Last week, while I drove the kids to school, it began to rain. As we passed acres and acres of newly planted fields, I felt thankful on behalf of all the farmers in the area. Sitting next to me in the front seat, Hope was thankful for a different reason. “I’m so glad it’s raining!” She said. “That means we won’t have to play Capture the Flag at recess.”
That didn’t sound like her. She has always loved that game. When I asked her why she told me it’s because she’s always the last one chosen.
Okay, I can understand this. You can too, I bet. Because it’s a completely natural thing to want others to like us. We want people to think we’re funny, smart, successful, talented, beautiful, etc. Decades after high school we still remember who the “cool” kids were. We like the feeling of acceptance and approval, some of us even thrive on it. And when we don’t get it, it hurts.
I had a similar experience at a conference a few weeks ago. I arrived early for a presentation, but the room was already full. Every seat was taken, except for two in the very back. I squeezed past and around people until I made it to that last table, only to find the seats I thought were empty were actually saved for someone else. It stung a bit to feel there was no room for me. I suddenly felt very large and very out of place, and even a little bit like crying. So yes, I could relate to Hope, even though I felt way too old for such things. But maybe God gave me that experience so I would know what to say to her last week, which was this:
What’s so bad about being last?
Doesn’t it sometimes feel like life is one giant Black Friday sale, and everyone is blindly shoving and pushing their way to the front of the line? Because it’s so ingrained in our society and thinking to watch out for Number One, to raise self, to focus on our accomplishments. We want the world to know we’re just as good, if not better, than anyone else.
The problem is, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. Or rather, we’re focusing on the wrong person. The life of the Christian is not about what we do, but what Christ has done for us. I doubt there are many Christians as strong in the faith and selfless as John the Baptist. People flocked to him, followed him, wondered if he could be the Promised One. Attention and accolades that surely would’ve gone straight to my head lead him to say, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” This, this, is what we need more of, and what life’s many disappointments can teach us.
Getting picked last? Getting passed over? Under appreciated? It’s okay. It’s good even. It’s an opportunity to remember your life isn’t about you anyway. It’s about Jesus. And if He, the King of kings, could live a life of lowly service than so can you.
So, go ahead. Practice a little decreasing. Esteem others above yourself. Get comfortable at the bottom of the pecking order. Make yourself at home. You may well find you like it there.