And the Winner is...Number 5!


We were sitting in the hall of the local Canadian Legion, patiently awaiting the verdict of the judges. It was hard not to assimilate the tension emitted by the 15 grade 7-9 students. Each one of these young people had just made a powerful public speech, and each one deserved to win. Each one hoped to hear their number called for the Number One position, but only one would be chosen.

With the competition so stiff, I couldn't help but think that my son's speech, as excellent as it was, didn't stand a chance. After all, it was his first year in school, his first year in an organized English class, his first try at public speaking. The only reason he was here at all was that his speech was judged to be the second best in his class, and then the second best in his school. And his classmate, the one who had taken first place in class and at school, was also here, sitting in front of us, and her speech had been four-plus excellent. Though I had a personal bias towards my son's speech, she had already beat him twice. And that was just one of the other fourteen kids!

To make matters worse, my son was sick. He had been home from school for the past two days with a stomach bug, and although he was looking better, I knew he wasn't yet himself. I shook my head sadly. Yes, it had been a good experience for him, but I couldn't help but put together my own speech in my mind--the speech that I would deliver to him on the way home about how winning isn't everything...

Tension mounted as the judges came out of their room and handed the MC a list. Although two from each local school were chosen to compete at the town level, only one from the town would be chosen to go on and compete for the region. There would no longer be any place for "second best". I sighed and looked away. My poor son... He had worked so hard to improve his speech...

"And the third-place winner is..."

I looked up. It didn't mean going on with the competition, but number three would be a spot of honor. Maybe my son was third place... I held my breath...

"Number 1!"

Disappointment flooded my heart. Number 1 had been an excellent, interactive speech. If that speech was third place...

The applause died down and the MC picked up his notes. "And for second place, the runner-up position... If the first place winner decides to not go on with the competition, it will be this contestant who represents our town at the regionals..."

I didn't dare look up. It wouldn't be my son...

"Number 11!"

I wasn't at all surprised to see my son's classmate get out of her chair and go forward. I was happy for her. She had given a great speech, and she deserved it. And I went back to rehearsing my "winning isn't everything" speech.

"And the next winner, the one who will represent our town in the regionals is..."

But he didn't go on right away. Instead, he began explaining when and where the regional competition would be, even taking the time to give directions and to invite the parents of the winning child to stop by for detailed instructions at the back.

You could have cut the tension in the air with a knife as 13 students sat at the edge of their chairs, breath baited. The message to the MC was clearly written over each and every face: "Get on with it! Just tell us who won!"

I swallowed and continued going over my own speech in my mind. My poor son. He had worked so hard...

"And the first place winner is... Number 5!"

The room exploded in applause and I looked up. Which one of the kids had been number 5? I couldn't seem to remember, so I began to scan the room to see who was standing up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in my son's chair. I glanced his way in time to see him start to stand. I reached out my hand to pull him back. "We'll wait a few minutes before leaving!" I whispered. "We want to congratulate the winner!"

But he wasn't sitting back down. In fact, he wasn't listening at all! Instead, he was striding for the front of the room!

Only then did it dawn on me: My son WAS Number 5!

Somehow, this all reminds me of the end of time. The Bible tells us that the end of time will come like a thief in the night. "for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." (1 Thess 5:2 NIV) I don't know about you, but I had never really given much thought to what this meant until that night, as our family drove home from the Legion. Then suddenly, it was all clear. You see, I had known ahead of time that one of the possible outcomes of the evening would be that my son would win, but in my mind I had created a different "best case scenario". I was so focussed on MY possible outcome, that when the real thing happened, it took me a few minutes to recognize it!

This is exactly what Paul is trying to tell us in 1 Thess. 5:2. We all know the Lord will return, and most of us have read the Bible and gone to church enough to have created our own "best-case scenarios". But it won't happen exactly as we expect it to. In fact, we can become so focussed on our own ideas, so busy watching for our own interpretation of prophecy, that when the real thing happens, we'll be surprised! Jesus' return may truly be "like a thief in the night". It will happen in a way that we least except it!

This isn't to say that having our own interpretation of prophecy is bad. On the contrary, it is a good thing. However, let's not get so focussed on one interpretation that we fail to consider any other possible outcomes. Let's be open-minded in our approach to prophecy, so that when Jesus does return, we won't be taken by surprise!

Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org

P. S. My son became so sick in the night after that speech, that he missed the next three days of school, and now, six days after the speeches, he still isn't feeling himself. The fact that he won his town contest is a real attestation of God's miracle power.

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