“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” –Colossians 3:1-4
I’m not sure how my friends and I had come to the topic of what life was like at eighteen, but I do remember my answer and I’ve given it some thought since then.
It was just a short little exchange. One woman mentioned that she wished she was eighteen again. While everyone else piped up about how foolish they were at eighteen and are glad those years are behind them, I too confessed that those younger years were some of the best days of my life.
Now, of course my wedding day, children’s births, and many days since are probably the true best days of my life, being that they were full of meaning and milestones, but for some reason 18-21 really rocked in my mind.
But why? What leads me longing for eighteen again? Was it the lack of responsibilities weighing on me? Or maybe it was the reckless abandon of the Doc Martins, orange hair, and argyle socks that I so exquisitely pulled off (think Angela from My So Called Life). While much of that may be the case I think the real answer lies in what I blurted out when asked why I loved eighteen so much.
“I was winning.”
Really. That’s what it boils down to. I was winning at life. Success defined me in those years. I was ruling the net on the volleyball court, raking in the medals, ribbons, and titles at the horse shows, and hanging with all the boys. It felt great. I was at the top of my game. I had amazing confidence in myself. So much so that on occasion I trained in a one-piece tie-died spandex suit. One-piece. Tie-died. Spandex. Please don’t go there. I’m still trying to recover.
As you can imagine, desperate, messy, and needy were nowhere in my vocabulary. I was doing just fine. I was winning and I was free…or so I thought.
As life has hung its years on my body, I am no longer winning. I broke down a long time ago. I can no longer play the court and am seldom able to ride my horse without wrecking my back. And hanging with the boys? Well, that now means something entirely different (insert favorite potty joke here). Worldly success doesn’t define me and failure is chronic as I do my best to parent four children.
Sure, I am doing some great things that may look like winning such as being a constant in my kids’ life, caring about their grades, signing them up for activities that help them to grow but at the end of the day when I have just freaked out on them about a toothbrush that is laying on the floor next to the toilet again, I know that in that moment I certainly haven’t won.
It is in those moments that I see how very much I cannot do this parenting thing (or anything) without an ocean of grace. My very breath depends on a man who came to win the world by allowing himself to be mercilessly fixed to a beam with spikes driven through the flesh and tendons of his body, to hang in agony, to be ripped away from the perfect union with his Father, becoming sin on our behalf so that we may never have to cry out in loss, “My Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Nobody was rooting for the underdog that day and what looked like a miserable loss was essentially the greatest win of all time.
A win that procured our freedom.
A horrific, tragic, heart-breaking win at the loss of another.
In all of our losing, we have One who has won for us. In fact, losing is exactly what qualifies us for the win. Christ didn’t come to call the winners. He didn’t come to save those who were getting it right. He didn’t hold intensive twice a day tryouts so that he could build a super team of amazing players. Instead he built a team of benchwarmers, water boys, and the weaklings who couldn’t make the cut.
He came to call the desperate, messy, and needy like you and me. And through our union with him we have gained something far greater than success, we have gained Christ who is our life.
I was wrong about a lot of things at eighteen. Freedom is not gained by our win, it is gained by his. And one day I will be in perpetual celebration of that win. No more broken body. No more losses. And thankfully no more one-piece tie-died spandex suits.