We may struggle in life, but our success isn’t going to cause Him to love us any more, and our failures are not going to cause Him to love us any less.
Our measuring sticks might just be broken.