“May all your expectations be frustrated, May all your plans be thwarted, May all your desires be withered into nothingness, That you may experience the paralysis and poverty of a child, And sing and dance in the compassion of God Who is Father, Son and Spirit, Amen and Amen.” (Larry Hein)
Preface: My nickname is “exaggeramy.” For obvious reasons.
That said. There are certain things in this life that drive me more insanely bonkers than almost anything else.
Loud, obnoxious chewing. Whether or not you were born in a barn, general human decency and social order dictates that you close your mouth while chewing your food. When you defy said law, and proceed to show me your food while forcing me to hear the rancor of your eating it, I have no choice but to assume you are actually a cow, or worse, a giraffe.
The mispronunciation of phonetically easy words and other obvious grammatical errors. My favorites (or least favorites, as it were) are phrases like, “ATM machine” (really? Automatic Teller Machine Machine?) and the oft-confused, “You and me know this” vs. “This is between you and I” (No no no. Flip ’em, genius). I also love when “jewelry” is pronounced “joo-ler-ee, “frustration” pronounced “fuss-tration,” and the nails-on-the-chalk-board-takes-the-cake-COME-ON-mind-boggling-maddening, “nuclear” pronounced “nooc-you-ler” (Seriously? SERIOUSLY!?!)
And, the source of today’s blog, games which, when perpetually lost, presumably convince others I am an uneducated git.
Case in point: Words with Friends.
There are are opponents to whom I lose every. single. game. It doesn’t matter if I start with a 60 point word. I will lose. In-depth research and tracking on my part have failed to yield any logical explanation for this phenomenon.
Now, it took me a while but I eventually figured out that things typically even out. After losing six games to the same person by 200+ points, I finally struck gold with the perfect blend of vowels and consonants, including all the high-point ones, which I was magically able to place on triple-letter squares in triple-point words.
But there remain a few who beat me time and again…and again. Even when the stars align and I find myself with a Q, an U, an I, a C, a K, an E, and an N AND wide-open triple-letter, triple-word squares on which to play them, thus earning the additional coveted 40- or 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles at once, I still manage to fumble and lose the game. Sometimes by two points; sometimes by 200. When this happens, I feel like the absolute stupidest person alive.
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN!? And why, God, WHY does this happen!?
Here’s my answer: God is using this terrible game to humble me.
(Chuckle chuckle, laugh laugh…as if God cares who wins a WWF round!?)
But seriously. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intensely competitive, to a grave fault. Ask any member of our Nashville small group…they will tell hilarious and not-a-little-bit-scary stories of my competitiveness gone bonkers.
I’m like a unicorn. People travel miles and miles to bear witness to the otherwise unbelievable madness.
I don’t know if I’m the only one – I simultaneously that hope I am and that I’m not – but I pin a lot of my own personal value on whether or not I win. Because if I’m good enough, or smart enough, or savvy enough, or clever enough, I’ll win. Words with Friends. Sorry! RISK. Trail races. The love of the general public. And winning validates me as a human being among other human beings. I am proven smart, cunning, funny, fast, talented.
But here’s the reality: That’s a pathetic lie from the father of lies, and for all that’s supposedly (but not-really) proven by winning, the greatest thing proven is that he is able to beat me with the dumbest, most obvious lie ever told. And I am a fool.
I’m learning lately where my worth and value and identity truly rest. I’m in the midst of some pretty major life-transitions, making decisions for the future of my family and career that require a total rejection of former plans and desires. And it’s scary, because I placed much of my worth in those plans. But John, James, Jeremiah, and others are teaching me these truths, and Jesus is taking care to root them deeply by reminding me daily through big and small things – and inconsequential things, like losing rounds of Words with Friends – that who I am is Beloved of God.
Whatever I do or fail to do, whatever I win or lose, whatever roads I travel, whatever I am – talented or talentless, smart or stupid, foolish or wise, fast or slow, etc. – my identity is My Father’s Beloved Daughter. My identity doesn’t change in relation to nor is my value bound to my performance. As Frederick Buechner said, “We are children because He is our Father.”
Surely, I’m not the only one learning these truths in silly and hard ways.
So I wonder…how is God teaching you this most-important reality?
What is He using to break your pride, frustrate your plans, wither your desires, and so rebuild your faith, and draw from you the song and dance of the Beloved Child of the King? And are you soaking it in?