Every year the teachers and I have the weighty responsibility of selecting student leaders for our House program. Every year we have somewhere around three applicants for every one position. Students and staff alike take the process very seriously. Through the process we typically make great decisions, selecting the best students for the job; on occasion, we don’t.
A sophomore student applied for leadership: he was bright, charismatic, highly motivated, deeply involved in the House program, a natural leader from a family of natural leaders. Due to a variety of reasons, he wasn’t selected for House leadership; it was one of those occasions where we didn’t make the right decision. The student was terribly discouraged. His disappointment drove him to a dark place, but his response was noteworthy: though he is of a generation that glorifies and embraces victim status, that feels entitled to trophies just for showing up, and demands safe spaces and trigger warnings, this student chose to respond in a better way. He became even more supportive and involved in the House program.
A year later, as a soon-to-be senior, he applied for House leadership again. During the interview, I asked him how he walked through his disappointment from the previous year. His answer was both inspiring and humbling. He said: “I was really disappointed, and honestly mad, so I went outside and played ultimate Frisbee for two hours. And then I made up my mind that I was going to be the best House member I could be. I was going to act like a House leader even if I didn’t have the title. Participate in everything, even take a leadership role whenever I could. I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself and be selfish, but I instead wanted to support my friends.”
And he did just that. The second time around, we not only made him a House leader, but a House president. He rewarded our decision by becoming one of our very best.
Psalm 23:4 reads: “[T]hough I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” Disappointments come to us all in one form or another, and they can drive us to dark and shadowy places in life. Those moments often define us: will we spiral further in despair and turn from God, or will we embrace the disappointment as a chance to grow closer to the God Who can sustain us in such times? When we do the latter, God is faithful to work in those shadows and shape us in to the people He wants us to be.
And those people tend to make the very best House presidents.