“Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
There’s always a reason for kids to line-up: to go out for recess, to get ice cream, to have a turn on the swings, etc. As a previous teacher, and now a mom, I’ve always tried to teach my students, and my kids, that you don’t race, or push and shove to be first in line. Instead, it’s more polite, more noble, to let others go before you. I’ve tried to role model this by letting other cars cut in front of me on the road, other customers in stores go through the check-out line before me. I’ve always believed that that was the premise behind this scripture passage: that in order to be first in virtue, you let others go before you so you end up last. I still see complete merit in this viewpoint, but I was recently taught a new way of looking at things by an eight year old I’ll call Hannah.
The two teen-aged daughters of my friend Jeanne ran a Princess Camp this summer where my daughter Jocelyn attended, and I volunteered. This camp, and the teenage girls, Kate and Maggie, were amazing! Each day they taught the little girls about virtues and the lives of female saints through the Disney Princesses.
On the first day of camp, when Kate and Maggie asked who could explain what this scripture passage meant, Hannah raised her hand. She marched right up to the front of the room with confidence and grace. She asked if she could show what it meant with the help of some volunteers. Hands flew into the air as the other little girls volunteered to help her. She proceeded to line up three of them and had them face in one direction. This amazing little eight year old then went on to explain that while facing in one direction there was a certain order, yet when the girls turned to face in the other direction, suddenly the first girl was last, and the last girl was first. I was completely blown away that someone so young could be so centered and wise. She stood before a room full of strangers and concretely demonstrated the true meaning of this scripture passage more clearly than any adult I’ve ever come across.
That image has stayed with me: the three volunteers lined up in one direction to then pivot in the opposite direction, reversing their order. Isn’t that an incredible visual of today’s culture versus what Jesus taught? Advertisements and peer pressure have us all clamoring to line up, shoving our way to the front, convincing ourselves that we need whatever they’re selling, despite it marching us off course, heading away from our real destination.
Once we wise up to how wrong that direction is, we pivot to reverse direction, only to find that not only are we now at the back of the line, but there is so much distance between us and our real destination.
Life is moving at a fast and furious pace. Social media bombards us constantly with all that we should be doing, all that we’re missing if we are not quick enough to jump on board. But Hannah has me thinking now before I line up: Am I facing the right direction? Is this line even going to lead me to where I want and need to go? At the end of the day, more importantly, at the end of my life, whether I’ve kept up with fashion and social trends, or not, won’t mean a thing. What will matter is whether my choices have me facing towards God, or away from Him, and the distance I have to travel to get back on course.
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