And then I thought of Job …


May 9-13, 2018, as a family we were in Oklahoma City, OK as our beloved 12 year old Reuben was competing at the 2018 Men’s Junior Olympic USA Gymnastics Nationals Championship competition. Reuben did not do as well as he wanted to and missed qualifying to the final round of competition. While the result was heart breaking for him and hard for us as a family, the outcome from this experience far outweighs any medal he could have earned.

Given below is the writeup by Reuben, who penned down his thoughts, after he felt heart broken. It is a a little long, but take the time to read and be blessed.
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Reuben Paul on his knees before GodOn Friday, May 11th, I competed in the 2018 Men’s Junior Olympic Gymnastics USA Nationals competition in the Level 8, age 12 category in Oklahoma City, OK. I was hoping to qualify for the final round on Sunday, May 13th. I had trained very hard for this event – more than 20 hours a week and I really wanted to qualify and win. My coaches, Greg Dolittle and Lee Ho, had put so much time into training me. Also many friends from church like Suja aunty & Josh uncle were praying for me. Santhosh uncle from India wished me well and was praying for me. Even on the morning of the competition, Suresh uncle prayed over me. I personally went on my knees and pleaded for God to give me success, and I went trusting that God would show up to help me do well.

PB routine as Coach Lee Ho watches

During the practice and training sessions, I ‘hit’ every routine. A hit in gymnastics means – no fall during the routine. But at the preliminary qualifying competition, I fell on my first event and then there were more falls. I came 68th in place and felt a little disappointed. However I thought that I had qualified to the final round on Sunday. I was happy at one moment, thinking that I had a chance to do better in the finals, but then the next moment, when my coach informed me that because of a change that the USA gymnastics organization had made, he was sorry, I did not make it, I felt crushed. According to the USA Gymnastics published information, the top 72 in my age and level category would qualify for the finals but they changed it to take only the top 60 to the final round. I missed qualifying to the final round, because of this change.
Joel Montgomery with Reuben and Ittai

It was heart breaking. Emotionally, it was very very hard. I cried. I cried and felt like my dreams were shattered and my heart was broken. Coach Greg felt so sorry and bad for me. My teammate, Joel (Level 10, 16 year old gymnast), tried to console me and said it was okay. My dad said he was helpless watching me crumble and weep bitterly. I think this was the first time, I had cried so much. My mom hugged me tight and said that she was proud of me. Even my sweet little 6 year old brother, Ittai, who was sad for me, wanted me to feel good and said “Maybe the judges did not see me all the time and gave me bad scores.” (I think the judges were fair though).

Olympic Medalist Raj Bhavsar with Reuben - a mentor and friendI know they all meant well but I just wanted to get away from there and go back to the hotel room and hide. We were walking back to the hotel room, when Olympic medalist, Raj Bhavsar, who had some of his own team’s gymnasts competing in the next event, texted my dad, asking if we were still in the area. He said he was in the back gym. I reluctantly walked back to meet him. He encouraged me saying that, he once did not qualify and that it was hard, but to get to the top sometimes you have to hit the bottom. He said I was a brilliant kid. Thinking back now, I am very grateful to Raj for taking the time for meeting with me (even when he had his own gymnasts who were getting ready to compete) and his encouraging words.

We got back to the hotel and my mind was raising with many emotions and questions. I cried more, holding on to mama and dada. My parents let me weep. Ittai, tried to help – he said that “if God wanted me to qualify, he would have made it happen.”

The next day, we drove home. During the 6 hours drive, my dada was internally sad and wrestling with God with many questions. He was questioning God as to “Why he would not raise his child up, who is shameless and bold to share about his faith, be it as a cybersecurity conference or at a gymnastics competition?”, “How could God be so mean?”, “Does not the unbeliever mock God, when God does not show up to the aid of his own children?”

I had many questions of my own – questions about the event, the training, and even my faith. Questions like “What if I had not fallen?”, “Why did I not get better scores?”, “Was my training not enough?”,  “How can this be?”, “Why did they change the cut off level?” and most importantly, “How can God do this to me?”, “Why did God not show up?”, “Why, Why, Why …” We reached home and went to bed.The next morning on the way to church, my dada shared with us, that he was angry with God and questioned Him. Then he realized that maybe God was trying to teach us something. He said “Diamonds are rough and not good to look at when they are in the ground, they are formed under intense pressure and heat and with the careful chiseling of a gem-smith, they are shaped into beautiful items – items fit to go into the crown of a king.” He said, “Heartbreaks make your heart grow stronger, but what is important is that your heart is one that seeks after God’s own heart”. “God may be trying to teach us something”, he said. I replied, “Dada, I had my questions too… I felt God did not show up and was not with me, even though I wanted to give him the glory… and then I thought of Job”

See, the Bible teaches us that Job was a good man, an upright man, a blameless man and yet he lost everything — his property, his health to the point of death, and even his children. When compared to what Job had to grow through, me missing the final round was nothing. My dada reminded me that even more than Job, Jesus had to suffer pain and anguish on the Cross to death. See, there is no crown without the cross.

I have a year to train harder and try again next year. Next time, I am down and feel like questioning God, or feel that he did not show up, I hope I remind myself, to think of Job (and Jesus). Coach Greg Dolittle making sure Reuben is all set

 

P.S: I want thank my coaches, Coach Greg and Coach Lee, for their time and effort in training me. I am very thankful to mentor and friend Raj Bhavsar for his encouraging words. I want to thank Josh uncle, Suja aunty, Santhosh uncle and Suresh uncle, for their prayers. I love my mama and dada and my brother Ittai very much and thank God for them in my life. To God alone be the glory… not my will, but his be done in my life. Let me always think of Job.