In my first year of university there was a craze that was sweeping the Tyndale Campus, partly because the church that the majority of us attended was getting into it and partly because we were a group of largely evangelical Christians who shared testimonies any chance we got. That craze was called the “I Am Second” video series.
For those of you who have never heard of the “I Am Second” series, it is a collection of short testimonies ranging in length from 2 minutes up to 15 minutes from average people up to superstars like famous athletes, singers, and actors. In their short segments the people being interviewed sit in a white chair and share with viewers their journey in the Christian faith and end by saying, “My name is ____ and I am second.”
In university if I ever missed a Sunday at church (which was rare) I would content myself by watching two or three I Am Second videos and reflecting upon them. After all, the best sermons are the ones which connect with us personally and which have stories that we can relate to. At my new job, there have also been a few Sundays that I have missed church and so it happened that after 3 years I have once again found my way back to this series. Now, 3 years later and working in an environment where I have no choice but to be second the video series is starting to have more of an impact on me than it once did.
At first when I started re-watching the old footage I found myself being a little bit cynical. After all, being “second” is still a very good place. In the Olympics if you come in second you still receive the silver medal, in spelling bees you still get a ribbon, and at the County Fair you still get your picture taken and placed in the newspaper. Being first is always our ideal, but there is no shame in being second. It’s better to be second than to be seventh or seventeenth. Plus, to say that you are second in a way implies that after God you come next. What about everyone else? Shouldn’t the movie series be called “I Am Third” – God first, others second, me last?
But I realize that this is overthinking the concept way too much. The truth is that by saying that we are second, we are surrendering our own wants and desires and placing God’s standards as higher. We are saying that we are willing to sacrifice our own goals to achieve what God wants for our life even after years of planning for them. In my own life, I never would have seen myself working at L’Arche 5 years ago or even 3 years ago when I started at Tyndale. I never would have seen myself working among people who have disabilities, but here I am today because God’s Will came first in my life. That’s not to say it’s always easy to follow God’s Will. We are taught from an early age to “climb the ladders” of success, prestige, wealth, and power and there are times when we follow God’s Will for us and struggle with what we could be doing instead. What job we could have that would provide more of a name for ourselves, a job that would pay more money, or that would look better on a resume. A job where we could advance. Being second is definitely a hard place to be.
In talking with my co-workers and in reading the writings of Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen I have learned that the single greatest cause to immaturity in our society is that many young adults simply do not know how to think about anyone other than themselves. I do not fault young adults for this because it is how they are conditioned. Sure parents can try to get them to do nice things for other people and many young adults generally care about making the world a better place in one way or another, but often times it ultimately results back to the greatest gain for them. When you are in school you learn to look after “number one”. You do your homework to benefit yourself. If you don’t feel like cooking or cleaning no one cares, it doesn’t impact anyone’s life in any major way other than your own. Even field ed and internship placements come with a reward for the people doing them (sometimes financial and other times simply through academic grades and good references). So when a young adult finally has to learn to be second, it can be shocking and challenging at first.
Now when I watch these movies I don’t do it with the notion that these are “good little church guys or girls” but with the understanding that these people struggle in the same way that all of us do to put God before a family, a career, or another major life choice and that it continues to be a process. Being second doesn’t just mean being second once, but constantly being second. It’s something that we should all strive for as we continue to seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.
My name is Deborah and I am second.