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The Red Ribbon
Photo: Matt Park
In my box of memories from childhood, there’s a red ribbon. I don’t keep it for its monetary value, or sentimental value. I keep it for the valuable lesson it taught me.

When I was in first grade I signed up to run the 50-yard dash on Campus Day. In preparation for the race, I asked my big brother to train and clock me. I ate well and got my sleep. My goal was to win—to bring home the prized blue ribbon and hang it on my bedroom wall.

I stood at the starting line on that warm sunny morning. My mom was standing to my right in the crowd of parents, students and teachers. And to my left with the other runners was my competition—Sandy. She was fast, and I knew it.

“On your mark,” the judged hollered, “get set…GO!” I took off, my little first-grade-legs moving as fast as they could. Nearing the finish line, I realized that I was at the head of the pack. I glanced back to see where Sandy was. She was inches behind me, her long black hair blowing in the wind.

I honestly don’t know who crossed the finish line first—Sandy or me. The judges argued about it for a moment and then one of them went over to Sandy, raised her arm up in the air and declared, “Here’s our first place winner!” She received the blue ribbon… and I walked home with the red one.


That day was the beginning of many events when I wouldn’t come in first: I didn’t come in first when our trio sang for the high school talent show—we came in third. I didn’t come in first when I had a crush on a particular boy my freshman year in college—he told me he was deciding between a sophomore and me—he later chose the sophomore. And I didn’t come in first when I applied for my dream job upon graduating—someone else got it and I had to wait three years for the opportunity to come around again.

But you know what? I lived through those disappointments and others. Looking back, I see how they helped to make me a better person. Who says we always have to be first? Or that being first is even always best? In fact, the Bible talks about another kind of winning.

It seems that Heaven has a different view on being first. Jesus said in Matthew 19:28-30 that whoever sacrifices here on earth in order to follow Him, will receive a hundred times as much in Heaven—plus eternal life! He then added, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” The last will be first? How can that be? Because God’s kingdom is different than earth. Because following Jesus and the sacrifices that requires may be what the world judges as last place.

But in Heaven, it’s the blue ribbon.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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