Runner-Up: Lessons in Humility From Almost Winning
“Congratulations!” my friend Kristin said as I climbed to my place on the risers. We took out our folders and pencils, preparing for the final choir rehearsal of the school year.
“Um, thanks,” I replied, confused about what praise-worthy thing I had done. I smiled. “But I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“You made the list of sopranos for the Korea trip! Third alternate.” She smiled.
“Oh. Thanks for letting me know.” While it didn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, I hadn’t expected to get anywhere near the top of the list, nor had I realized that choir tryouts also served as the Korea trip audition. Baylor was sending a small choir to an international choral festival in August, and though I was willing and eager to go—especially since most of the cost was covered by the university—I knew there were far more talented singers than I in the music program, so I hadn’t even considered it.
Two months later while at home for the summer, I received a phone call. Three girls couldn’t go on the trip, and I was invited. Here I was, squeaking by, yet again. Still, I was thrilled, and I told my parents the news. We laughed together; it was a joke between us that I was destined to be the alternate or understudy.
Don’t get me wrong—I felt grateful. The Korea choir trip turned out to be a highlight of my college career, as did a music theater group I was asked to join after another soprano decided to drop out. However, the pattern of almost getting in, or being selected at the last minute, frustrated me. Was I not good enough to be a lead? Did I not work hard enough? Was God displeased with me?
Looking back, I can see that God was trying to teach me humility and contentment. As a young woman with emotional baggage and a skewed view of God’s grace, I had made accomplishment and approval-seeking my idols. In my small town high school, I racked up awards, whether they were meaningful or not. None of it satisfied. There was always some other goal to strive for or pinnacle to climb towards. Because I also loved writing and sought publication for my words, I endured repeated rejections, as well. But instead of finding joy in the process, each “no” only made me vow to do better and try harder.
During my college years, I swam in a much larger pond. God worked on my heart, but I was a very slow learner. For a while, I gave up trying new things, just to avoid failing (or almost failing).
A few years after the Korea trip, a friend cast me as (sigh) the understudy to two roles I badly wanted. That news sent me into a depression, which led me to Christian counseling. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I slowly started to learn what it truly means to be loved, without doing a thing to earn it.
Once I rested in my Heavenly Father’s approval, I began to find peace. And in God’s timing, I ended up spending ten years as a lead performer in a music theater company which I didn’t even audition for. How’s that for grace?
To be honest, it’s still a struggle. I love accolades, just like everyone else. But I’m learning that God wants more than stewardship of my talents; He wants surrender. He longs for me to place my dreams in His all-loving hands, so that He can do what will serve Him—and me—best.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Even as the hectic pace of the holidays begins to swirl around us, many of us are struggling to remember the humility of this season, when the God of the universe took on flesh as a barn-born babe swaddled in seed sacks. But Jesus' incarnation wasn't just a humble beginning. The entire life and especially the death of Jesus demonstrated humility. How do we respond when faced with such sacrifice? Join us on Thursday mornings in December as we explore humility. And if you have a minute to spare between trimming the tree and shopping for stocking stuffers, drop us a note in the comments to tell us what living in humility means to you.
Other Posts on Humility:
- How Does Humility Factor into Your Role As a Leader? by Deidra Riggs
- Runner-Up: Lessons in Humility from Almost Winning by Dena Dyer
Dena Dyer is a professional speaker and author whose books include Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts (Kregel, 2013) with Tina Samples. Connect with her on her website (www.denadyer.com), Facebook (DenaDyer-Author) or Twitter (motherinferior2).