Winner: to get possession of by effort or fortune; to obtain by work; to gain in or as if in battle or contest; to be the victor in; one that is successful especially through praiseworthy ability and hard work; one that wins admiration; one who is chosen.
We all want to be named, “winner.” It’s a word that everyone can identify with. It’s a word that is often associated with sports, games or contests. It is also a word that can mean, “chosen” in the context of being set apart as the best of a particular group of people. The first web definition that popped up for chosen was having been selected as the best or most appropriate with the following synonyms: selected, picked, appointed, elected, favored, hand-picked. As humans, we all have a strong desire to be seen, heard, set apart, favored…and I would say even more so in the more recent years of social media highlight reels – filtered, liked, loved, tagged, hash tagged and photo shopped. Just what does it take anymore to “win” or feel “chosen”?
I saw the email come through and I knew he would soon be disappointed. The email, about being selected to be on the All Star team of his baseball league. The team, he was silently hoping for…the one, well, we thought he actually might make this year for his age. Having little idea of all that goes into the decision process for that one team of kids his age, Stan and I believe in the process and trust the final decision of the league. But, we were disappointed too. Our son had not been chosen. Boy, it’s different when it’s your kid that’s not chosen…
I knew it in my heart, that he hadn’t made it, but I still thought there might be a chance, so I asked a few close friends to pray that God would “make a way” for him to play. I have been challenged in my prayer life lately to always ask, to not consider any request too small or too big for God. While my heart did sink when I found out for sure, I knew the whole subject of All Stars for my son had been covered in prayer, so I rested in Him, Him who knows my boy the best. And, I actually felt free – free that I could put my doubts and disappointments into words and release them to God. Honestly, a new phenomenon for me…surprised? I am deeply human too.
Stan picked him up from school early for an orthodontics appointment the same day the other kids from the league found out about the All Star roster. The little boys talked and it wasn’t long before he over heard one of them talk about having made the cut…and he…he didn’t want to ask…until he got in the truck with his daddy. Stan read the requested list of the chosen ones aloud and painfully watched our boy’s sweet little heart break. Stan said he was quiet, that he just sat in the back of the truck…still and reflective.
Stan and I had to connect by phone while our sweet boy had his braces adjusted. We talked about his disappointment and ours. We talked about how we could help him through the hurt and encourage him to continue to work hard, try his best and enjoy the game. We talked about the prayers that had covered the final decision for our son and our trust in the Lord for knowing best. But it was still hard to accept that he had not been set apart in that particular way…
So, on we went to his last game of the regular season-the season that probably had impacted him the most this far into his baseball experience. His coach made the difference as he stressed being a part of a team from the first practice. Our tough, feisty young little guy played right alongside those older bigger boys and shined like a diamond out there on the field. His team hadn’t won but three games…they were in last place in the league. Our boy has never been on a team with a winning record. But, winning is not what has defined his love of the game, rather the lack thereof that has left him wanting more with every season’s close. This season, too, closed with a losing record and a quick 2 games played, two games lost in a double elimination tournament for the league championship for his age.
Processing so much at one time…my ten year old could have been down right frustrated and a little on the ornery side – he is certainly known for that from time to time…but…to Stan and I’s surprise, he got in Stan’s truck, sat down and said, “Can I practice with my pitching coach this summer and can I play fall ball? When is my first baseball camp?”
And I thought about this verse: Be even-tempered, content with second place (Colossians 3:13). Let me tell you, I would never have described my son as even-tempered…ever…until I witnessed his response to this crushing disappointment in the eyes of a ten-year old. Content with second place? Nope, wouldn’t describe him that way either. Nor would I describe myself that way, if I am being honest… I mean, does anyone really like being the runner-up?
I don’t like it when I see other people promoted before me or recognized while I feel side-lined – feeling as though I am sitting in the cold with rain pelting down from a cloud that really feels as though it only exists above me. I don’t like it when others get more attention or accolades than I do for the very same accomplishments. I don’t like it when I put my all into something, only to have it picked apart, micro managed, just not good enough. I don’t like it when all of my hard work seems not to be recognized, ignored, shoved aside, forgotten. I just don’t like not feeling chosen.
And then I read these words…
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure (Ephesians 1:4-6).
Oh, that being chosen by God would be enough for me. And is it ever enough. God loved us so much that He chose us in and through Christ’s death to be holy and without fault in his eyes…and His eyes are the only eyes that matter. They matter in this right hand work…that I have spoken of so many times. His eyes matter in those quiet hidden corners where such sacred work is done, often in secret. His eyes mattered most as Stan and I processed this disappointment with our young son.
My pastor told a story in one of his latest sermons. The story was about a young lady who got into a class in college that was very challenging for her. She was an “A” student, one who worked extremely hard and one who also knew her limitations. She heard of all of the expectations of the class and had decided it was too much for her to tackle, with her already full load of honors and advanced classes. She went and talked to the professor.
He had seen her work thus far in the class. He had enjoyed her insight in conversations in class. He really was excited to teach her. She told him of her plans to drop the class. He looked at her and said, “How about if I tell you right now that you already have an “A” in my class? I will mark it in my grade book right now as your final grade. Would you take my class if I told you, you already have an “A”?
Shocked, she sat looking across the table at her professor. He opened that grade book, he took his finger and followed across the line all the way to the end where there was a placeholder for that final grade, and marked, “A”. She took the class, she thrived in the class, she learned more in that class than any other she had taken. The professor’s assignment of that “A” allowed her to be free from pressure, stress, doubt and fear. His favor allowed her to be her best.
Our pastor made the connection that…guess what…we already have an “A” in God’s grade book. He has chosen us. He has set us apart. He wants us to abide with him, to learn from Him, to rest in Him, knowing that the final grade has been written in His book of life, in pen…and it is the highest mark one can make. God invites us to live into our final grade…free…free from likes, loves, hashtags, filters, photo-shopping, stress, doubt, comparison and fear.
Our son happened to be sitting with us in “big church” during this sermon. That night, the night after he found out that he did not make All stars, we talked about the fact that God had big plans for him. That he already had an “A” in God’s score book, he already made God’s All star team. He was already the best baseball player, playing on the right team with the right schedule because he had been fearfully, wonderfully made by God, who does not make mistakes and who has our very best in mind for us, far better than we could plan out ourselves.
He went to bed with a sweet smile on his little face that night. I know he believed that he was already an All Star in God’s eyes. It’s been far more meaningful for both my son and I to accept and learn this sweet lesson than to have had him make that particular cut. Though we would have been absolutely elated, we would not have had the opportunity to grow in our character. We also would not have had the opportunity to go to the professor’s office and find out that our sweet boy did, in fact, make a “showcase tournament team” for his league…
We have been chosen. We are favored. We have more than made God’s All Star Team. We all already have an “A”.
God has got this life, friends.