I had the opportunity to go to the “field day” of one of my children recently.
I remember some of my own field days a generation ago in elementary school, and cannot remember seeing one parent or camera there for the occasion. Times have changed; and field days have changed too. I do remember “winning” the 100-yard dash in second grade when my biggest competition tripped over each other and I was able to thrust past them to the finish line first. Other than an assistant PE coach tasked with holding a stopwatch and manning the finish line, I was left to celebrate and mark the occasion by myself.
So, I am new to the world of field day being part of my parental regimen. In spite of my field day baggage, I enjoyed watching – and especially enjoyed watching how much the kids participated gladly in the events and seemed to have a great time. There was even a moment where I caught myself worrying about whether some teams/classes had unfair advantages over others and why the teacher did not pick a better strategy in organizing her order of participants. Mind you, none of the children participating in field day were worried about these things; they were simply enjoying this special day, doing their very best, cheering for each other and looking forward to the next event. Why couldn’t I do that?
At times, I believe we are all in danger of being held captive by our own anxieties and critical edges, aren’t we? Worrying over the competition, the competitive advantages and disadvantages, forgetting the purpose of the race we are called to run.
On Sunday we baptized a baby into the life of the Christian community and we reminded that child and her parents that their love alone cannot make her a Christian. She will need a huge amount of investment from Sunday school teachers, worship center leaders, nursery volunteers and the loving church members who she is not related to but who sit down the pew from her. She will need confirmation teachers, elder friends, youth ministry leaders, friends and comrades in arms all along the way and, most of all, she will need the mysterious, persistent and loving-yet-hidden work of the Holy Spirit. The beauty of the Christian community to which she and I belong is that when we get disoriented or distorted by life or when we are too caught up in the competition or the details of the race, in various and mysterious ways something or someone pulls us back into a community of people doing their best, cheering for each other and looking forward cheerfully.
That is the gift Christian community gives to our world – not to win the prize for best Christian, not to win the prize for most humble, not to win the prize for best disciple and worshipper. Instead, we invest an inverse and inordinate amount of time in the lives of people through whom we may not always see results, success or fruit. But perhaps that is what it means to be “lost” in wonder love, and praise.
CHRIS CURRIE is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Shreveport, Louisiana.