When did you first win a prize?
I remember the exact wooden desk near the door of the third grade classroom where I was sitting, one knee tucked up under me, leaning on my elbows, when Principal Sewell came on the loud-speaker. Among other things he announced my name as the winner of the bean guess at the carnival the week before. My heart thrilled a little as I took in the instructions to come to the office to claim my prize. It was a Sony Walkman, radio only, the perfect prize for an only child who grew up on Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and Roy Clark, the music of my parents. That Walkman empowered me to tune into Guns ‘N Roses, Bon Jovi, Madonna, all the best the 1980s DJs had to offer. It also empowered me to tune out my parents’ comments about how this music made their ears hurt it was so awful. That little window into the world was a treasured possession, and I listened to it until the foam covers on the headphones completely disintegrated.
Close to thirty years later my husband drew my name out of a big bowl of raffle tickets at a fundraiser for a local women’s shelter. I felt the same giddiness as I went forward to claim a pair of gold amethyst earrings generously donated by a local jeweler whose store I have never been inside. They’re treasures, and I have looked purposefully for many years for purple clothes so I am sure to have an excuse to wear them.
I’ve won other things through the years. I’ve been rather lucky, actually – a hand blown glass ornament at a firm Christmas party, a Halloween candle holder at an aerobics class, and a few awards that I’ve worked very hard to earn. The latter brings a different kind of satisfaction than the thrill of making a lucky guess or the odds turning in your favor. It’s fun to win. It’s a rush when the universe tips its hat to you.
There’s so much in this world worth working for whether we ever get an award for it or not. The Apostle Paul encourages us to press on toward the goal to win the prize. But I think these moments of sheer luck are important, too, because they remind me that I’m a winner apart from accomplishing anything. They remind me that there are prizes and spoils showered on me not because I deserve them, but simply because the God of the Universe has looked on me with favor.
I’ve worn myself out at times trying to earn prizes, most of them impossible awards like being universally liked or always approved. I’m learning each day to rest in the spoils that I did nothing to earn, to center myself in the love that claimed and delighted in me before I even took a breath. A long time ago I said Romans 5:8 was my favorite Bible verse. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” I remember the pastor leading our small group looked puzzled and asked, “Why?” I don’t remember what response I gave then, but I know what reason I’d give now. All this pressure to perform, to earn, to be and do more, is a lie. I’m not earning anything. I am loved. I am worth dying for. I am a prize and a treasure before I even know enough to clean myself up and get my act together. And so are you. And that is something, maybe the only thing, worth boasting about winning.
My friend gave me the audiobook Tattoos On The Heart by Father Gregory Boyle last week. If you struggle to just accept that you are loved, that you don’t have to jump through any hoops, or maybe you just never feel good enough, you need this book in your life. I’m going to listen to it a thousand times, or at least as many as it takes to absorb every morsel of truth in it.
Please tell me about a time you won a prize. What was it? How did it feel to win? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a short response in the comments. I can’t wait to hear your story!