Not long ago, I took on the role of coaching a junior high cheer squad at a private Christian school in our town. Several years back I taught second grade at the same school, and now I’m coaching a few of my former students. It’s so neat to see how those sweet little girls I taught years ago have blossomed into precious young women! It is a great privilege and a tremendous responsibility to be able to teach and mentor these young ladies. I’ve told them several times that, while I want them to be good “cheerers,” it’s more important to me that they be good “leaders.” We’ve talked about what it means to be a leader among their peers: welcoming new students who come to the school, making sure everyone feels included, helping teachers, and serving others, even when it’s not convenient or popular. I giggled as they asked me if I’d make them run sprints if they messed up a cheer or couldn’t stick a particular stunt (that’s cheer terminology for dropping the girl they’re holding in the air). I explained to them that learning cheerleading skills is definitely an important part of being a cheerleader, but that being good at cheerleading isn’t our top priority or our number one goal. To me, a lousy cheer routine doesn’t begin to compare with a lousy attitude. I’ve told these girls already, and will continue to remind them, that they weren’t selected to be part of the cheer team based solely upon their cheerleading abilities. Their character is what counts! But we can’t stop there.
You see, having good character from a worldly perspective certainly matters in this life, but it makes no difference in eternity. A person can seek to be well-mannered, kind, and hard-working, but if they don’t know Christ, they have nothing. King Solomon paints a clear picture of this truth in the book of Ecclesiastes. He was a very rich and wise king who tested himself with all sorts of worldly endeavors and delights — hard-work, wise-living, and self-indulgence, to name a few — but he found all these pursuits to be empty; like chasing after the wind. Phillip Holmes, a writer for Desiring God, said, “The problem is our hearts are black holes of discontentment, devouring relationships and possessions, all while screaming, ‘I need more.’ We’re always eating, but famished. Always drinking, but never satisfied.” If the girls learn nothing else this year, I pray that the amazing truth of our ultimate satisfaction being found in Jesus Christ alone will cause their hearts to swell with adoration for Him.
When I first took this job, I began brainstorming ways I could share Christ’s glorious gospel with these girls and could strive to show them the beautiful truths found in His Word. I thought about the sins teens struggle with most today. Undoubtedly, at the top of my list is the propensity for all females to compare ourselves with others, and the tendency we have to worry so much about pleasing and impressing people. While these have always been struggles for teenage girls, and grown women too, it seems to be so much worse now, as we all interact through social media, aiming to post the perfect photo and trying to give the impression that we live an ideal, pain-free life. These thoughts reminded me that all of us, no matter our age or gender, have one thing in common: We all need Christ! It’s only once we have been saved by His marvelous grace and have been covered by His precious blood that we are truly free from our struggles. Only then can we seek to live holy lives and aim to please — not people — but Christ alone, trusting in His grace to carry us through when we fail. In that moment, as I pondered these ideas, I was reminded that as believers, our identity is found in Christ alone, and I decided that that would be our spiritual theme for the year: Finding Our Identity in Christ. For it is only when we identify ourselves wholly and completely in Christ that we will find satisfaction and fulfillment unlike anything we’ve ever known. Just as I told the girls in one of our devotionals: Yes, I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and cheer coach. But I can’t take any of those identities with me when I die. They will be useless when I stand before God Almighty. The only identity that will matter in that awesome moment is that I am a child of God and that my identity is found in Christ alone.