Mr. America of the Second Grade

A few years back, my son Austin came home from the first day of second grade with a sparkle in his eye. Before I could ask how his day had been, words about his new friend began to tumble out.

Mind you, my son has never had a hard time making friends, but this one sounded like Mr. America of the Second Grade. Austin described his new friend as kind, helpful, honest, hardworking, accepting, not a complainer, and a sports enthusiast, especially of basketball. I always enjoyed meeting my kids’ new friends, so I planned to meet them on the school playground the following day.

I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Cheering for the Underdog

Sure enough, my blonde-haired, blue-eyed son was standing next to Mr. America of the Second Grade at the basketball hoops after school . . . just the two of them. They didn’t see me arrive, so I sat quietly and watched as they forged a new friendship . . . a friendship we fondly remember to this day. You see, Mr. America of the Second Grade clung to tattered crutches, upon which he bent slightly to one side due to an obvious curve in his spine. His legs were bound by silver braces; his small head was topped with a short tuft of dark curls.

I watched one air ball after another fly about the basketball court. Austin repeatedly retrieved the basketball while Mr. America of the Second Grade would correct his posture and readjust his leg bindings and attempt another basket . . . over and over again. As I wiped welled-up tears from my eyes, their faint laughter floated across the playground.

After a while, I watched Austin walk over to Mr. America of the Second Grade, muster all his little-boy strength, and sensitively lift his friend close to the hoop.

With only an ounce of energy left, Mr. America of the Second Grade lobbed the enormous ball. I held my breath and watched it bounce, bobble, and finally slip through the net.

I bounded out of my car and cheered as if they were the first two second-grade NBA champions!

God’s Ways: Infinitely Better Than Our Ways

Years have passed since then. Mr. America of the Second Grade never leapt tall buildings in a single bound; he wasn’t able to take one step without support. Yet he was one of my son’s best friends because he was faithful and true, kind and honest. (Are you? Am I?)

All of this reminds me of the biblical accounts of King Saul and King David. First Samuel 9 tells us that Saul was beyond impressive. He was taller and better looking than all the men in Israel, but ultimately his kingship ended in failure. In God’s plan, David followed Saul as king. David was the small shepherd who liked music and who eventually messed up too . . . but because he was a man after God’s own heart, his kingship ended well.

Both men represent humanity in full color.

I love God’s ways because they make no human sense most of the time. God told Samuel before anointing David:

Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature . . . for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7–8)

I LOVE THAT! God said to Samuel, in effect, “Get past David’s rag-tag appearance; David is MY choice . . . anoint him!” And through this kingly line—in spite of its many successes and failures—came the perfect Savior of the world, Jesus.

Again and again, God chooses the weak things of this world to magnify His majesty (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

He calls us to see internal fortitude in those whom the world labels “utter failures.”

Let Me Hear from You

Most likely, there is a struggle with this somewhere in your life. Either you or your child may have been labeled negatively. I understand . . . it’s a deeply painful wound.

But God can heal, so let Him into your hurt and ask Him to heal your wounds. For those who are parents, God may have given you a child with differences. On earth, there is much pain at times because this world is so cold. But that special child is not a mistake!

Let’s talk about finding purpose in it all.

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