Second…Maybe Third?

My whole life, from the time I came to an age of self-awareness, I have always felt like I have just missed the mark and I have been left

Silver Medal Blues

unnoticed. It’s like finishing the “race” in second place and being the one who watches that “other” person rush through the tape with your eyes covetously following and your feet dejectedly walking off of the track. I have constantly struggled with this: the “first” factor. I want to be first! It is written in my human nature to be noticed and to receive attention for every deed, and accomplishment. Being the over-achiever that I am, this need seems to be quite hulking compared to others that I have. Certain times when my efforts go unnoticed, especially when someone else’s do instead, I crawl into an isolated place in my mind and sulk, sulk, and sulk.

In recent weeks, this ugly part of my nature – and a developed habit – was exposed wide open when I read in Philippians 2:3:

“ Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. ” (NLT)

I took a good look at my behavior. It may not have been noticeable to others, but I was desperate; desperate for attention. I would take any opportunity to get it. What triggered it was the desire to be better than others, to finish first in the invisible human race of pride. In that scripture Paul was telling God’s church to make themselves second, to be content in their humility, to consider it joy to have that silver – or even bronze – hanging from their necks as they labored under the shadow of another.

It is definitely not easy to reform the mind to have a “second place” attitude and to accept it with joy. I was just talking with my mother about the concept of humility in different religions. Specifically, the desire to obtain this virtue. I began to think of religions such as Buddhism or New Age where it is imperative to meditate for long hours to gain these virtues. This meditation requires looking deep inside one’s self to unlock this virtue as if it had been hiding there all along. This contrasts heavily with Christian thought and Biblical imperative. Wordly religions place all the focus one “self”. It seems rather paradoxical of trying to look inside yourself and make yourself humble on your own strength. Maybe that’s just because I am thinking in terms of God’s words that, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).  It also says in Romans 3;23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Am I not trying to abolish my pride by admitting my own inadequacy? Isn’t it prideful to assume that I can obtain humility by myself?

As Christians, we should rely on Christ to make us humble. Why take lessons from an All-Mighty God? It is written in God’s nature to be humble. Don’t believe me? Look at instances in the Bible and look at your own walk with the Lord. How many times in the Bible did God place his love for His people higher than anything we could understand? How about when he sent His only son to experience humanity and became sin and died an excruciating death for a great many and only few actually know about it and consider it mere fantasy? How many times have you failed Him? Countless. Has he ever failed you? Never.

“Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
 yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.[b]
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.[c]
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
 my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
    for he will bear all their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
    because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.” Isaiah 53 NLT

God is calling us to “Be Holy, as I am Holy.” We are to imitate Christ, and be like Him.  Just as it says in Isaiah 53:10 he made his life an offering, and so I want to make my offering humble like Christ’s. I look back at my little pity parties, and I am definitely not proud of them. However, I am beginning to see these “degradations” (as I would normally consider them) of selfish pride as eternal elevations. These humbling experiences have become blessings and caused me to come out from the “race” with a silver medal and a beaming face as I remember how my Jesus also remained the “servant of men.”

-Bethany

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