Sometimes things happen in ways you never expected.
Let me explain. Last year in Bible Quizzing, I studied, worked hard, and competed as well as I could. I tried so hard to place into the top five so I could go to the Internationals meet.
When they announced the results, I was sixth. By a difference of 0.64. When your score is in the 70s, that is a tiny amount. Yet, through an amazing set of circumstances, God allowed me to go, and with one of my best friends. It was a wonderful experience.
But that doesn't mean it was easy. I was so excited to make the team that I studied for hours and as my friend said, I "put my life on hold" until the competition was over.
For reasons I still don't understand, the competition did not go as I had planned. Okay, that is quite an understatement. I did not get one question at the meet. For you non-Bible-quizzers, that essentially means that I was not able to help my team. I still don't know what held me back.
At that time, I experienced a large amount of self-doubt and guilt. I questioned the abilities I thought I had and I felt guilty for taking a spot on the team and not being able to contribute on the competition side. I felt guilty that my parents and I spent a large amount of money to send me to a competition and have me fail. I asked God why, and I wondered if I had misread his guidance. Maybe it had not been his will for me to go at all.
As hard as it was for me, that time taught me trust in God. I learned to look past my insecurities and feelings of failure and realize that his plan is great and he is bigger than any of my little problems.
Anyway, after Internationals was over, I thought that the impact of it had left me. I thought I could go on as I had before. But the insecurities still haunted me. While I didn't realize it at the time, part of the reason I wanted to lead my own team at a lower level was because, deep down, I didn't believe I could compete at a top level anymore. All year, I said that I wasn't going to try for Internationals again. I convinced myself and others that I would be too busy, wouldn't have time to study, and wouldn't do as well.
I decided to try to go to the invitational meet, Great West, because I enjoyed spending time with my friends. During the meet, I said things like:
"I'm not going to Internationals this year. Maybe next year"
"I can't imagine quoting the whole material."
"I've heard stories about the camp; I definitely don't want to go."
I think God must have been looking down and laughing at my ideas about what were going to happen. It seems like every time I think I know what is going to happen or I think I have it all together, God flips me around and shows me a bigger plan.
Two weeks after the above statements, I was quoting the whole material. One week after that, I placed third onto the internationals team.
I am so thankful that God took me on this path. I have seen so many of my friendships grow during practices and our various emails micro-managing every minute of this event.
There's another side to this too. At the event, I will be playing five piano pieces; I will be accompanying my team, in front of a lot of people. Although it may seem silly, I have always been really nervous when I play piano in front of people. I will be facing my fear, and hopefully my team will sing really loud in case I mess up :)
I know that God brought me to Internationals last year for a reason. And I know that this year he will have great plans for me as well. As I go, I know that he is with me as I face my stage fright and the memory of my "failure" last year.
Yet, now I don't consider last year to be a failure at all. When we are in God's plan, nothing can truly be a failure. When we make mistakes, He forgives us. When things are hard, He grows us. And when things go wrong, He sustains us.
How great is our God.