I’m not sure whether it was the gangly legs sticking out from my PE shorts, or lack of hand-eye coordination, but as a kid I was always fairly hopeless at sports day. If I came home with a sticker, even if it said ‘third’, I was pretty ecstatic.
Having said that, I do know a thing or two about competition.
I’ve grown up in a culture that tells me I should want to be the best – not only that, but I deserve the best. Settling, cruising or coasting is not an option. In academic work – from first words to finals – and then in my love life, career, appearance, and pretty much anything else that takes your fancy. Somewhere along the line since the egg-and-spoon race, it’s no longer the taking part that counts.
Despite my attempts to put this through the filter of my Christian faith, I wonder whether, instead, the reverse has happened; I’ve shaped my faith around this competition frenzy more than I might like to admit.
That doesn’t mean I pray longer, fast more and go on more mission trips. It looks more like when I’ve made a difficult decision and justified it on the basis of ‘God’s best for me’. Or when I’ve striven to succeed and said ‘for your glory, Lord’, but thought in my heart it’s for mine. In all of this, the underlining assumption is still that ‘I deserve the best’.
Yes, I am a child of the living God; but I am given that honour only by God’s unfathomable grace. There are an awful lot of God’s children who aren’t getting what we would calculate to be the best for them. Not even ‘God’s best’ necessarily. Or if famine and disease, sickness and difficulty paying the bills are part of God’s plan for many, why should it not be His plan for me?
Every day most of us take for granted the gift of breath, of life, of movement and thought. Except, that is, when those things get tricky. But it is in Him we live and move and have our being.
Of course we know that God is meant to be our first love, the one we strive for and our first port of call. But do we really think – or feel – He’s enough when things go awry and some of those ‘best’ things we’ve been told we deserve haven’t transpired. In this regard, we’re set up for failure if we have merged our sense of God’s ways with our own plan A.
At those times, daydreaming about an impressive career (or three), a beautiful house, or a wonderful family can seem so much more attractive than daydreaming about the Lord. These things become our sanctuary, our goal and our preoccupation. But the Lord is our sanctuary. He is the one on whom we fix our hopes. And He should be our preoccupation. Anything else is surely idolatry.
Tim Keller writes, in Counterfeit Gods, that if we are to overcome the power of our idols then: “Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol.”
I would like to find myself daydreaming of God more often. Perhaps then I might realise that ‘God’s best’ has little to do with my day-to-day triumphs and catastrophes. A true vision of Him would make me see my brief time on earth in better perspective. God doesn’t tell us to be holy slobs or slaves to success – we’re to be His servants, and His alone.