Embracing the Underdog

Quick, think about your favorite movie. Think. Think.

Got it? Let me guess, the protagonist is an underdog seeking redemption of some sort. After looking at the top 250 movies of all times listed by IMDB, a common theme presents itself: we like to root for the underdog. We have an affinity for the underdog story. Rocky, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lord of the Rings, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, and even the history of our country. We love the underdog, the Cinderella story.

While preparing for a recent talk, I stumbled upon a verse in Corinthians I’ve never really reflected on. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” 1 Corinthians 27-28.

It seems like this underdog obsession isn’t really a Hollywood thing, it’s a God thing. God chooses the lowly to shame the strong. He chose an old man, an orphan, a coward, and an adulterer to speak to his people. Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and David were not men of particular strength before God’s call, but he chose them to foretell the coming of the ultimate underdog. Jesus was born of an unwed mother in a stable and spent his early years on the run, yet this was the guy who was supposed to save the Jews from their slavery. This powerless man was supposed to set a world on fire with some words and 12 followers. Jesus was the ultimate underdog, which was God’s plan the whole time.
Jesus was the ultimate Cinderella story.

If we’re talking March Madness, he would have been the 65th seed- the play-in game participant. Look where we are now. God chose the weak, and the lowly. He chose saints who were among the lowliest of the low to bring about sweeping social reform. He chose a little boy from Poland who suffered a tragic childhood to stand against the tyranny of the East, to be the welder of the Iron Curtain. He chose a teenage girl to lead the armies of France against a military powerhouse. He chose a prolific sinner to lead the early Church into newfound lands of theological understanding. He chose the man who rejected Christ three times to lead his Church against the gates of Hell. God chooses the lowly. He chooses the weak. He chooses the despised.

We become the best versions of ourselves when we embrace our lowliness, our brokenness, & our utter unworthiness in the face of God 

God chooses us.

He chooses you and he chooses me. Despite the list of flaws we could list at a moment’s notice, he picks us. He made us, he knows us, and he has a plan for us. We get so good at watching the underdogs rise up in heroic fashion; we forget that we could do the same thing. Yet we refuse. We see ourselves as sub-underdogs, a new level to this hierarchy. We aren’t Cinderella winning over the Prince, we’re Gus-Gus breaking up Cinderella’s new happy marriage so they can be happy forever. We’re lower than the low, a new level of hopelessness. We romanticize the underdog ideal but refuse to believe that we can rise up to that level.

We know ourselves better than anyone else. We see our flaws the largest. We confront them every day. There’s no way God could choose someone so broken and little to do anything for him. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that aren’t—to nullify the things that are. We don’t become the best versions of ourselves when we distance ourselves from our flaws, we become those best versions when we embrace our lowliness, our brokenness, and our utter unworthiness in the face of God and allow ourselves to be made great. The Saints weren’t great because of anything but their yes. We’ve spent so much time glorifying the underdogs that we refuse to face reality: God is calling us to action, not observation. The only thing that keeps us from the embodying the lives of the Saints is not the flaws we have, but the refusal of a complete and total yes. Do not let your yes become a “yes, but once I can overcome this” or a “yes, but once I feel like I’m good enough.” Let it become a “yes, I trust you to make this underdog’s story better than one I could have written for myself.”

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