I apologize in advance. What I’m about to say makes me, by definition, old. Because I am getting older, though, I’m going to say it anyway.
When I played youth athletics in the 70s and early 80s, only the team with the best record got the award. I started playing tee ball when I was 6 (we played one team that used a baseball instead of a softball like us – we were all Babe Ruth that game, we were calling our shots by the third inning!). Swim team at 8 (yes, I was a skinny 8-year-old in a black Speedo – it was humiliating). Soccer at 9 (I grew up in rural Kansas, soccer was a curiosity and considered mildly Communistic). Track meets at 10 (the softball throw replaced the shot put – isn’t that funny?). Basketball at 11 (my 6th grade team lost in a tournament to the 5th grade team from my same tiny school – it remains the single greatest defeat of my athletic career, hands down). Football had to wait until I was 12 in the 7th grade (love/hate relationship there – until you get used to it/crave it, those collisions actually hurt!). In every instance, without exception, there was a league champion at the end of the season. One team, one medal.
cham.pi.on, noun, a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, especially in sports.
Can you guess where I’m headed? [This is the part that makes me old.] Imagine my surprise when, as a coach for my children’s athletic teams, every player on every team got a trophy at the end of the season. What’s more, the parents purchased them. Really! I coached some truly non-competitive soccer, basketball, and tee ball teams and, every time, the parents chose to purchase trophies. Frankly, I thought it was silly and, beyond that, poor training. Me: “Someday these kids will have to learn that not everyone gets a trophy.” God: (in the voice of Lee Corso) “Not so fast my friend.”
As usual, I was wrong. Full disclosure, for nearly every scenario where I’ve set myself up as judge and jury, as the all-knowing oracle, and said “I will never do that,” I’ve been corrected later.
Listen. With God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we all get the medal.
What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every GOD-direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward him Makes it. (Psalm 18:30 MSG)
It is my great joy to direct you toward this truth. Relax. You can stop straining at the bit. You can stop competing. You are loved and forgiven. Just lean back in your Father’s arms and hug your trophy. Like a child on a YMCA soccer team, you haven’t earned it, but you’ve been crowned victorious anyway (Romans 4)! Love you much.