I remember my first marathon. Maybe because it was my only marathon.
I ran the whole thing – from the starting line, around the playground, around the open field behind the school, and to the finish line.
Fifth grade Field Day. I was hand-picked by my P.E. teacher, along with 8 others, to compete in the “marathon”. I was nervous. I couldn’t believe she thought so highly of me. It was a long way to go (maybe a mile and a half?), and I wasn’t so sure I could make it. But Mrs. Bateman picked me, so I rose to the occasion.
We all lined up at the starting line – four girls, five boys. Our parents, our teachers, and the entire student body lined the designated path. The bullhorn sounded. I sprinted off the line, unaware that conserving energy is generally a better strategy in a long race.
On the back side of the school property, we were too far away from the crowd to hear them. All I heard was the rocks beneath my feet that created the path outlining the school’s property. I was toward the back of the pack. I wondered if I could really finish this race.
Girls were competing against girls, and boys were competing against boys, so I really only had 3 people to beat.
But there was a problem.
God didn’t make me fast.
Athletic, yes. Competitive, yes. Coordinated, yes. But not fast.
Winding back toward the finish line, I already knew the only person I was going to beat was the slowest boy of all, Evan. I wasn’t even going to place. The unfamiliar disappointment of not being the best at a sport sunk in to my 11 year old heart.
I crossed the finish line. People cheered. But I didn’t.
They handed me a ribbon that said “Honorable Mention”.
Seriously? What is that? It may as well have read “Lost”. Everyone knew I hadn’t accomplished anything spectacular. The ribbon just seemed to mock me.
This memory came back to me this week when God told me I treat Him as if He were an Honorable Mention ribbon.
God has been on a mission to get me to realize He is first prize, always. I rarely recognize this fact, so He is kindly helping me grow in that area. By taking away all the prized people I value more than Him.
As He says to me, “I delight in you, and I want you to delight in Me. I want to be your primary source of love, assurance, security, joy, peace, and esteem. Primary. First. Most-oft pursued and looked to.”
I’ve been gritting my teeth during this process, begrudgingly obeying Him. I’ve been saying to myself, “I don’t have my most important friends anymore… I guess I have no choice but to settle for friendship with God.”
And God says, “Hey, I’m not chopped liver. I’m no Honorable Mention. In fact, Dear One, I am first place. I’m what you’ve really wanted all along. I will fulfill you like no other.”
I haven’t experienced this yet because I am stuck dwelling on the losses. But I believe it can be true if I cooperate with God.
Trust in the Lord. Lean not on my own understanding. And He will make my paths straight. They may be straight up, but they will lead straight to Him, First Prize.