“That I am chosen to minister means to let other people discover that they are chosen, too.” ~ Henri Nouwen
For so many of us, chosen takes us back to that moment on the playground when the captains were choosing up sides. The best kids go first. The worst were saved for last. It was those same few kids that always had to wait for the their names to be called. That took patience and fortitude, but selection was guaranteed because everyone got to play.
Those were the old, shall we say good old, days when picking teams was simple. Self-selection, even by peers, seemed much better than being assigned to a roster. It was the way we kept things fair. Split up the “good” players and the “bad” so no team had all of either.
Somewhere along the way, as playground gave way to organized sports, adults started forming the rosters. Players were selected by coaches but picked according to rounds in the draft in an effort to keep things even and encourage strong competition during the season.
Somehow regular seasons gave way to all-stars, then travel teams, then select and now elite versions of those teams. You were picked for all stars, selected (obviously) for select, and recruited for elite. Each one was a step up the ladder of chosen. How different those words: selected and chosen.
To select an apple from the bin I pick it up, give it a squeeze, turn it over in my hand, and if there are no mushy spots and there is no evidence of worm holes, I put it in my basket. Selection is simple. But chosen, now that means I have given serious consideration to all of the options, evaluated every characteristic, and diligently sorted until I have found the one and only, the most special, the one certainly meant to be mine.
Perhaps it is this terminology that upends us in the youth sports arena today. “What! You didn’t choose MY child?!” She’s special, talented, the best kid out there. And of course she is. Each parent knows their kid is special, select, chosen, gifted. Getting on the elite team doesn’t confirm this, just as being cut from the team doesn’t deny it. But the positioning of our precious ones on stratified teams somehow misses the point. I mean, when did it become fashionable to be “elitist” anyway?
I much prefer the lesson taught to me by 7 and 8 year old soccer players. At the end of the season we voted on “superlatives.” I gave them a few ideas, but generally they were instructed to assign a “best _______” to each of their teammates. Some were silly, some were more serious, all of them were complimentary and were voted on completely by the team. No coaches. No parents. Just kids.
Each season, I would tally the votes, and while a few kids got creative (ie. the most likely to have her laces untied) most were a true reflection of the recipient: best smile, most friendly, happiest, best shooter, fastest, and so on. The funny thing was, I always had at least one kid who’s list would have multiple teammates voted best at the same thing. In a child’s eyes, it’s perfectly normal to have 3 players chosen as best shooter, best goalie, best smile or even MVP. Why stop at just one best?
One day, the quantified, ranked, ordinal world breaks in on all of us. The 7 and 8 year-old in us learns that there can be only one superlative. I guess that’s why our chosen-ness is so hard to embrace. Me? I’m not best at anything. Maybe chosen doesn’t mean best at or even better than, rather we’ve been selected, hand-picked, and identified as just the right one.
For what? Well, that’s what life after 7 is all about.