Choosing Devin (even if it costs us the game)

It goes without saying that Jr. High is tremendously awkward for most kids. It's this weird hodge-podge of developmental stages and life experiences. Some boys have already been shaving for a year while others are still wetting the bed at night. A few are doing both. Girls are a good foot taller than the guys and several have deeper voices than them; until some Thursday in October when in about the span of an hour you simultaneously become a baritone and your face turns into a braille instruction manual. It's nature's white-elephant-gift exchange, with no swaps allowed. To make matters worse, there's always at least one kid who it seems never got the puberty memo. While everyone else's body is plunging headlong into a pool of hormones and embarrassment, they're sitting on the sidelines in this weird, extended childhood, usually forming the standard fare for the bully in its natural habitat: P.E. class.

Our puberty hold-out was named Devin. He was every bully's dream come true. A grade or two ahead of his age group, he was incredibly slight-of-stature, even for his age. To make matters worse, he was also one of the most vocally sensitive kids about anything that wasn't fair, especially in regards to himself. He would regularly spend his P.E. class crying at the P.E. teacher's side, and, unfortunately, all the standard small-kid-at-recess cliches applied: picked last for every sport, singled out for humiliation during the games, teased the most if his team lost, etc.

To be fair, kids at our school generally did a pretty good job protecting him from the worst of any bullying. We were a small private Christian school comprised mostly of good kids from strong families who were looking to follow Christ to the best of their abilities. But, even in that environment... Jr. High often still happens – even if it's to a more sanitized, censored script.

Occasionally, a spirit of conviction would descend upon the participants of Mr. Minor's afternoon P.E. class, and, in a show a solidarity with the least-of-these, the regular team leaders would decide to pick the worst players first. I always appreciated seeing that happen and hoped it was an encouragement to those kids who regularly were picked last.**

Daily, I'm reminded of just how up-lifting it can be to be chosen, and, conversely, how devastating it can be to be rejected. Many of us work our entire lives to be chosen: chosen for a promotion, chosen for a home loan, chosen as a friend or as a spouse, chosen as the pretty, funny, or the smart one - or even the Christ-like one. We all enjoy the ego boost that come with a compliment over our looks or an acknowledgment of our achievements. But, what happens when our skin sags and our hair greys, when we get let go from a job and have to start over, or when a relationship ends in rejection. The fallout from being un-chosen can often persist for a lifetime.

In Romans 8:15-16, Paul declares triumphantly, “you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God [...]"

Paul offers here a beautiful picture of undeserved favor. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, those individuals who didn't have an heir could adopt someone, perhaps a relative or a household slave, to become their son and, thus, heir to their property. The adopted one would take on the status and honor of their adopted father and had all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a natural born son. Being chosen as adopted son was completely transformational to the identity of the new heir. And so it is for us.

In a world of shifting valuations and positional jockeying, Paul reminds us today of the steadfast, transformative nature of our chosen-ness. Through our faith and Christ's faithfulness, we have been grafted in to the olive tree of God's chosen people, not dependent upon our ability to offer anything in return, but, purely because of the love of God for each one of us. We have been adopted as sons – with all the full rights and privileges sonship affords. And, further, this is a sonship in which we approach our loving Father boldly through His Spirit. When we encounter circumstances which make us doubt our worth or find ourselves in a caustic back-and-forth of endless comparison, Christ calls us back to reality: our identity as beloved sons of God, chosen in the midst of our own brokenness and sin.

May we live and act in reflection of the reality of our chosen-ness, both to encourage those within the body and to direct the lost sons of God home.

Your District Administration

**In retrospect, I'm not sure how encouraging picking the least desirable players first actually was - it's really just the same process of pointing out the worst participants, except in reverse order. But, I also don't imagine that many 7th graders analyze the potential emotional experience of various team-picking philosophies. We may never know....

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