My love of hockey started in junior high as my locker was next to two of my closest high school friends who happened to be two of our school’s biggest hockey fans and accomplished hockey players. Between classes, John and Brian were constantly talking about the Bruins and the Mapleleafs and NHL stats. They were inspired by Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Paul Coffey, and both had dreams of how their hockey careers would play out.
In high school, they, along with our entire school had our eye on one prize: the coveted ND State High School Hockey Championship. It had been won by our Magicians in 1992, and we were all eager to bring it home.
For four years, we went to State year after year, and came home empty handed every time. We never brought that trophy home, as hard as the teams tried.
But John Grubb had his eye on that prize. So, while the story ended there for many, it didn’t end there for John.
Fast-forward 17 years. The scenario hadn’t changed: Still, the last time the trophy had been won was 1992, as the Minot High Magicians were headed back to State. However, this time, the team was led by two first-year head coaches, one by the name of John Grubb.
With a team that had been held to high expectations all year, led by a skilled forward and a goalie that would give the NHL a run for its money, the Magi won their first two tournament games, earning them a place in the championship game and a shot at the coveted championship victory.
On February 28, in front of packed house and fans watching across the country, John Grubb led his team to the prize he had been eying for a lonnnng time. In a nail-biting game that ended in a 2-1 victory, the mighty, mighty Magi finally got the win that we’d all been waiting for.
John pressed on, he kept his eye on a prize and eventually, he celebrated a victory. I couldn’t have been more proud of that team or my friend, who was named coach of the year that night.
As I celebrated in pure old-lady style wearing sweats and drinking hot tea in my living room, I realized something. Sometimes the prize we have our eye on doesn’t come packaged like we were expecting. Sometimes it doesn’t come in the time frame we’d like, and sometimes it feels like we may have even missed the boat all-together.
But the prizes do come.
In Hebrews 12, the Bible says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” If we do that, I believe the rewards will be abundant.
John celebrated victory and his hard work paid off, but the prize looked so different than what he initially had in mind. I bet if we asked him, leading an entire team to that win was better than winning it as a player himself.
Often, that’s what happens, the prizes might look different…but always, they are better.
So whatever the prize, whatever dream you’re wishing will come true, whatever hope you have in your heart, don’t give up on it. There is a God of the universe who is working out all things for your good. And remember, as Garth so wisely notes, sometimes we can thank God for unanswered prayers. I think sometimes, they too, are prizes.
The prizes will come, they just might be in a different package than what you had in mind. My prayer is that you’ll be open to recognizing them as such when they do.