The other day my twelve-year-old son Clay and I were discussing his recent track meet. Clay said, “I did everything I was supposed to do at the meet.” I asked, “what were you supposed to do?” He responded, “I got third in high jump. My 4×200 relay team got second. And I got first in my hurdles race. I did everything I was supposed to do.”
Clay has always been fast, but we are new to the sport. I knew that you could win races individually. But until three weeks ago, I didn’t know that the team also earns points for more than first place. At the end of the meet, the scores are added up to determine which school team wins the meet. Even though Clay didn’t win first in every event, he was satisfied with his performance because he and his coaches had discussed his role beforehand. The kids worked on their individual races and also worked together, so the team won the meet.
I appreciated Clay’s approach to the matter. It’s not that he wasn’t trying hard in all his events. He ran his leg of the relay like a demon to catch up with the person who was in second at that point in the race. But he also had a realistic view of what he could accomplish and how he could best contribute to the team.
The Apostle Paul famously analogized the body of Christ to the physical body:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . . [I]f the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12; 15-20).
I’ve not always followed Apostle Paul’s advice, though: there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve felt that I don’t belong because I don’t have a particular talent or skill. Or because I’m not the best at the things I do. It’s so easy to focus on individual performance, or the lack thereof, and compare ourselves to other individuals. Sometimes, I forget that we are all in this thing called life together, and we can’t do or be everything at the same time.
I was thinking about this passage when it occurred to me that not even Jesus did “everything” when he was here on earth. Based on stories in Scripture, I don’t believe he healed everyone in the crowds surrounding him. He certainly didn’t give folks the formula for penicillin or tell them how to build a car – things that could’ve spread wellness and his message much more effectively after he left earth. He came here to do a certain job and spread his message at a specific time in history. Jesus knew he’d done what he’d set out to do when he said, “it is finished,” not because he was finished being a part of humanity’s journey but because he knew his role in that space and time was complete. (John 19:30).
We can take solace that Jesus couldn’t do it all or at least, chose not to do it all, while he was here. We can look at our families, churches, and communities and assess what our role is in a particular season of life. Perhaps, we can better realize we are part of a team in so many circumstances. We can look to others to help us. It’s not all on us individually. God doesn’t call us to do everything. If we take time to figure out what we are supposed to do for the time being, for the sake of the larger teams to which we belong, then we can feel satisfied knowing we’ve done our part for now.
Clay fulfilled his tasks at the track meet and came away completely content and confident in his role. Let us pray that God helps us understand what God needs us to do, at this time, in this place, for our teams, so that we can act as the body of Christ and spread God’s love.