My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub
Scouts only a
short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper,
a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to
"dad." That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not
receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read
the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with
his young, eager son.
The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed. Finally, Mom
stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began.
Having no carpentry or mechanical skills, I decided it would be best if
I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did.
I read aloud the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we
couldn't do. Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood
derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the
eyes of Mom).
Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty
proud of his "Blue Lightning," the pride that comes with knowing you did
something on your own. Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood
derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race.
Once there my little one's pride turned to humility. Gilbert's car was
obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars
were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body
styles made for speed. Gilbert's car was an unattractive vehicle. To
add to the humility Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side.
A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an
uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had "Mom."
As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing
as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the
finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest,
fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide
eyed, shy eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute,
because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.
Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood
between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his
Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he
stood, smile on his face and announced, 'Okay, I am ready."
As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their
car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his heavenly Father within
his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with
surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a
second before Tommy's car.
Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud "Thank you" as the crowd
roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone
in hand and asked the obvious question, "So you prayed to win, huh,
To which my young son answered, "Oh, no sir. That wouldn't be fair to
ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I
don't cry when I lose."
Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us. Gilbert didn't ask God
to win the race, he didn't ask God to fix the out come, Gilbert asked
God to give him strength in the outcome. When Gilbert first saw the
other cars he didn't cry out to God, "No fair, they had a fathers help."
No, he went to his Father for strength. Perhaps we spend too much of
our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or
too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should
be seeking God's strength to get through the struggle. "I can do
everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippines 4:13
Gilbert's simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He
never doubted that God would indeed answer his request. He didn't pray
to win, thus hurt someone else, he prayed that God supply the grace to
lose with dignity. Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his
Father also showed the crowd that he wasn't there without a "dad," but
His Father was most definitely there with him. Yes, Gilbert walked away
a winner that night, with his Father at his side.
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