Checkmate….or Nah?

chess 2

“Are you mad at me?”

My son’s big, brown, tear-filled eyes stared at me awaiting my answer.

Let me start at the beginning. My son has been competing in chess for nearly three years. My husband began teaching him how to move the pieces at three years old. When he was five I signed him up for a chess team. He was very impulsive and I wanted him to participate in an activity which encouraged critical thinking, strategy, and forethought.

Recently, he and I spent the day at a chess tournament. I gave him a pep talk that included advice such as: “Shake your opponent’s hand before and after the match.” “Raise your hand if an illegal move is made.” “Don’t be in there actin’ a fool if your opponent does or says something you don’t like.” True story. I’m about that chess mom life. One important thing I always add is, “Make sure to take good notation.” (Chess players write each move of the game in part because if there is a disagreement, the chess officials can check the notation and settle it.)

I sent him into the first match with a reminder to do his best no matter what and some carbs to fuel up. (Yes, it’s that serious.) I waited for 40 minutes. The coach assured me that this was a good sign. Sure enough, my son came bouncing out, a huge smile on his little face. “I won!” He was so proud of himself. I was proud of him, too, because he tried his best. The coach gave him a high five and asked to see the notation book, which was well done. He won in 52 moves, and his little chest puffed out with pride.

I sent him into his second match. Five minutes later he came out, head lowered. The game was over in less than 12 moves. I hugged him and asked if he had done his best. He said he had, and I told him that was all that mattered. It was time to discuss his notation with the coach. My son looked at me, stuck his chin out and said, “I decided not to take notation.” I widened my eyes questioningly. It turns out that when he realized the other child was winning, my son decided to take matters into his own hands and do things his own way.

The coach and I explained to him that he should have done what he was trained to do, especially since this was not the first time that he had taken matters into his own hands during a chess tournament. This very same thing happened last year. We expressed that following instructions is important and that to improve he needs to apply the coaching he is receiving. My son was upset and embarrassed about being corrected. He really felt like the decision to disregard the notation was the right one. He refused to play his next match. So, we had a “come to Jesus moment” and took a walk to the nearest Starbucks. Mom needed a caramel macchiato and my little dude needed a cake pop, stat.

“Are you mad at me?” I hugged my son and explained that neither I nor the coach were mad at him. I talked with him about how he has been trained as a chess player and the roles of his parents and coaches in his life. In our discussion it came out that he would rather just do things his own way and not listen to adults sometimes. I also think he was so confident after following the program and winning the first time, he was ready to fly “solo” in the second round. He did accept that following instructions is important, and that following the coach’s advice would have helped.

My son and I are so similar. I cannot count how many times I listened to God’s “pep talks” and read the Word, only to do my own thing in the end. There have been so many situations in which my own way caused cataclysmic results which left me running back to the Father’s arms asking the same question…”Are you mad at me?” This question is often followed by, “Will you forgive me?” And He did.


With the whispered follow up, “Will you trust me?”

My takeaway from this particular experience was a gentle reminder that God, our Father, Teacher, Helper, Comforter, and Coach knows what He is doing. He puts protocols in place for us and provides boundaries to protect us. He speaks to us through His Word so that we may know Him and grow in Him. When we choose not to follow His “coaching,” I believe it is an indicator that something is amiss in our hearts. Do we trust His counsel or do we trust our own understanding more?

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