A week ago, I wrote about my childhood fears of scary things lurking in the closet or under my bed and of my persistent dread that someone would break into our house and harm us. It wasn’t until my Father intervened with his unique form of reassurance that I began to let those worries abate. Oh, certainly, there were (and are) still times when I feel unsettled and unnerved; however, now I do my best to turn those emotions over to my Father in Heaven.
A few days ago, I opened my Bible to 1 Peter 2:9 as I’d come across that scripture earlier and wished to memorize it. As I wrote down the lines of the verse on an index card, images of another childhood anxiety washed over me; ones that I’m certain many others will be able to resonate with: the fear of being unchosen.
I’d really like to find the person who first came up with the idea of putting two children in charge of picking who they want on their team and smack them up the side of their head while saying, “What in the world were you thinking?” Ok, maybe I wouldn’t physically assault them, but I would still question their wisdom in concocting a scheme that, over the decades, has tormented countless children and left so many of them emotionally scarred. And those are just the ones forced to do the choosing.
On the off chance that some readers don’t know what I am referring to, here, in general, is how this typically played out. A Physical Ed teacher gathers around a group of kids and picks two of them to be Team Captains. Then, each Team Captain in turn selects someone from the remaining group of children to be on their team. Back and forth, so it goes, until all children are picked for one team or the other.
So, yeah, the agony for those of us who were either clumsy klutzes with zero grace of movement (FYI: that little ditty about “Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace…”? I’m a Tuesday child. Physical grace, um, not so much!) or who were at the bottom of the totem pole of popularity while we waited and waited and WAITED to be selected. Even worse, the grimaces and groans and shrugs of resignation when one of the Team Captains got stuck with us. Fun and games indeed.
The thing is, this fear of not being chosen can continue to haunt us as we progress through adolescence and well into our adult lives. Some of us might be better at disguising this fear than others, but I’m betting that even those smug Team Captains of 3rd grade have had their moments of angst at some point or another. As I’m writing this, my mind is humming with the memories of all the moments in my life where I’ve either been chosen, or not; or when I’ve done the choosing, or not. Frankly, I’m not sure which feels worse now; remembering how it felt to be left out, or, remembering those times when I shunned someone else. To quote our Pastors’ three year old daughter, “Oooooh, it’s too REAL!” Nope, I don’t really want to go there.
And, oh by the way, I’m not the only one in the universe whose mind is dwelling on this whole “chosen” thing; I started writing this post on Saturday August 6th. The meditation in The Upper Room for Sunday August 7th was entitled, “Chosen” and the referenced scripture was, you guessed it, 1 Peter 2:9 (if you’re thinking that I must have somehow seen the meditation and subconsciously absorbed it and copied it, then you don’t have a clue as to how totally incredible our God is).
So, here’s the verse:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (NRSV)
We are chosen. God chooses us. God chooses ALL of us. Yet, unlike those moments in childhood where we were picked by a Team Captain and then forced to play a rip roaring game of kick ball with our two left feet, we have the option to not join God’s team. It’s called Free Will, folks; and people certainly exercise that option. Yet, God wants us to join in, He always has. He said to the Israelites long, long ago as they were about to finally enter the promised land:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Chose life so that you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 (NRSV)
Thousands of years later, He sent THE ultimate in Team Captains to go about the business of picking everyone for God’s Team; His son, Jesus Christ.
Join the team and you’re good to go.
Anyone who has ever been on a team knows what it means to be a team player. You can’t laze about, watching your fellow team members carry the day while you cheer them on from the sidelines. You have to contribute. And you have to perform; but, you do so not necessarily for your glory, but for the greater good; so that the team will succeed. There’s no “I” in team”, and all of that.
Join. Contribute. Perform for the greater good of the team; of the Kingdom.
The good news is, you’re chosen! You can trade in all of those fears and anxieties of being alone, never being good enough to belong. Yet, you don’t get saved and just sit there. In other words, there is significant responsibility involved with responding in the affirmative to God’s offer to join up.
And herein lies the dilemma for many folks, myself included. What, exactly, does this really mean? And, does it always mean the same thing?
When I rejoined God’s Team in 2011, it was, initially all about practice; soaking up the grace that I so desperately needed, getting back into the groove of weekly community worship, beginning to seriously delve into the Bible, and developing the discipline of daily devotion time and prayer. As the months went on, I stuck my toe into the stream of service, of active participation; serving communion, helping out with packing sacks of weekend food for low-income children, and assisting with the church’s annual Hanging of the Greens program. Five years on finds both my husband and I considerably involved in leadership roles and a variety of other servant opportunities such that we are either at our church or out in the community several times a week.
Yet, despite this, I still wonder if I’m contributing what God desires of me. The majority of my fears and anxieties are gone (heck, I don’t have time to be afraid) only to be replaced by a sense of being, not so much underutilized, as MIS-utilized.
An illustration: When I was in high school, I played on a girls’ softball team for several years. We were pretty good; we even made it to a few championships. However, in the first season we played together, the coach put me at second base and, as a leftie, I totally sucked in that position. After a few dismal games, someone finally got wise and moved me to first base and sometimes pitcher, where I (and therefore, the team) performed more effectively.
I’m wondering now if I’m in the right position on God’s Team. Am I performing in the roll of second baseman when He really needs me to be the short stop? Or, the pitcher? Or, the manager? Or, the bat boy?
So, to prayerfully consider this (among other things) and hopefully to discern some answers as to my purpose and direction now, I’m heading to a 3 day (mostly silent) spiritual retreat next month. I’ve been writing this series as a way to both prepare myself; and, also, to ensure that I hold myself accountable to myself and actually GO.
I apologize (somewhat) for the seeming randomness and rambling of my postings, but this is the road I’m on now, folks.
Which calls to mind a poignant verse from the Prophet Jeremiah:
“Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it and, find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
That sounds good to me!