On Saturday night, my family participated in a trivia night at the pool where we spend a lot of our time in the summer. A total of ten teams with six to ten players each accepted the trivia challenge. Most of the teams consisted of younger and older adults so they could access a wide range of knowledge. The members of our team named “The Carter Kids” were the following ages: 9, almost 12, 15, 17, and two 40-something adults (my husband and I). The odds were not in our favor. During the first round, we hung in there, though we didn’t do that well. By the end of the second half, the spread between the team in last place and the one in first was only about 20 points, and we were ranked sixth – 13 points off the lead.
The last question was multi-part, and each team decided their wager between 0-20 points. But this time, if the team missed the question, the points were deducted from their final score. Sticking with our most common strategy up to that point, we guessed. We decided to go big or go home and bet 20 points. We were shocked when the announcer said, “coming from sixth place to win, The Carter Kids!” We whooped and cheered. Our friends who work at the pool rushed in to give us fist bumps and high fives. I think the other teams were surprised and perhaps a bit miffed that our little group had pulled off a victory.
The experience made me think of Jesus’ disciples. From their outward appearance, they were not going to win any awards or be that effective. For the most part, their group consisted of inexperienced, uneducated laborers pulled off of fishing boats and those guys’ brothers or buddies. Jesus could’ve convinced more elite people in the community who had standing and education to join his band. Instead, he selected imperfect guys who would mess up on a regular basis. Peter is one of my favorite Biblical characters for his bluster and blunders. Thomas will always be special to me because he expressed the doubts most of us would’ve had (or maybe that we have today). They were a ragtag bunch by anyone’s standards, but Jesus, God incarnate, chose to be friends with them, traveling, eating, teaching, laughing, and eventually launching them out to continue his work when he was gone.
Even though they were not the team most would’ve picked, they kept showing up even when they were wrong or didn’t understand what Jesus was really doing. They added value because they were present and open to learning. They hung in there even when all seemed lost. They loved Jesus and invested in their relationships with him by spending time with him. While they wandered, denied, or questioned at times, they always came back around to join Jesus in his efforts.
When faced with challenges, we often tell ourselves that we are not capable or competent. We derail our own hopes and dreams because we retreat or run. If we are asked to do something in our faith communities, we may think we are unworthy – that there’s no way God could use us for God’s purposes. But sometimes, just showing up will turn the tide in a situation: being available to help, open to the idea that someone else sees something in us that we cannot see, and willing to try even though success by human standards is not guaranteed. We can find solace in the disciples’ characteristics and actions. They weren’t perfect, but they consistently and continually asked Jesus what he wanted them to do (even when their tone verged on impertinent).
We can be like the disciples and ask God what we can do, with all of our foibles and failures. Ultimately, God wants and needs us in order to reach others. We may never feel that our efforts result in a big win, but God sees all that we are doing for the kingdom on earth. I believe wholeheartedly that God appreciates our willingness to keep showing up over and over again.