Trophies are funny things. We’re supposed to feel a personal sense of achievement because of some fake gold plastic thingamajig purchased from an online catalog? Note that my distinct lack of trophies has probably given me this perspective. So if you’ve got a million trophies, and you see this differently, grace and peace to you.
I was around nine years old when I joined the Capital Textiles T-ball team. I remember the first practice and parents’ meeting. I remember the way the coach looked exactly like a Little League coach you’d see on TV. I remember being the only girl, and I remember not necessarily loving the idea of playing T-ball. I can’t remember if I explicitly complained about having to go or just sucked it up, but I know my mom was just trying to love me well by enrolling me to play, so I think I probably surmised that and just went with the flow.
I was really, really bad at T-ball. And the boys on my team actually seemed to care about winning, which I couldn’t quite grasp, so I was pretty obnoxious to them. But there was a bright side. By about halfway through the season, they had a nickname for me, and I loved it: Lightning. Because I was so fast, of course. I tried to live into that nickname — I promise you, there were times when I must have been a blur running around those bases because I was going so fast. I even asked my teammates, “Could you guys even see me? I was going so fast!”
They put the name “Lightning” on my trophy, and I admit I took it a little too far. I got lightning bolt stickers for my notebook at school, got lightning bolt dangly earrings to wear, and I even entertained getting a little lightning bolt shaved into my early-90s undercut boy haircut, but somebody smart stopped me.
At some point, I was informed that they had nicknamed me Lightning because I was so slow.
I threw the trophy away.
I’m bitter about trophies, OK? They’re not my favorite thing. Trophies aren’t necessarily the best thing for those of us who are Kingdom-minded and living with an eternal focus. It seems like trophies keep us believing that the best thing we can do is rack up approval on earth, even though it’s the approval of our Father that means the most.
It seems as though trophies are images that give us glory, rather than putting it where it belongs — at the feet of Jesus.
I’m not saying we should burn all our trophies, but maybe it’s worthwhile to consider why we seek them, why we keep them, and maybe even ask ourselves, Are we holding these symbols in too much esteem? Are we putting too much stock in them?
First, let’s not believe for even a second that our obsession with awards and accolades ended after Little League. We all long to receive our own version of recognition. Here are a few desires for recognition that seem to prevail among those of us who have passed elementary school:
We want to get on the dean’s list.
We want to get scholarships.
We want to get recognized at the meeting.
We long to be thanked publicly.
We wish we could win the Yard of the Month award. We’d love to see our picture in the newsletter.
It would be cool if the pastor would mention us from the pulpit.
We want to be thanked at the back of the book.
We want someone to call us their best friend. We wish they would tag us in that post.
I want the book to get the award.
We want to get verified on Instagram.
We measure our credit financially.
And we treat our bodies like the ultimate trophy.
Telling a friend she’s lost weight has somehow become the ultimate compliment. When we grow past the cultural absurdity of commenting on people’s literal weight, we find other ways to notice and notarize one another for how we look. This practice isn’t found only outside of Christian culture; instead, this is just one measurement of the world we’ve completely co-opted. We’ve even added spiritual weight to support it, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
We celebrate when a friend “bounces back” quickly after a baby, we glorify the “glow up” (a season when a tween or teen goes from looking awkward to awesome by the world’s standards), we praise one another when we eat less and call it “self control.” In short, we tend to turn something God never ordained into something spiritual.
We treat our bodies like trophies, statues representing what we idolize: the approval and attention of others. This is problematic first and foremost because that glory belongs to God.
What if the final straw, the thing that will tip the scales toward revival, is the counter-cultural decision that any distinction or honor we’re given gets laid at the feet of Jesus? What if we decide that any trophy or award we receive will be relinquished so we become less concerned with how many accolades we can garner, and instead, use our energy to worship Jesus? What if revival comes in our communities because we break the matrix and scream at the enemy, “Making our bodies better was never necessary! They were made good!”
What if revival comes because we decide our bodies are not trophies to begin with?
Why the Trophies Have to Burn
The women in my family, gals of the New South that we are, have a few phrases that are so Southern and saccharine they’ll make your teeth hurt. But they’re hard to quit.
“More jewels in your crown!” we shout when we see each other doing something holy, something virtuous, something often unseen. When you’re kind to the fussy lady at church who always tries to be secretly spiteful to you, it’s “More jewels in your crown!” When you watch your sister’s kids even though you’re having a really full and hard work week, it’s “More jewels in your crown!” When you’re caught cleaning up the mess someone else made, it’s “More jewels in your crown!”
I say it to my sisters because I know they get the gospel, the truth that Jesus is enough when they aren’t. I say it to them because I know they don’t believe they can earn their way into Heaven, and because the idea of a heavenly crown is rooted in Scripture.
James 1 and Revelation 2 speak to the “crown of life” that will be given to those who suffer and persevere under trials. The “incorruptible crown” is also referenced in 1 Corinthians 9 and will be bestowed on those who demonstrate self-denial and perseverance. 2 Timothy 4 speaks of a “crown of righteousness” for those who anticipate the second coming of Jesus, and there’s a “crown of glory” for those who minister and preach the gospel in 1 Peter 5. My favorite, the “crown of rejoicing,” shows up in 1 Thessalonians 2, for those who engage in evangelism outside the Christian church. If you’ve ever known an evangelist, someone who is passionate about seeing other people walk with Jesus, I bet you can picture them rejoicing a ton in heaven.
Then, there’s the passage in Revelation that describes what will happen as the elders lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus:
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God;
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by Your will they were created and have their being.” — Revelation 4:9-11
Scripture speaks of a heavenly reward for eternal work, but even then, it makes it clear that we’ll be compelled to send these trophies and rewards right back to the throne. Whatever jewels are in your crown, I know you’ll count them as nothing when you encounter the grace and glory of God.
Whatever trophies come our way, we’ll gladly reroute them to Him, because He deserves them.
But make no mistake! These trophies, these crowns, these jewels, these gifts of glittering glory are about eternal work and are of eternal worth. They are not our bodies. Our bodies are not trophies. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, the home of our heaven-bound souls. It is a trick, a tool, a tactic of the enemy of our souls to make us believe that our bodies’ worth is in any way determined by human opinion or perception.
Your body is not the crown you’re going to lay at the feet of Jesus.
Your beauty is not the jewel you’re going to give back to Him. Your body is good because He made it, but it’s not the most important thing about you. Your body can’t be the best thing about you, namely because you are so much more than your body. And we will all see healing, restoration, and revival when we decide to stop agreeing with any idea that promotes such thinking.
Excerpted with permission from Breaking Free from Body Shame by Jess Connolly, copyright Jessica Ashleigh Connolly.
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Your body is a good thing. It’s not a trophy, it’s a tool, something we utilize here on this earth, something filled with the glorious Holy Spirit, something good. Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you about thinking rightly about our bodies! ~ Devotionals Daily