On Monday morning, it was our daughter’s school sports day. Being owed time for working some days off, I took the morning out to watch her with Debbie.
The school had been split into sixteen teams, each representing a country and taking an Olympics theme. Rebekah had been allocated to Portugal.
Wearing her red and green, she was lined up to run in the very first race. We thought she was quite quick. Certainly she is when she runs to school. Off they set. Except that Rebekah didn’t realise what the starting signal was. She didn’t begin running until everyone else was ten yards down the track.
Then it got worse. Her plimsoll fell off. She has very narrow feet. She stumbled to the line, comfortably last. We wondered how she would take this.
We saw the answer in her next race. In the spirit of an egg and spoon race, the children had to balance something on their heads. If it fell off, they had to stop and replace it before continuing. Well, Rebekah was determined that the object wouldn’t fall off. So she ambled down the track, talking happily with her friend Sam. They were oblivious to where they came in the race. They just took in the sunny weather and enjoyed each other’s company.
And so she continued all morning. Whether running, jumping or throwing, she did what she did and didn’t worry whether she was the fastest, highest or strongest. She just enjoyed herself. Her only real distress was that she misplaced her water bottle.
We waited for the head teacher to announce the results. We stood near the Portugal team. China came sixteenth. More countries were announced, until we realised that Portugal was in the top eight. The top five. The top three. Portugal became visibly more excited. ‘They’re going to be so disappointed when they hear they’re second,’ I said.
But you’ve guessed. They were first. The older children were delirious. Rebekah and the smaller ones had to have it explained to them. They were called up to the head teacher to receive their medals. Rebekah was still more concerned about her lost water bottle than her medal. But later the significance dawned on her. When we collected her from school that afternoon, she came out of her class with it around her neck. She hung it on the door handle of her bedroom. Last night I found her sleeping with her medal. Rebekah, who seemed to be a loser, was a winner.
God’s ideas of winners are different from the world’s, as I shared in a school assembly on Wednesday. Not the fast, strong, powerful or wealthy. The Beatitudes make apparent losers into winners. Those who love, sacrifice and put God and others ahead of themselves are winners, in Jesus’ estimation.
I thought the boys might find all this kind of talk of caring a bit girly. So I told them a story. I asked who used Internet Explorer to browse the web, and who was cool enough to use Firefox. Just a few, sadly. But I talked about one of the Firefox developers with Mozilla. I read an interview with him a couple of years ago in .net magazine. He explained his reason for involvement with open source software. It was so that the poor and disadvantaged could have access to the same kind of things as those who shell out huge sums for proprietary software. That was an expression of his Christian faith. I suggested that developer was a winner in Jesus’ eyes.
Let’s reinvent winning. Too often in the church we are tied to secular concepts of victory.