It was the year 1989, I was a 5th grader at Gage Elementary School in San Diego, CA. This year was a big one for me because it was my first year in public school. In fact it was my first time ever going to school with anyone who’s last name wasn’t Brower. I was homeschooled by my mother until I was 10 years old. To add to my lack of social experience, my brother and sister had both gone to school 2 years earlier so it was just me at home with my mom. That season of my life was all about Gymnastics, I had stayed at home for school so I would be free to spend more hours at the gym training. While it may have been good for my short-lived gymnastics career, nothing about two-a-day one on one training sessions with my coach could prepare me for my first recess.
I remember feeling like the only kid on the playground who wasn’t thoroughly prepared for what would come next. Kick ball was the chosen game for that day… it was the chosen game most days. As is customary on elementary school playgrounds across America, the two most confident boys would anoint themselves “captains,” and would begin picking their teams one at a time. They stood in front of us barking out names, back and forth, one after the next while we stood there, helplessly waiting for the moment they we heard our name called, to be chosen.
Hayden Epstein was the biggest, fastest, strongest and most confident kid on the playground, and not only was he always a captain, but he was usually the one who would pick the other captain as well. When I first met Hayden I wasn’t sure what to do with a guy who had this level of confidence. He had been “the man” in the eyes of these other students for the past 5-6 years. By the time I came into the picture, his position of power was firmly set in the minds of all the other boys. I remember wanting his approval, I remember striving for his approval and I remember desperately wanting to be, “Chosen,” by him. It wasn’t as much about kick ball as it was about my desire to be validated as a person. In the context of my small elementary school in San Diego, CA, Hayden was the bar. Being “Chosen,” by him was all I, or any other 5th grade boy on that playground needed or wanted to feel as though we had… arrived.
To be chosen…
Is it specific to me? am I the only one who so desperately seeks the approval of others? Am I the only one who loves to hear my name called… to sense I am valuable to another?
Am I the only one who so often seeks the approval of others in order to validate my man hood, even my very existence?
I may be worse than others, by I am confident that this desire to be chosen is one that is common to all who breath the air of this broken world. We have a built in, hard wired desire to be chosen, to be called out, by name, to be told, you are what I want, by someone bigger, and more significant than we are.
Last night my family went to see the musical Annie at the Glendale Centre Theatre. Annie is an orphan who will not admit she is an orphan. She has a picture in her mind of the one thing that would validate her as a human being. Parents, her parents. She holds onto a dream that one day they will come back to the orphanage, scoop her up in their arms and they will be a family once again. As the story unfolds you watch the different ways she clings to this dream, and its not about having stuff, or being normal. Its not about a desire for general love, its about being chosen… its about being chosen by them… her parents and no one else. The other little girls in the orphanage look up to her, if another came along to adopt her, that wouldn’t be enough. She needs to be chosen by the ones she believes matter most, her birth parents. She clings to an old broken locket that she has only half of. Her parents have the other half and she dreams of the day they return and the locket is whole once more.
Later in the show, Oliver Warbucks the billionaire business man and stock market tycoon invites her to come stay with him for Christmas and essentially ends up falling totally in love with her, to the point he is wanting to adopt her.
He goes out and buys a brand new locket to replace the old one that represents broken dreams, pain and empty promises. He plans to share the news of the adoption with Annie, have her jump into his arms and they live happily ever after.
Something very interesting happens next…
Annie’s greatest need as an orphan, as a human, is to be chosen, and here in this scene, the most important man in America is choosing her. He is saying I want you… you are the only thing missing in my life. I want to give you the world, everything I have is yours. He has the ability to meet all her needs, top to bottom including her greatest need of all. To be chosen.
Her response is what is so interesting. Instead of thrill, joy and excitement, she rejects his choice in favor of holding onto an broken dream and empty promise. She wants to be chosen by her real parents, and is so blinded by what she thinks she wants, by her insecurity that she has no ability to recognize what Daddy Warbucks is really offering her.
Isaiah 41 speaks of the way the maker of the universe has, “Chosen,” each one of us. As we are, where we sit, exactly where we stand. It is not a choice based on our behavior, or ability to live up to His standard. It is not based on what we have to offer, or how we love in return. It is pure, no strings attached and entirely unconditional.
The God of the universe, who spoke the heavens into place says this of you and me…
“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. i said, “you are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. so do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God…””
Beautiful words aren’t they?
Can this really be true? Of me? Of you?
My response to this incredible love and acceptance has most often been a distracted one… yeah, ok God, that sounds nice as my eyes wander about looking for what I would prefer to define me, give me value and validate my life.
The call of Isaiah 41 one is to find our hope in Him. To let Him be what defines me, what brings me my worth. His love is perfect, sustaining, and totally free!
Who is your Hayden? Who is your “birth parents?”
It’s time to let go and let God be your perfect Daddy Warbucks.
God, teach my heart to stop striving after lovers who won’t satisfy. Teach my heart to find its security in the reality that I am not an orphan, I am your son, you have called me by name, you have chosen me.
I AM CHOSEN