This article was originally published in April 2013.
And ne’er shall April 10th go by, from this day to the
ending of the world, but we in it shall be remember’d. We few, we happy
few, we band of home-schoolers. For he (or she) who competes in mock
trial this day shall be my brother (or sister), be they ne’er so vile
(or rather fearful), this day shall gentle their condition. And other
students in other tutorials will think themselves accursed they were not
here. And hold their rhetorical skills cheap, whiles any speaks, who
tried a case with us on April 10th.
Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but needless to say,
yesterday was an amazing day. Of all the rotations we make on God’s
good earth as she hurdles around the sun, only a handful actually
qualify for the statement, “I’ll never forget this day,” but yesterday
was one of those days. Yesterday, my 13-year-old daughter, Lily,
participated in a Classical Conversations
mock trial held in the Justice A. A. Birch Building in Nashville,
Tennessee, where the honorable Judge William E. Higgins presided. But
it wasn’t the ornate building, the friendly judge, the winning of the
verdict, or the ice cream party afterwards that made the day
unforgettable. It was that Lily had something hard to do, and she did
Lily had been prepping for weeks. She and her co-counselor, Carolyn,
had been writing, emailing, making conference calls, rewriting and
re-emailing, in order to get everything right. It was Lily’s job to
write and present the opening and closing statements in the defense of a
woman accused of first degree murder. But for all the effort that was
put into the preparation, there wasn’t an ounce of her that had any
desire to stand in front of a judge, her peers, or a courtroom full of
people to utter a single word of all that she had written.
After the prosecution
had made their opening remarks, Lily rose to make her approach to the
podium in the center of the room. Like Peter, she stepped out of the
boat. She walked to the podium, placed her notes upon it, picked them
back up, and then returned to her chair with her face in her hands,
unable to speak the first word. Like Peter, she saw the wind and the
waves and began to sink. Maria Pardue,
a real-life defense attorney, who had served as an advisor for the
students, took Lily by the hand and walked her back up to the podium.
Ms. Pardue proceeded to give Lily’s opening statement on her behalf, but
couldn’t make heads or tails of Lily’s keyword outline. Lily, who had
the statement memorized, corrected Ms. Pardue a couple of times, and
then proceeded to make her opening statement herself. Like Peter, she
had a friend to take her by the hand and lift her up. With that helper,
Lily found her voice and delivered as fine an opening statement as has
ever been made. (I’m not biased or anything.) When the time came for
her closing statement she rose and approached the podium with no help
and dutifully, as well as eloquently, completed her closing remarks.
Lily did a hard thing. She and I had long talks over the past few
weeks knowing that this day was coming. We talked about how easy things
require little, or no faith. We talked about teamwork, completing
assignments, obedience to parents, as well as faith, fear, and
friendship. But mostly we talked about doing hard things, and how Jesus
had hard things to do. There was once this cup—a cup He would have
liked to have seen pass Him by, but it didn’t. So, He drank from it.
For the joy set before him, He drank it dry, and as we are conformed to
His image, we have been called to not shy away from hard things either.
If Lily had been unable to give her opening statement, and never
returned to the podium to make it, she would have failed. Technically
speaking, she would have had a job to do and would not have been able to
complete it, so, she would have failed. But in the midst of that
failure, there would have been no shame. Just because we take on
something bigger than we are, does not mean that we’ll always get it
right the first time, or the second, or the third. There is no shame in
attempting big things for Christ’s Kingdom; discovering that you’re not
as big as you thought you were; then learning that God is way bigger
than you thought He was. Our heavenly Father is as awe-inspiring as He
is long-suffering, granting us opportunity after opportunity to attempt,
to fail, and to try again, because as Christians, our failures are
always temporary. His Kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven,
and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand His people’s
attacks, no matter how many of them appear to fail for the moment.
Yesterday, however, Lily did not fail. Like Peter, she stepped out of
the boat. Like Peter, she saw the wind and the waves and began to sink.
And like Peter she had a friend take her by the hand and raise her back
up. She walked into the courtroom. She made her statements, and she won
the verdict. She did it all by taking a small step toward a podium;
thereby making a giant leap away from the crippling fear of failure.