Monday, September 26, 2016

A Trophy Unmerited

A racetrack.  High performance motors shrouded within thin steel skins decorated with everything from rattle-can spray paint to professional decals indicating thousands of dollars of sponsorship.  Protective roll cages defining form and aerodynamics as engines roared and lurched to be unleashed.  Within the narrow slits that were "windows", helmeted drivers gripped wheels with gloved hands as they steered into predetermined starting positions. 

This was a dirt racing track, and with every passing of the column of roaring beasts, familiar chemical fumes merged with present cigarette smoke as many spectators emulated the exhausting of burning by-products with the same proficiency as the motors churning on the track below.  Smoking engines.  Smoking people.  Dust churning.  Excitement building. 

The announcer relayed vital statistics and race information that was uselessly drowned out into a Miss Othmar muffle by the passing machinery as speakers could hardly complete with the decibel output of performance engines.  Barely audible was the fact that the lead driver in the pole position was undefeated.  As such a "bounty" had been placed up on him.  The driver who could beat him would earn extra prizes.  This had been going on for several races in a row and the bounty continued to grow with each race.  Yet this champion remained unbeaten.   The crowd cheered in anticipation of this new weight added to the contest ahead.

The caution light was removed indicating the race was set.  A final lap and the green flag was expertly waved for all to see as horsepower was unleashed thrusting cars and drivers forward in rapid acceleration.  As with all dirt tracks, winning is not in the straight-aways, but in the turns.  Cars jockey for position for proper turning advantage as they dip or rise into the turns at high velocity.  Sliding through the turn they sling-shot out of them to surge forward, correcting for the loose surfacing slide, seeking to out maneuver briefly before engaging the next turn. 

Not long into the contest a single mistake yields a gasp and many exclamations from the spectators as one decision yields consequences for many.  Vehicles collide, spin-out, and come to a rest.  The yellow flag is thrown and caution lights burn.  Those who avoided the pile-up slow to a crawl, resetting their positions as they were prior to the accident.  Tow trucks race onto the field to extricate twisted frames and pull apart steel and machinery.  Those that are able realign their vehicles to continue the race with scraped and mangled sheet steel torn and missing but frames and engines intact.  Those less fortunate are pulled off of the field to become spectators themselves. 

Again, the motorcade is realigned based on position prior to the commotion.  Yellow disappears and green is thrown.  Again, engines roar to life thrusting steel and drivers forward in clouds of dust and fume.  Above the din can barely be heard the inarticulate announcements of the commentator as he recounts positioning, driver information, and point totals. 

Finally the race nears its ending, the white flag is waved, indicating one final lap remaining.  The champion has held the lead the entire race, staving off two eager competitors attempting to snatch victory.  Turn one, straight away, turn two, straight away, he surges forward increasing distance.  Turn three he expertly steers into the slide, preparing for turn four.  Finally the home stretch and the win.  A champion he remains in a contest that it seems he cannot lose.  A victory lap is taken.  The spectators are on their feet cheering as he drives past, finally coming to rest at the starting line as the other racing machines exit the field. 

The driver crawls out of the window of his machine, taking his helmet off tossing it into car.  Where one might imagine a fierce man of competition, present is a simple man who simply loves the sport he has just competed in.  The announcer puts a microphone up to his face and begins a cursory line of questioning about his feelings on the win, his machine, and his plans.  With humility the man attributes the win to the machine, good fortune, and thanks the other competitors indicating it could have easily been any one of them standing there before the announcer.  A large trophy is then handed to the man and he holds it aloft.  Then he does something unexpected.

Several children of varying ages have gathered in the grand stands near an entrance gate that grants access to the field.  The champion driver, trophy in hand, walks over to the gate as the children clamor for his attention, shouting his name.  He looks them over and then points to a small boy, no more than eight years of age.  Opening the gate, the man hands the boy the trophy, says a brief word and then turns to walk back to the machine that brought him victory.  The other children begin to melt away but the boy holding the trophy is now holding victory.  The prize almost as tall as he is, he makes his way back into the stands to parents waiting with a smile that seems permanently etched on his young face.  This boy is now the champion.

I was privileged to witness the above recently and was immediately drawn to the parallel that I too have been given a gift  that I never actually deserved by one who fought and won a race of much more cosmic and eternal consequence.  Like the driver above, my Champion was undefeated, unparalleled and could not be touched.  A bounty was also placed upon his head and yet he still completed the race before him in stunning victory and then he did something completely unexpected to all who witnessed.  He handed me the trophy. 

We struggle and clamor for so many trophies, prizes, and rewards when many of us know what his Word has this to say on the matter:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

He gave us unmerited favor, unmerited love, unmerited grace, unmerited life.  He gave us the trophy unmerited.  He simply asks that we follow after his example and do likewise for others.  What does this look like?  It is the treasure that does not rust, it is the building up of others, the reaching for the hurting, the compassionate hand, the listening ear in the silence.  The one commonality each of us share is that everyone of us are broken and ruined humans.  When we learn to be broken and ruined for Him, he can use this to affect masses. 

And like the child I witnessed infused with self-worth and joy, we can be instrumental in infusing His life and joy, His purpose into others when we are willing to share this trophy unmerited.

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