Bracket to Bracket

So, what do you like to do? Do you play a sport? Do you play an instrument? Are you into drama or art? What do you want to be when you grow up? How are your grades?

These are the questions we begin pelting our children with as soon as they are old enough to communicate. I don’t know what it is like where you live, but what a person is going to do in life starts to be defined very early. What sport or direction a person wants to go needs to be decided early in our town if you want to participate in school. It has to be decided early because in our town it’s more about competition and how good you are at something than just participating and having fun with it. If you can’t compete at the highest levels you don’t get to play at all. Not getting picked for a team at recess is the least of a kids worries.

Have you ever been asked those questions or something similar and just didn’t have any answers? What if none of those things are your thing? What if you don’t know what you like to do? What if you just know none of those things are your thing? What if you haven’t discovered your thing yet? What if you’ve tried lots of things and just haven’t found one that sticks? What if you just want to have fun without the pressure of performing and competing?

What if your goal in life isn’t to be the best? What if you aren’t competitive by nature and just want to enjoy life without the pressure of getting to the top? What if that pressure has actually stopped you from even starting? What if a culture of competition has actually caused you to not even get in the game? What if you believe you have to be the best or you might as well not even play? What if discovering that you can play but you will never be part of the élite takes the wind out of your sails?

What are we doing to our kids when we tell them they have to be the best or they might as well pack it in? What are we doing to them when we tell them they better figure out what they want to be in life before they reach High School? How many adults are still playing the sports they played in Elementary or Middle or High School? How many adults are still in careers that they started out in or want to be? How many adults had their lives all planned out before they reached puberty? If they did, how did that play out?

I’m a parent. I want my kids to succeed in life. I want them to be the best they can be at what they do. I want them to find their thing. I want them to do the things that will bring them joy and happiness. I want them to do what they were placed on this earth to do. I want them to reach for the stars and not settle for less than they were created for. What parent doesn’t want that for their child?

I am also competitive by nature. I like to win. I like to know the rules. I like to know what it takes to be successful at the things I spend my time on. I don’t want to fail. I want to know I’ve got a shot at success before I step into the ring. If there is a hint that I might not have what it takes I have a tendency to pack up my things and move on to the next thing. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that you may not be cut out for something and choosing to spend your time and effort on something else. There is a difference between that and being afraid to fail and stopping short of your destiny.

What if that mentality makes its way into your church? What if that mentality makes its way into your personal journey with God? What if that mentality makes its way into the way you approach ministry? What if you look up and discover you are competing to be number one in everything, including your walk with God?

This weekend my youngest played in a softball tournament. Her team, which has struggled to make it into the win column, won their very first bracket game and with that win they also won their bracket. Exciting, huh? Is it still exciting if I tell you they lost their first four games that weekend? Is it still exciting if I tell you they were in the lowest bracket with one other 0-4 team? Is it still exciting if I tell you all the other teams in the tournament played on? Our team was one of three teams to receive a trophy this weekend. Only the winners of each bracket received hardware for their efforts. Because of our previous losses we were placed in the lowest bracket but we went home with a trophy.  Many teams out played us in the earlier games yet went home empty-handed. They say the pool games don’t count but they do decide which bracket you get to compete in. They do decide which prize you are allowed to compete for. When matched up with our skill level, we won. That is something to celebrate in the world of competition. That is where you have to start if you hope to get to the next level. If you are a bronze level team and you try to compete in the gold bracket you will go home before you even start. If you want to play in the gold bracket you have to first go thru the victories and defeats to get to that level. If you don’t show up to your game just because you can’t play in their game, yet, then you won’t enjoy the wins along the way.

Our team started out in the rec league and was a force to be reckoned with. We were one of the teams to beat. We were competitive at that level. Select has been a new ballgame requiring a new set of skills. If the girls want to rise to a higher level of competition they will have to do the hard work. If they decide the competition is more than they can handle their days as competitive softball players are numbered. These girls can all outplay me. I just play for fun and it shows. I don’t choose to be competitive at softball.

There are things I do want to increase in my ability to do. There are things I want to become better at. There are places on my spiritual journey that I’m pretty good at and places that I just dream of. I’m wired for a glory to glory kind of life. The enemy tries to trip me up on that journey with a competitive spirit that threatens to derail me by placing my eyes on those who are ahead of me on their journeys. The enemy tries to steal the joy in the victories along the way by planting my eyes on the victories of others who are places on the journey I am hoping to be one day. Those people have done the hard work. They have tried and failed and gotten back up and tried again. They have spent hours in the secret place of intimacy with the Father developing the skills needed to live and love more like Him. They have spent the time to tune their spiritual ears and eyes to the One responsible for their promotion from glory to glory. They have discovered more of their identity and who they are by spending time in the ditches with the One who knows what their thing is and calls that thing out of them as all the other lesser things fall away.

The spiritual life isn’t a competition. It is about moving from glory to glory and living the life you were called to live. It really doesn’t matter which bracket you find yourself in as long as you are in the one God places you in and you show up and live that one with what God has given you for that season and do that with all your heart. The glory to glory is His job!

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18



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