The Beautiful Letdown

Road hockey is a long-standing Canadian tradition–so much so that we invented the word “shinny” to describe the informal games that are played on driveways, roads and parking lots across the nation. It seems that today’s youth generally prefers to play hockey on the Playstation and it is becoming more and more rare to see panting kids, huffing and puffing up the road with frozen cheeks, frozen noses and missing teeth. And the nation is worse for it. Times have changed. But I digress.

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When I was in grade school I knew that any self-respecting boy had to have a hockey stick at school throughout the duration of the school year. Every recess and lunch break afforded us the opportunity to head outdoors, even if it was just for fifteen or twenty minutes, to play a bit of pick-up hockey. Of course the difficultly always arose that we needed to divide into teams. Now there were two methods of doing this. The first was an egalitarian method where all the sticks were thrown into a pile and a blindfolded person (actually, the blindfold was usually just a “touque” (another Canadian word, this one meaning “hat”) pulled over the person’s eyes) would divide them into two groups by simpling rifling the sticks into two equal piles. The group your stick was in defined which team you would play for. This method was quick and easy but could lead to imbalanced teams.

The second method was the skill-based method where two captains would be quickly chosen and they would pick their teams as they saw fit. Naturally the most-skilled players were picked first and the least-skilled were picked last. While I was never a standout player, it was blessedly rare for me to be the last guy picked. Last guy picked was, as you know, a position of shame and embarrassment and was reserved only for the most clumsy, least-athletic guy in the class. Of course the least-athletic guy was also considered the class loser. Popularity in grade school was largely determined by one’s ability to succeed in sports. Those who simply did not have the coordination and skill to do well in sports ranked at the very bottom of the pecking order.

As I reminisce about my childhood I become profoundly thankful that God didn’t use either of these methods to choose a people for Himself. The Bible tells us that God predestined to salvation those who would believe in Him. While He has not seen fit to reveal exactly how He chose who would be among the elect and who would not, we do have some ideas about how He did not go about this.

God did not sort people into a pile, determine how many he wanted to spend eternity in heaven with Him, and then go through them and count them off like a gym teacher. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, in! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, in!” We know this is not the way He acted because in the first verses of Ephesians Paul tells us that we were predestined “according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” It was not mere statistics or chance that we were saved and there was nothing arbitrary about it. Rather, we were saved by an act of God’s will and were saved for His glory. We also know that God did not choose people based on what they had to offer Him. He did not choose us based on our love for Him, our desire to be His children or on the skill we could exhibit in serving or worshiping Him. Paul illustrates this in the letter to the Romans. Writing about Jacob and Esau he tells us that God announced His decision concerning which of the twins would love Him before they were even born so that “God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls.” (Romans 9:11-12)

A few years ago Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot wrote a song called “The Beautiful Letdown” in which he describes the church. “We are a beautiful letdown, painfully uncool, the church of the dropouts the losers the sinners the failures and the fools.” I love those words. Often when I begin to feel like I have something to offer God or somehow that I have done something to deserve God’s love, those words will spring to mind. The church is not made up of the best of people–the most intelligent, the most athletic, the coolest, the funniest, the most-skilled or the ones who have the most to offer. No, the church is made of what the world perceives to be dropouts, losers, sinners, failures and fools. It is made up of fools who have been made wise by God so that we can trust in Divine wisdom rather than the wisdom of this world. It is made of those who have left behind careers, dreams and riches to seek after God. It is made up of people who are empowered by God Himself so that He can live life in and through them. It is made up of those to whom God has given grace to see that success in His eyes is often failure in the world’s.

God has chosen a people for Himself, and thanks be to Him, He has done so using Divine wisdom that transcends any human mind. We do not know on what basis He chose us, but we do know why we were chosen. He set us apart to bring glory and honor to Him, both here on earth and for eternity in heaven. Or as Ephesians puts it, we were predestined “in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” What a joy and honor it is to praise Him for His wisdom, knowing that our obedience brings glory to His name. God can be glorified in and through me! And through His power, He will be.