The Sunday Sermonette – Chosen Last.

      “To those of us who knew the pain of valentines that never came. And those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball…” When I first heard Janice Ian’s song, “At Seventeen,” in the fall of 1975, it reminded me of gym class at Gulfport’s Bayou View Junior High, where football teams, not basketball, were chosen. And unlike the song, I was chosen, but always last. Almost 60 years later, I can still hear Coach Allen, the former WWII Marine, yelling, “Kalberg! Toughen up, boy! Be a man! Not a sissy!” And with that command, choosing sides began.

     My gym class included 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Naturally, Coach always picked the 9th Grade “jocks” to be the football team captains. They towered over my Munchkin-like self and, for the most part, were drooling with teenage cruelty. In their defense, though, they may not have realized their cruelty, but their ignorance did nothing to calm my fears. When the choosing began, the tall boys, the strong boys, and the boys that everyone liked were always chosen first.

     Others, not so gifted, were divvied up next. That left another boy and me. I don’t remember his name, but I can see him now. Shoulders slumped. Head down. One sneakered shoe kicking up dirt as the wind blew through his mane of tumbleweed-red hair. He didn’t want to be chosen last. I knew I would be, so I took my place under a tree and awaited my judgment. With a snigger, my name was called, and I joined the “team,” who promptly turned their backs on me as we jogged along to the playground.  

     In hindsight, I concede that I lacked the attributes to block, throw or catch. I probably wouldn’t have picked myself to be on a team either, but always being chosen last and rejected always hurt. Often, as I stood waiting to be selected, even though I knew I’d be picked last, I longed to be a part of the “team.” I wanted to contribute to it and help win the prize, whatever that was. Alas, that never happened. Eventually, I survived the hurt, matured, and moved on. Nevertheless, something good did come out of those dark days.

     They taught me to always try and find the positives in dire situations because gym class wasn’t the last time in my life that I was hurt or chosen last when it came to being part of a team. Coach Allen’s class also taught me to be more understanding of others who are rejected, laughed at, or chosen last for various unjustified reasons. 

     Thankfully, however, someone chose me to be on his team long ago. Before the world began, he looked across time and space and chose me as his future teammate. Before the earth revolved on its axis, before the first sun rose and set, before time itself, Father God, in his kindness, love, and mercy, said, “I’ve chosen you. Now, please choose me.” I did, and I’m eternally thankful. If you haven’t, please do so. Your choice will grant you a sense of security and hope in the crazy world in which we live. What a happy thought: From the beginning, you and I weren’t chosen last to be on God’s eternal team. We were chosen first!

     Ponder this and go forth.