Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gilbert was 8 years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time. He was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood, four tires, and instructed to return home and give it all to "Dad". That was no easy task for Gilbert. Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read the paper, and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with his son. The block of wood remained untouched, and weeks passed.

Finally, "Mom" stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began. Having no carpentry skills, I decided to simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did. I read aloud all measurements, rules of what we could do. And Gilbert did everything, step by step as I read it. Soon his block of wood was turning into a Pinewood Derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great-in "Mom's" eyes anyway. Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids' cars, and was feeling pretty proud of his "Blue Lightning", a pride that can only come with knowing you've created something on your own.

Then the big night came. With "Blue Lightning" in his arms and pride in his heart, Gilbert and I headed to the big race. Once there, my son's pride turned to humility. Gilbert's car was the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars were a father-son partnership with cool paint jobs & sleek body styles.

A few boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert's lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle. To add to the humility, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side. A couple boys from single parent homes had an uncle or grandfather, but Gilbert only had his "Mom".

The race was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down finely sanded ramps. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there.

As the last race was about to begin, the wide-eyed shy 8-yr old asked if they would stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray. The race stopped. Gilbert went to his knees clutching his funny-looking block of wood. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father. He prayed in earnest over a minute. Then he stood, a smile on his face, and announced, "Okay, I am ready."

A boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his Father in his heart, and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed, rushing over finish line a second before Tommy's car.

Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud "Thank You" as the crowd roared. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, "So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?" to which the 8-yr-old son answered, "Oh, no sir. That wouldn't be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I wouldn't cry if I lost."


Post Note: Perhaps the lesson within this story is Gilbert's purpose of prayer. He didn't beg God to fix the outcome of the race and he didn't plead with God to allow his car to come in first. He simply asked for strength - strength to see the moment through to the other side. And there is an "other side" to all of our situations, obstacles and challenges.

We often pray that we be removed from our present struggle and that rarely happens. To me, that means that God did answer our prayer - not the way we wanted it answered, but He answered it. And the answer is, "Pray for strength through the challenge and you'll receive insight into the challenge's purpose down the road."

When you think you can't run another step, climb another rung, or face another day, know that your prayers are being heard and answered... answered in mysterious, confusing and glorious ways that humans are just not ready to know.