The hand of a distinguished celebrity judge moves through the air in slow motion. The contestant’s eyes widen and mouth drops open in disbelief, in hope. Contact is made with a large round button, rocketing golden confetti up. It gently rains back down in real time, showering the chosen one in worth and honor. Often a background story is told of overcoming incredible trials which all culminate in this glorious moment. Each summer finds my family snuggled around the couch spellbound. I confess that I am guaranteed to be in tears. This is quite commonplace for a ridiculous sap like me, but it is truly moving to watch a person be covered in rich, golden affirmation.
I was reminded of the connection between this television world and my world’s smaller stages. Many parents know that May means Awards Day season. I have attended many of these events and once again this year, I have observed all of the sights and sounds. Parking is crazy! School parking lots overflow onto empty grass lots and side streets. Cars are usually blocking you from exiting. Parents taking off work are standing impatiently in long lines. Gymnasiums, auditoriums, and cafeterias are filled with all variety of family members. Awards Day is a BIG deal.
I like watching the children as they stand before the sea of onlookers, scanning until at last they lock onto the only eyes that truly matter to them. It is then that they stand up tall, hold award high, and smile wide. Parents with phones capturing clap and cheer.
I hear the father of a 4th grader shout loudly, “That’s my boy!”
I chuckle to myself thinking, “It’s not graduation day yet…” Even so, I am touched by his unabashed pride. I hear these words repeated again when my daughter tells me about walking down the hall back to class after her awards ceremony. Her favorite English teacher called out, “That’s my girl!” I really can’t think of a higher, more affectionate, caring compliment.
I had just come from one of these events, when I slipped into a booth where I was meeting a mentor friend for lunch. I confessed to her my ambivalence towards these awards programs. Every year, my girls discuss the students who opt to stay home knowing that this day is not for them. It is true that some have not worked to earn the recognition. I still don’t like it somehow. One year my 3rd grader was extra decked out in beaded necklaces, cheap medals and certificates. Despite my pride for her, I fought heartache the whole hour for her sweet friend who sat nearby and received only one or none.
My friend and I moved on to discuss the purpose of our meeting. She was helping me work through a deep wound when I had felt so unseen and unvalued. She told me to ask God to speak into this pain, right then and there in the middle of the lunch crowd enjoying their half soups and half salads. She handed me paper and told me to write down what God was saying to me. I thought awhile, jotted down something about rewards come in heaven and not on Earth, and slid the paper to her. She glanced at it, then quickly sent it back. It was true, but she thought I could dig deeper. Groaning about how hard this was, I again sat quiet with pen in hand. Our light conversation about Awards Day came back to my mind. I was so surprised by the words that also came and tears filled my eyes. This time I wrote, “Like you were sad for that little girl, I am sad for you.” I do know how it can feel to be like those students left unrecognized in the bleachers, alone and empty handed. I am scanning the sea of faces, not for His eyes, but for all of theirs to meet mine.
I have seen Zephaniah 3:17 so many times. “He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy.” I have never reflected on the precise words that He exclaims in those shouts of joy for me. Dare I utter this out loud, even dare to believe it is true? My Father is in the stands, watching me in all my small stages and scenes, and is cupping His hands to shout, “That’s my girl!”
Jaime Roop is a freshly turned 40-year-old navigating a mid-life journey towards coming out of her shell. She is a hearing 4’11’’ Highly Sensitive Person happily mismatched to her deaf 6’2” computer genius husband. They are raising three blonde blue eyed school age girls in small town Alabama. She earned her MA in counseling and still loves to delve into all matters of heart and heartache, however currently she loves doing her dream job as an American Sign Language interpreter.