Unless you have ever been on a stage…in a “lights on…cameras rolling…millions watching moment,” seeking to fulfill a dream that you have had for years…sometimes since childhood…you have NO IDEA what kind of pressure and nerves and fatigue it brings! As I watched the Miss America Pageant on Sunday night, as I always do, I felt my stomach tighten and float as I watched the young women in the final hours of an exhausting competition that had lasted more than two weeks.
Yes, after 30 years I still feel some of the nerves and emotions that I experienced years ago in the Miss America Pageant. Being on the other side now, I know how it feels to have been laser focused and tunnel visioned for months in order to put in the hours needed and be mentally prepared. I know what it takes to have earned the right to be on that stage. A process that, unless you go through it, you have NO idea! The odds are easier to be able to play in the Super Bowl than to be able to compete for Miss America.
For months you read and read and you read. I can remember having a small pool of water on the ground around an exercise bicycle in our home. Yes, I would go to the gym but when you know you are headed to Atlantic City and your goal is to bring home the “crown,” you have a different kind of motivation. You won’t be in front of just six judges in a swimsuit. You will be in front of millions! A very motivating reason to work out. Yes, THREE times a day until you can wring out your hair with sweat.
It always amazes me to hear and read people’s comments after watching the pageant. I give grace in my thoughts and my words. Sometimes I really have to pray. Most of the time I have to self talk when I hear some comments. It goes a little something like this usually. “They have no idea. They have never done this. What would they say if they were on the spot to answer a question…LIVE…in front of millions of people…with the NERVES of knowing…they are in the final few and have a REAL chance of winning?! The contestants have NO idea what the question will be and it could be anything!”
It is true. You never know what it is like until you walk in someone’s shoes. YEP, imagine…”STAGE on, LIGHTS blinding, cameras rolling and millions watching. Add to that a question asked on any topic imaginable with 14 seconds to answer!” I would LOVE for anyone criticizing a contestant to have that moment just once! It would be a blast in my opinion….!
Keep in mind that these girls are NOT seasoned speakers on all topics out there. Nor have they had the experience which duplicates that moment on stage with blinding lights. Yes, the one who is crowned MIss America gains that experience if she wins. But recreating that EXACT moment and being able to rehearse it is IMPOSSIBLE….! It takes incredible GUTS to do what these girls did on Sunday night.
For each of them It has been a L.O.N.G. road to get to where they have gotten. I applaud any woman who takes her God-given talent and throws her hat in the ring of competition to have a chance at the title. Whoever wins, or competes, garners much respect from me.
I look back and reflect on how competing shaped me and how God used it in my life. It caused me to LEAN INTO HIM, to depend on Him in moments that truly were “stepping out of the boat moments”. Moments when I knew: Greater is HE that is in me…than He that is in the world (see I John 4:4).
Obviously every woman who competes is not a Christian. But for me, God used it to teach me to depend on Him…and to learn that when you lose, you win! It helped my life verse take on significant meaning for me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledge me and he will make your paths straight,” (Proverbs 3:5-6). I had to truly trust that God had a better plan.
Years ago when I boarded the plane home to South Carolina, after coming so close, when the newspaper headlines and Paul Harvey said…”I missed by inches”…referring to my height of 5’2″ being the reason I didn’t win…I had to repeat…Proverbs 3:5-6 over and over to myself…to allow God to comfort me in the “LOSS” of a dream.
A dream that was birthed in me when I heard a Miss South Carolina give her testimony in our church when I was 9 years old. God was a real “presence and comfort” to me during the painful loss. The sought after dream for years…was done! Facing the newspapers and media was the hardest thing. With every question about “coming so close but missing” came the “shooting pain in my heart”.
A reminder of the loss….
God used the competition…to shape me…to teach me what it means to set a goal….and GO FOR IT.
To shut out the negative opinions of others….to work hard….to learn to speak in front of audiences, to be able to speak to the media, to learn about how to engage with strangers, to be able to encourage others to REACH for their dreams and that, most of all, with God’s help and direction, He can take a “loss” and the experience and multiply it in your life just like he did “the loaves and fishes!”
Point of the post…God doesn’t waste anything in your life.
Even a “loss” that the world sees as terrible and you might see as terrible for a while, it isn’t a waste. He has a “significant” plan for everyone and He uses all experiences to shape us. It is my/your job to seek His plan and fulfill it!
God is always working…to weave all experiences for my/your “greater good”.
It requires trust on my part and on yours. Take it from my personal experience…be very, very slow to criticize unless you have walked in someone’s shoes. I say this very carefully because I have to constantly remind myself of this. It is so easy to judge (me included)…but when I hear criticism of those competing in pageants…I smile and think, “Wow! You really have no idea.”
It truly makes me ask myself the question, “Sherry where have you be judgmental and really have no clue?!”
I am proud of our Miss South Carolina, Daja Dail. She loves the Lord as I do. There is no doubt in my mind that God will use this experience to shape her and use her, crown or not! She and I agree. There is a final “crown” for us…in heaven.
I Peter 5:4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Today, I encourage you to seek to live your life seeking to fulfill the purpose you were created for! Your significance! God is at work. Don’t give up. He never wastes a loss….I can say from very personal experience..He uses it to shape us…So no matter where you are in life….Lean into Jesus…He will pick you up…dust you off….and He will make your paths straight!