Guiding our daughter through hills and valleys

Written by G. Walter Bush
Published on January 14, 2022

The October afternoon hovered near triple digits in Southern California. I stood near my wife at the base of Poop Out Hill, the second of three challenging climbs on the famed Mt. SAC cross country course. 

Our daughter’s high school race had reached the halfway mark, and I eagerly counted the race leaders as they cruised by. The runners had just descended the course’s first and, arguably, toughest hill–the seemingly endless Switchbacks. 

I had watched enough of my daughter’s races over the prior two and a half years to know the order in which she should usually emerge: the fourth through seventh runners on her squad (those impacting team scoring). 

Her team, with an elite reputation, was vying to win the race, which included over three hundred runners. When the first seven racers on her team filed past in predictable order without any sign of our daughter, my heart sank. 

I knew she was having a disappointing race. 

Crisis of doubt

But when the first ten teammates passed, then fifteen, I grew increasingly concerned. Something had gone terribly wrong since I had last spied her several minutes prior at the base of The Switchbacks. 

Was she injured? If so, how seriously? That’s when my wife’s cell rang, and given the unrecognizable number and urgency of the moment, she almost didn’t answer. Thankfully, she did. It was our sobbing daughter using a coach’s phone from the top of the switchbacks, still gasping, to inform us she had dropped out of the race due to heat stroke. 

Once assured she was OK and the call ended, we were left stunned. She had never dropped out of a race before. 

This was altogether new territory. Thus began a crisis of self-confidence. 

A teenager who had only continued to improve over almost three complete seasons, methodically working her way up the team pecking order, suddenly found herself in the throes of self-doubt. 

Her passion for running turned to fear of failure on a dime. As her blind-sided parents, how were we supposed to help her deal with this new dynamic going forward, besides helping her prepare for races with better hydration and an eye on consuming electrolytes? 

A living sacrifice

The answer soon became clear—point her back to the gospel. Tearful conversations followed, in which we assured her that her identity did not rest in her performance on the cross-country course, the classroom, or even in perceptions of her coaches’, teammates’, and parents’ expectations. 

Instead, it rested in who she was in Christ. 

We spent a good deal of time in Romans, assuring her God loved her by his grace, not her works. That he loved her through Christ’s death even when she was his enemy (Chapter 5), let alone now that she was his child (Chapter 8). That all things now worked together for the good of those called according to his purpose, even significant setbacks like this. 

Ultimately, her calling was to serve as a living sacrifice who ran first and foremost for his glory (Chapter 12), leaving the results to him. 

Running with the freedom of grace

By God’s grace, enabling her renewed resolve, my daughter returned to the top seven that season to enjoy standing on the podium as part of a league championship squad. 

Even more amazing, a year later, as a senior, she returned, with trepidation, for her final race at Mt. SAC. Running with the freedom of grace, she not only finished, but charged up Poop Out Hill and on to place fourth for her team and in the top ten overall. 

Those facts make for a great story ending. But the truth is that if she had placed dead last and ran her very best for God’s glory, both her Lord and her parents would have been well-pleased. 

And so should she.

Consider a few extra resources:


Live perfectly imperfect

Get daily emails with practical and spiritual advice geared towards helping you set aside perfect and grow into the parent you want to be every day.

G. Walter Bush

Walter Bush is retired from a thirty-two-year career teaching English at the high school and college levels. He holds two degrees, a B.A. in English from Westmont College and an M.A in Literature in English from the University of California, Irvine. He is also the author of five books, including the faith-based track and field novel Gifted, to be released in February by Ambassador International and available for preorder. Check out his website at

Read more about G. Walter

You may also like…

Privacy Preference Center