At the end of the seventeen hour journey, the trophy proclaiming second runner-up was positioned next to the Grand Champion trophy. Although the smaller award was admittedly dwarfed in the shadow of the previous week's impressive prize, it represented something mere size can't measure.
The high school Show Choir met at 7 a.m. on that Saturday to travel to their destination in another state for an all-day competition that culminated months of practicing everything from singing and dancing, to presentation and production, to articulation and attitude. Coming off the grand champion victory of the previous week, the teen's spirits were high. They walked into the venue with a confidence that belongs to champions.
Unfortunately, the wheel of good fortune spun that day and landed on the judges proclaiming them third place in the preliminaries. And for a while this affected the way they saw themselves. They were the same award-winning, awe-inspiring, talented kids that walked into that competition. It's just they stopped believing that's who they were the moment someone else deemed them less deserving than the best. The performers had forgotten that others can judge us, but they can't define us.
The teens themselves had not changed. Perhaps this week, a pose wasn't held long enough, or a note went sharp, but that didn't change the definition of who those teenagers were.
At last by the finals, they finally seemed to realize this. They didn’t give up. They regrouped and reclaimed their winning spirit. This goose-bump-inducing performance would leave the audience recognizing beyond a doubt that they were winners. Receiving the second runner-up trophy didn't change the triumphant definition of who they were in the least. In some ways it represented the heart of a champion even more than the colossal trophy of the week before. True, we all like coming in first. Winning is good. And we certainly need to encourage our children to strive to be the best they can be, not settling for less than we know they are capable of. But when we allow those judging us to have the power to define us, we lose sight of who we are and who God intended us to be.
After all, He is the one who originally defined each of us and ultimately is the only one whose judgment actually matters at all.