Lessons from Judging: The Time I Judged at the County Fair

Gratitude Day 494

Mon., Aug. 3, 2020

1 Corinthians 4:4b-5a – Because the Lord is the one who judges me. So don’t judge anything before the right time—wait until the Lord comes.

As a youth, one of the highlights of the summer was participating in the county fair. Held the middle of July, it was a week full of activities, exhibiting, friends, possibly winning some awards and most definitely learning how to lose gracefully.

Each spring, I would go through the entry book and pick out items and classes that I wanted to participate in. In the 10 plus years that I exhibited at our county fair, I tried a variety of projects. Most years, I tackled more projects than I should have. The day before the fair, I would be sewing buttons on my clothing project while something was baking in the oven. We’d still have dairy cattle to clip, sheep to wash and produce to pick out of the garden. It was always a mad dash and rush, along with some very strategic organizing, to get everything to the fairgrounds and entered.

Yet, it was always a memorable week. My paternal grandparents always made the trip for Iowa and warmed the bleachers while my siblings and I showed sheep and dairy cattle. We took turns working in the food stand and participating in various programs. As a young 4-Her, I learned character when earning a ribbon that wasn’t blue and a class winner.

This past week, I was invited back to participate in the Eau Claire Summer Showcase. This was county fair week where I grew up, slightly renamed because, well, pulling off a county fair during a pandemic is challenging.

With significant modifications and regular consultation with the county health department and parks and recreation department (who oversees the grounds where the fair is located), the fair was not a typical county fair. The Summer Showcase was closed to the public. Needing to limit the number of physical bodies on the grounds, organizers strategically developed a schedule limiting the number of people while giving youth an opportunity to present their projects. Items were disinfected regularly and all kinds of other precautions were implemented and carried out. For example, breeding animals were only on the grounds the day they were exhibited.

Months before COVID-19, I was asked to judge at the fair. Trying to limit exposure, participating judges were asked if they would be so kind to judge additional departments. This is why I judged food, food preservation, houseplants, cut flowers, some Exploring projects as well as the dairy cattle.

On the day Hubby Rick and I drove to the fair, we discussed judging. Because I’ve had my projects evaluated and previously serving as a judge, I empathize with those who feel a project has been evaluated differently than anticipated. Sometimes, we’re disappointed. Other times, we surprised with the results.

Clearly, “judging” is very subjective. What I like and prefer maybe very be different from another’s opinion. As I pick winners and champions, it feels very subjective. In a normal fair situation, youth may be present to hear comments and reasons for placings. In a COVID-19 fair, it became extremely important to me that feedback be provided on a comment card. During the dairy cattle show, I tried to explain to every youth my reasons behind the choices, making the show educational as well as a learning opportunity.

In the last few days, I’ve thought often about what it means to be a “judge.” Am I qualified? Can I appropriately explain my opinions and give others permission to have their own opinion? Will I be consistent? Will youth walk away from this experience feeling like they gained knowledge or learned something new? Can we have fun and make this a great experience, even during a pandemic?

It’s humbling to be asked to judge. Yet, I find myself judging other people and situations outside of a fair situation ALL. THE. TIME. I elect myself judge and jury about a situation where I may or may not know all the details. I expect grace for myself and justice for everyone else. I often assume that my opinions are best, right and can explain my reasons why.

Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Corinth to be careful about judging. “The Lord is the one who judges,” writes Paul. Wait until the Lord comes to judge, he continues. God will search the secret purposes of people’s hearts.

Yes, this sounds judgmental on God’s part. Often, it is read this way. Yet, I see SO. MUCH. GRACE. in God. At the end of the day, I think God has a much clearer perspective on judging than I do. Thank goodness.

Part of participating in a county fair, as well as many other situations, IS to receive feedback on something that we do. If we’re honest, there’s a part inside of each one of us that yearns for positive feedback. We want to hear all the good we do and skip over the yucky stuff. For the young gal whose heifer was not cooperating during the dairy show yesterday, I assured her that the first year I showed cattle, I stood at the bottom of a class. While difficult in the moment, it was a moment that I learned something about myself. I discovered that I need grace for myself … just as much as I need to extend grace to others.

I certainly do not have the whole judgement deal figured out. It’s a topic that I go back to and never quite get it solved. This week, I realized this is OK. When I try to be the one who is the ultimate judge, then I’ve lost sense of Whose I am. Yes, I can express my opinion about things and even share my reasons. At times, I am asked to render my opinion. But ultimately? I need to let God remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to judging. And so many other things.

For a not-so-gentle reminder about judging, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – Please forgive me for the many, many times that I felt my judging was so much better than Your ability to judge or someone else’s. Keep right in my heart that You are the ultimate judger; not me. May I respect and honor this in my life. Amen.  

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