In high school, I wasn't the greatest athlete but my friend Scott Masengill did ask me to join the Cross Country Team. I thought that was a good idea. Excited, I called my Mom from the pay phone at school; “Hey Mom, guess what?” I said, “I’m gonna run Cross Country.” Her response I’ll never forget; “When will you be back?”
I explained that “Cross Country” was a sport, not a destination. I wasn’t the best runner the school ever had but I was the worst. Or maybe it was a tie between me and a guy named “Peanut.” What kind of a mother names her son “Peanut?”
One day during a grueling run, I noticed Peanut and I were in a battle for last place. A three-mile run seemed like a marathon through a field of molasses. I wondered if I would survive to the end. Neck and neck Peanut and I were, struggling to take the next step. A sort of camaraderie developed between us and it was good to know there was someone else on the team that understood my pain. When we rounded the final corner, the finish line came into view. The rest of the team, of course, was already there. All of them had changed back into their street clothes, some were eating dinner and a few had moved on to a higher grade.
Not wanting the shame of coming in dead last, I abandoned my friendship with Peanut and dashed in front by at least ten yards. Poor Peanut was certain to bear all the shame alone. I did feel bad about it for a few seconds. The last thing I remember seeing was the back of Peanut’s head as he flew past me like a scooter with rocket fuel. I didn't know he had it in him? I finished the race dead last, vowing to remove myself from the Cross Country team and find a sport where I am not bothered by competitors.
Dead last is not a desired position here on earth but, in the kingdom of God, it’s not so bad. In fact, the principles of the Kingdom are often just the opposite of what we are familiar with. For example, Jesus said “But many who are first will be last and the last first.” This makes me wonder why we have so many First Baptist Churches. But I digress.
The Bible teaches that “Pride goes before destruction,” (Proverbs 16:18) “God’s power is perfected in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant,” (Mark 10:44). That doesn't sound like the makings of a Hollywood movie.
These principles may be radical but to live them is to perceive the great message of Christ; there is a realm of life far superior to the one we naturally perceive.
I may get confused, from time to time, as I try to sort out the higher way of life but in heaven I will be first at Cross Country.