I think my cheeks are still sore from smiling so much at our son’s wedding this past October. It was a wonderful celebration of the love between Cutter and Jenna and the love our families are developing for one another. In preparation for the newlyweds first visit home, I decided it would be a good idea to redecorate our son’s room since it had not been touched in at least fifteen years. Every square inch of his room was adorned with memories: posters, memorabilia, photographs of good friends and special moments, framed reminders of accomplishments, and trophies from t-ball to senior year told the story of a fun and very busy childhood. As I removed each treasure, happy memories and even growing pains flooded my emotions. I tossed a few things but most I packed away, ready for him to go through and decide what to keep and what to let go of.
Once again, I was struck with phrase that continues to challenge me, ‘the trophy life’. Let me explain, you see as Cutter was growing up it seemed so easy to get caught up in striving for the next trophy, either physically or metaphorically. T-Ball, soccer, basketball, baseball, football, Scouts, and even academics… the list goes on and on. As I gently packed away each trophy and certificate, I realized once again how meaningless these things really are considering the big picture of life. To be sure, growing kindness and team spirit while working with others to accomplish a goal, and even the lessons learned while striving for personal growth are important in the building of our character. Hard work, determination, sticking with a commitment, learning to lose with grace, and the relationships formed were all things we value from these days. But I have to wonder, in contrast with the continuous hours spent acquiring the trophy… the frantic balance of homework, chores, and sleep, the hard decisions in choosing faith formation opportunities or practice, the financial strains on the family, and simply time to use your imagination playing outside, it surely makes you wonder if it is worth all the sacrifices made for the ‘trophy life’. Please don’t hear me saying I am against organized sports and extra-curricular activities, I believe they do have value. I just also believe our balance is way off in the way we priorities these things in our children and families.
I will admit we bought in to that pressure for a season. And to be fully honest days spent with other families was fun and full of fond memories. But… I am so thankful that we realized the ‘trophy life’ shouldn’t consume our every living moment. I believe that “striving for the trophy” can become an idol and if we aren’t careful it sets up our children to idolize their accomplishments and base their worth on the accolade’s they obtain rather than an unconditional love based on nothing but being a child of God. Ouch, right?
God’s love is not based on our accomplishments, on the number of dollars in the bank account, the price of our toys or the number of friends who get to share those toys. “God saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
My dad is sick and will be transitioning to heaven soon. On a recent visit, he asked to see his wallet. Struggling to maneuver it, I began to go through it with him. So many memories held in this tiny leather case. His driver’s license, scuba diving cards, bank card, memberships, unused gift cards, and military ID’s… all grown up trophies of sort. It struck me how none of it matters now. Yes, fond memories of good times but the things that are truly lasting are the intentional times with family, sharing laughter and offering and receiving unending grace, and patiently passing on a family recipe or small nugget of wisdom.Those are the real trophies of life. May we all strive for those kinds of trophies in the new year, for those trophies cannot be packed away in a box but live on with each of us… forever in our hearts.
By: Jeannie Troutman, Minister of Engagement