A few weeks ago I watched a Disney movie from the 90’s called “The Mighty Ducks,” which I had never seen before. A major theme is the main character Gordon’s shame and regret for letting down his peewee hockey coach, whose motto is “It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big!” Gordon’s team had the chance to win the championship, but he missed the penalty goal shot, and his coach’s only response was a scathing look of disappointment. Gordon was also disappointed because he felt he had let his recently deceased father down.
Gordon is now an adult, forced to coach a failing hockey team for community service. He’s carried around the weight of regret and failure from that hockey game in his youth for his whole life, and it affects how he coaches his team—with high expectations and reacting to mistakes in anger or frustration. Over the course of the movie, with counsel from wise friends in his life, Gordon learns to move past his regret and simply enjoy the game again, and he becomes a beloved coach.
At the end of the movie, Gordon has the opportunity to guide one of his players who is having his own crisis—he may be removed from the game due to an injury, but doesn’t want to fail the expectations of his father:
Player: But my dad’s counting on me.
Gordon: I’m sorry. Hey. My dad worked a lot when I was a kid. So when he made it to a game… I wanted so badly to score 100 goals for him. I spent half the game a nervous wreck, my stomach in knots… Before he died, my dad told me that his happiest times were watching me skate on this pond we had behind our house. He didn’t need me to score 100 goals for him. He was proud of me ’cause I was his son… and I did my best. I’m sure that’s how your dad feels. I know it is.
Player: Thanks, Coach
I cried as I watched that scene—throughout the movie I’d watched Gordon continually defeated by the self-imposed burdens he’s carried since childhood, and I tearfully rejoiced when he finally dropped them and understood that all he needed to do was be who he was, free in the knowledge that his father loved him.
I also cried because I saw a lot of myself in Gordon, and this scene was a clear reminder from God about what He really wants from me. I have had a perfectionistic mindset for as long as I can remember—always striving to make high grades, have the perfect words to say in conversation, be a totally selfless servant for God. More often than not, these behaviors did not stem from an attitude of wanting to “do everything unto the Lord” but from a heart of fear, wanting to hide my inadequacies and brokenness from the people around me.
My heart that’s been marred by sin and my mind that’s been infiltrated by fear have driven me to do “my best” not out of joy, but to find approval from people and to prove my worth to God. But time and again, the Lord reaches out to me and reminds me that He is not looking for my perfect performance—He only wants my heart.
Particularly during the past year and a half that I’ve been working overseas, God has challenged me and the lies I so easily believe about my identity. I think most overseas workers deal with similar thoughts—we want to see our ministries succeed and make a difference in the Kingdom. But God has been teaching me that who I am is not based on what I do, and the fruit He is looking for is not how many lives I’ve changed through my service in a foreign country.
Who I am is based on Whose I am—a beloved child of God. The fruit He looks for is a growing evidence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness in my life. I will never be perfect and what I do can never make me worthy of God’s love. But God is Love, and He has already chosen to love me as His child, simply because I am His.
When I worry about what the world thinks of me, I am overwhelmed by anxiety about getting everything right. I react in anger and frustration toward myself and others. But when I remember and rest in my identity as God’s beloved, all that I do flows from a confident peace in the knowledge that I am a daughter of the one true King. It is then I remember that God does not need me to score 100 goals for Him; He simply wants me to enjoy His presence as I skate through life with Him.
Here is the manner of love the Father has showered upon us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. –1 John 3:1
When do you notice yourself searching for worth and approval in the world’s eyes?
How have you seen God gently draw you back to resting in Him as His beloved child?