The Shame of Winning

When I was visiting my family last month, I decided to go ahead and take most of my things back with me to Georgia. I had some kitchen items (thanks mom) and then I had my forever junk. If you’ve ever had to move, you know the junk I’m talking about. The stuff you can’t throw away, because it once meant so much? The stuff you hope to show your kids someday, but you can’t really display on the walls because it’s just plain… obnoxious?

Yeah. I unpacked it all tonight. It felt embarrassing.

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I was one of those kids in school, obviously. I would be upset over a 96 in AP Chem, and would be up at 5 something a.m. for cross-country practice. I wanted everything to be perfect, from band, to powerlifting, to calculators,  to you name it, I probably did it.

And I had a part-time job at the mall, working for Mervyn’s, behind the jewelry counter. I helped young couples browse through wedding rings, and bit my lip not to laugh when the fun older ladies would come buy blingtastic thumb rings, pinky rings, etc. I drove a janky green 97 Neon, sometimes also getting to drive a sketchy, also green 92 Dodge Caravan.

My teenage years consisted of award after award, doing my very best, hoping it would all mean I could go to college and have scholarships. I prayed for God’s provision and then I worked my tail off. It happened.

I got just over $12,000 in scholarships, which was enough, combined with grants, to get me an honors bachelors of science degree. While in college, I still continued to win awards. I marched in college band, and won the big award of the year for colorguard. I was an editor for the online journal for the Honors College. I did my best as much as possible, for years and years and years.

And what you see in that picture, that pile of papers, metal, and ribbons? That’s what’s left to show my kids. I have a folder full of newspaper clippings, for every time I’ve made the paper, or wrote FOR the paper. Because of course, I did that too. I’ve been on the radio, and tv, and performed solos in front of thousands of people.

I’ve done things that people work their whole lives to do, and felt things that people hope to someday feel. The applause, the moment of honor, the finish line? Yeah. By the grace of God, check.

Wanna know a secret? The embarrassing part?

I’m ashamed to talk about my victories because I fear that others will think I’m arrogant, or will compare themselves to me. I am afraid of being intimidating, or inciting envy, or losing friends. I’d rather hide the awards, so as to pass by as average.

Is that what humility looks like? Is that what it looks like to give glory to God and not take any glory? To hide it all, altogether? Honestly, I don’t know. What do you think?

At the end of the day, it’s all going in a bucket in the back of my closet. It usually stays there. The memories, the euphoria, the nostalgia? All in the bucket. My bucket list, ironically returning itself to a bucket. My proof of marathons completed, and personal records defeated, and those papers that declare me ‘outstanding’? All in a bucket, collecting dust and rust.

Does God’s glory for those things become insignificant over time?

The tears of joy long having run their course down my cheeks, the sweat of effort long washed from my skin, the prayers for favor long ago whispered and answered.

Nobody cares about my high school salutatorian speech, nobody brings it up, nobody even knows to ask. The speech I obsessed about, hoping to be eloquent, hoping to mention that I’d be nothing without God’s help, and pick the best verse, and praying to not be caught up in the echo of the the stadium like I did during rehearsal, hearing my voice repeating itself back to me. How I edited, and trembled, and resolved not to cry! The culmination of 4 years, better yet 6 years, of a Brazilian girl moving to a different continent, learning the language, finding Jesus, and working to build up to that very moment, that very speech. It was so important, but now? Forgotten, along with the stories for every medal, ribbon, certificate. I don’t understand it.

So I clear my bed of all these symbols, and carefully put them back in the bucket. I breathe a sigh of relief as I put them away, almost as if I’m putting them back in the past.

I whisper a prayer, asking God to continue to grant me this ridiculous favor that follows me wherever I go, or rather goes before me. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but I know it is preparing me for what is next. I know I’m a warrior on the front lines of battle. I know victory is already mine. I know a banner flies over my life in the spiritual realm, one that I can’t put away in a bucket.

Father, make me bold enough to win for Your name.
Take away the shame, fear, and anxiety that comes with stepping forward.
Let me not be seen as the one receiving the honor, because I don’t want it.
Show me what it looks like to be both a servant and royalty.
Take away my anger, confusion, and lack of understanding at how fleeting the high points seem to be, how temporary victories seem.
I know You are good, and You are for me.
I know I’m fighting eternal battles that are unseen.
Help me to not hold back, to not relent, to not be passive, and to not stop caring.

Father, teach me how to wear a crown.

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4 thoughts on “The Shame of Winning

  1. Great question, I’m feeling that maybe it’s all about context? I can imagine a scenario where you sharing your success could make someone feel worse who has had a rough time. I can also imagine many times they could inspire people to seek God and work hard. I will say though that I hate to see you “hide” them completely.

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