Glory without Struggle

Natalie Martin

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalm 55:22

You want to know something? In my entire life, I have never asked God to actually help me accomplish something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve asked God for a lot of things, but I have never asked him to be part of reaching a tangible accomplishment. Maybe it sounds silly, but the way I see it, He’s got way more important things to do than to waste time helping me hit a baseball, land a job or catch a steer.
I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the road of life, I decided that it was only appropriate to ask God for the BIG things. “Dear God, please protect and watch over us.” “Dear God, please give me the patience to be a good mom to my boys.” “Dear God, please give me the strength to continue down this path you have set for me.”
The way I figured it, He wants me to live my life as a good Christian and follow the path that He has set for me, so I should really only be asking for His help with the important things. It always seemed so inconsequential to the overall goal of living a Godly life to ask for help with these worldly things. And so I don’t. Not in the practice pen and not when the money is up. I just don’t ask. 
As a newbie to the world of competition, I haven’t yet learned to deal with the stress of competing yet. At least, not well. I work on it, but sometimes it seems incredible how badly I want to succeed at this sport of roping. The pressure is almost paralyzing sometimes as my chest tightens and my stomach rolls. I don’t eat when I compete. I try to stay calm for my horses sake (he’s nervous enough on his own), but I’m sure my body feels like a buzz-saw vibrating in the saddle.
And don’t get me wrong, in those situations I have said many prayers. I’ve prayed for God to keep us safe. I’ve prayed for Him to give me peace and share His Grace. But never to help me catch.
Until this last weekend.
I had missed my first steer of the day on Sunday. And even though the nerves seem to settle a bit after the first run of the day, having that “monkey” on your back never feels good. And on top of all of that, it was our ACTRA state finals, my first BIG roping. In a desperate moment before my second steer, I closed my eyes in a quick prayer. Reluctantly, I asked God to help me catch. It felt weird, and I even felt a little guilty for asking. But, I asked anyways.
I caught for my next heeler, and though we didn’t make it on to the next round, I figured it couldn’t hurt to keep on saying that prayer that made me feel so weird and uncomfortable. The worst that could happen is that God could say ‘no’, right?
So I did. I kept closing my eyes and bowing my head before each run. And remarkably, my next heeler and I caught all three steers and made it to the short go. Enter REAL ANXIETY. Turns-out, that other thing I had been feeling, wasn’t anything close to the real deal. It was kinda like the difference between the salsa everyone gets at the restaurant and the special, extra-hot one you ask your waiter for. You know, the one they don’t put on the table because it’s too hot for normal folks. Wait…you don’t do that? It’s just me? Ok, but you get the idea…the heat was turned way up, and well, I had obviously asked for it.
I had over 100 teams to wait-out before the short round started and I had no idea how I’d survive without passing out. My mind was racing. Trying to fake me out. I think some people go to a place of feeling really confident under pressure, but my mind goes to a place of trying to mess me up. So, I kept it on a short leash. I roped the horns several times to make sure my arm was open and awake. I half-heartedly snacked on M&M’s to stay busy. I watched my friends runs and tried to ignore the rest of the teams.
As the final teams ran their steers, I jumped on my horse and took a few practice swings to ready myself for the short go. I felt the overwhelming pressure of making it to this position for the first time and sternly warned my body about any funny business (like heart attacks, strokes, sudden onsets of narcolepsy or passing of gas).
But despite my nerves, my heart was full of love for my roping family that all anxiously awaited this “first” for me. My coaches were beside themselves excited. Friends who knew we had made it that far had stayed to watch. And guys who work our branding pen with us every spring patted my leg and smiled like proud dads when they wished me luck. My heeler, Manny, was a man who’s been friends with my husband’s family for decades and even won a saddle roping with my father-in-law back in the day. I knew I was blessed and I desperately wanted to make all of these people proud.  
Then it was time. We heard the announcer call our names as 7th high call out of 380 teams. So once again, I bowed my head and closed my eyes and started to feel a little guilty for asking for help with this silly game. And then the lightbulb came on. God  threw that guilt right back and me and said, “How are you going to give me the glory for your victories if you don’t give me the struggle first?”
That was it. All of this time I had thought God was too busy, too important, too BIG to worry about such silly little things. But, I had forgotten one of the most important things I tell my kids about prayer…God just wants to be involved in your life. He wants you to share the good and the bad. He wants you to talk to him. I had been giving this advice, but hadn’t even considered taking it. Somehow I had decided that there was a unique set of rules for kids…they could pray about anything they wanted, but I had to stick with the important stuff.
I roped aggressively for that last steer, getting a good start and taking my first good shot. But a little too much action in my loop had those horns gift-wrapped in an illegal head catch. And just like that, we were out of the running. I was so bummed to see that loop go on the way it did. I felt horrible for my partner. Sad that I didn’t get to share an awesome victory with the amazing people around me. But I couldn’t hate myself the way I so often did when I don’t get my job done. I didn’t safety-up. I took that run with the full armor of God and
And as I left the arena, I shook hands with Manny and thanked him for roping with me. Then as I stood at the back of the arena watching the remaining teams, I thanked God. I hadn’t gotten the job done, but I was still grateful for the opportunity and thankful to have learned so much about competing over the weekend. My heart was full with love for these people who had taken me in as one of their own. And I was at peace having learned that even though we don’t get every single prayer answered, as God’s children, he still wants to be part of all of it. As a parent, that lesson isn’t hard to take in. They win some and loose some, but I want to be part of supporting them through all of it. The struggle and the victory. The blessings and the defeats. Because that is the love of a parent.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

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1 comment

  • Love this

    Denise Gambino

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