Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)
TITLE: The True Winner
By Steve Bato
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Marsha listened wearily to her twelve-year-old son, Jeff. Last year he had narrowly won their church’s annual Scripture Quiz. The fact that his twin brother, Josh, was a close second had not mattered in the least to Jeff’s ego.
“Boys, how about you help each other study? There’s only one more week until the quiz.”
“No way! He’s on his own!” Jeff pushed back from the dinner table, stormed out of the room, took the stairs two at a time to his room and slammed the door.
“It’s OK Mom, I’ll do some studying after I help you with the dishes.”
After the kitchen was cleaned, Josh retrieved the family Bible from its special perch on the coffee table and settled in on the couch as he had done every night for the last three years. He turned to Galatians 5, his favorite starting place. With the fruits of the Spirit firmly in mind, he let his fingers randomly find pages from the life-giving Word.
In the school lunchroom the next day, Jeff claimed for himself a table in a far corner. He flipped through flashcards, committing to memory every verse he could cram in. He had been at this for three weeks now, and felt sure another blue ribbon would soon be his.
At a table in the middle of the room, Josh prayed quietly with a friend whose parents had just announced they were getting divorced. “Father, I ask that you give Johnny your peace. Pour your love all over him.” Josh shared with his friend some of the scriptures in which he had found refuge during past troubles.
The rest of the week continued similarly – Jeff feverishly devouring flashcards and Josh sharing with his friends and relatives nuggets of truth from the deposits in his heart.
Saturday morning finally arrived. Marsha drove the boys to the church. They found the sanctuary filled with those anxious to proudly watch their friends and family compete.
“I’m sure you’ll do great, boys. Of course, I’m proud of both of you just for competing!” As her smiling eyes moved from Josh to Jeff, an almost imperceptible flicker of a frown betrayed her hope for which should win.
“Whatever.” Jeff strode confidently to the platform to join the other thirty contestants, all between the ages of ten and fourteen.
Josh flashed a warm smile to his mother, and as he made his way forward he stopped to greet friends, patted a few on the back, and hugged a few who looked like they needed one.
Although the boys were in the middle of the pack age-wise, it was clear through the first three rounds that they were in top form and well able to compete with the oldest and brightest. By the end of the tenth round, they had survived while all other contestants had not.
Through the preceding rounds, Marsha’s cheers for her sons had deafened those near her. However, as the final challenges bounced back and forth between them, she found it hard to cheer for Jeff, though her heart ached for the pain she knew he bore. She recalled the year of jeering at his brother, and his sullen attitude toward the world as he walled himself off. Her silence and clouded eyes confused the friends who were near. Her eyes glistened with the tears she forced back as Josh answered challenges. Her guilt for not cheering for Jeff gnawed at her and kept her from cheering for this son whom she had seen share the love of Christ to all around him.
Her ears perked up as she heard Jeff’s next challenge – Galatians 5:22-23. She held her breath as she tried to keep herself from praying he would miss. Her heart skipped a beat when he put joy and love in the wrong order. As the buzzer sounded and Josh stepped up, she knew he had to get that one correct as well as the next in order to win.
As she slowly let her breath out, she heard Josh’s confident reply to both challenges. She burst out clapping with the rest of the audience as Josh was presented with the blue ribbon.
“Thank you. I’d like to dedicate this ribbon to my father and to the peace I found in God’s Word after Dad died three years ago. God’s love was my salvation.” Marsha’s heart swelled as her tears turned to joy and spilled freely.
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