Rebecca Graber is a Masters of Theological Studies and Masters in Social Work student at Samford University. She enjoys reading Martin Luther, Flannery O'Connor, and Sylvia Plath. Rebecca also enjoys laughing, cooking, destroying others in Catan, and taking pictures of her hedgehog, Odette. She is a staunch anti-cargo shorts activist; no man needs that many pockets, and if he tells you otherwise, he is probably hiding something. You can read more of her writing here.
One common trope in films and television shows about adolescence is getting picked last for gym class. Usually the nerdy kid with no athletic ability stands alone as the team captain resigns and takes him or her because there is no one else. Or the genre where the nerdy girl or guy pines away, hoping someone (usually the most popular person in school) will choose him or her for a prom date.
Deep down inside, however, even the most seemingly successful and popular of us can relate on some level.We all want to be chosen for something. We live in a society based on meritocracy and competition. It’s the survival of the fittest, baby, and we have to keep up. Shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, America’s Next Top Model, and even The Bachelor and Bachelorette have a million seasons because they are all, in some way, about someone rising to the top and being chosen as the winner.
In our day to day lives, we see this in our desire to be chosen as the leader for a project, to be included when others get together (FOMO, anyone?), and to be picked for jobs, awards, and scholarships. It feels good to be picked because we feel it validates our existence. Even if we have a cool exterior, deep down inside of us, we are all Meredith Grey, screaming, “Pick me, choose me, love me.”
This is something I feel succinctly in my own life. On the Enneagram, I’m a 3 with a 4 wing. This basically means I am driven by the need to succeed. My basic fear is to be worthless, and my basic desire is to feel valuable and worthwhile. I want to be recognized and chosen. I recently went through interviews for my social work internship next year. I enjoy interviews because I like proving myself and getting people to pick me. Next year I will look for jobs and pray that someone will choose me to work as a clinical social worker.
In an even more acute way, I want to be chosen as a partner in marriage. As I’ve talked to married friends and read books on couples’ counseling, I’ve realized that’s what love and marriage is: it is choosing one person, everyday, for the rest of your life. It is choosing them when they delight you and when they hurt you. It’s choosing his good over your own; choosing to be vulnerable when you’d rather put defenses up; it’s moving towards someone when you want to shut down and run away. Yet, in this season, I’ve felt the absence of that. I’ve felt dejected, have seen frankly the extent of my flaws and weaknesses, have seen my avoidant attachment style and my propensity to emotionally shut down when someone gets too close. All of this has made me wonder, at times, if I will ever be the person who is chosen or if I’m just not good enough.
Yet, God has spoken to me and to you today through his Word. In Deuteronomy 7:6-9, God speaks to Israel, saying
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
God chose Israel not because they were attractive, strong, or even very faithful. No, God chose them because he loved them. They did not “prove” themselves to him before he loved them. Rather, as Romans 8:29 states, "those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” And Ephesians 1:4-5 proclaims, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
As my favorite line in the Heidelberg Disputation says, "Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive."
You and I do not have to clean ourselves up; we don’t have to try to be something we are not or present a fake self to God. He knows who you are and he still chooses you. He chose you before the foundation of the world. You were, in other words, picked before gym class started. No matter how deep or dirty your sin is, no matter how worthless and helpless you feel, God says, "I have chosen you.” While we were enemies of God, rejecting him, he still sent Jesus Christ to die for us (Romans 5:8).
And so, even if you and I do not feel it today, God speaks over us and says, “I choose you, I love you, I pick you.” Your identity is chosen; you are not chosen because of your identity. I know as I grasp this, I feel freedom. I feel freedom from trying to be something I’m not. I know I’m a sinner, I know I have hurt others, that I have rejected others, and yet God still chooses me—and he does the same for you.
And our identity as chosen sets us apart. We are chosen out of our old ways of sin and death into the new way of life and liberty; we are chosen to be set apart from the world and to become like Jesus Christ. That means we do not have to make ourselves sound superior because we know how needy we really are. And we do not have to pray to impress others, and we don’t have to fast to show how awesome we are. Rather, we can rest knowing whose we are. And in that we can pray to grow closer to him, to delight in him. We can fast to set ourselves apart in a humble, rather than an ostentatious, way.
Our chosen-ness allows us to choose others as well. As we turn to God who has chosen us we also recognize that he chooses our neighbor, too. “That is the great joy of being chosen: the discovery that others are chosen as well.” It means we can reach out to those who may be the ones who are metaphorically (or literally, sometimes too I guess) “picked last for gym class” and call out their chosen-ness in Christ. (1)
And when we see a brother or sister chosen for something, we can rejoice with them rather than sulk at our felt dejection. For me, that is rejoicing in those who have found their person and are getting engaged or married. Rather than looking at my own felt rejection and loneliness, I can look out at them and rejoice that God has chosen that for them, while knowing that he has chosen me too and set me apart for a unique calling in this season. It is receiving what we have as a gift because we know that we are chosen. Gratitude is a protest against the world and our flesh’s desire to destroy the truth God speaks over us. It is “the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an 'accident,' but a divine choice.” (2)
So today, where do you feel rejected? Where in your soul are you crying out, “Pick me, choose me, love me”? Allow God to speak into that area. It is a fierce battle, but we must remember that when we are rejected, we must cling to the truth that we are chosen. Today, tomorrow, and every day after remember: “Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.'” (3)
(1) Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, 63.
(2) Ibid., 60.
(3) Ibid., 59.