The following letter appears in a book by Dan Taylor called Letters to My Children (InterVarsity Press, 1989). Dan is writing to his son Matthew.
When I was in the sixth grade (about 11). I was smart, athletic, witty, handsome, and incredibly nice. Things went downhill fast in junior high, but for this one year at least, I had everything.
Unfortunately, I also had Miss Owens for an assistant teacher. She helped Mr. Jenkins, our regular teacher. She knew that even though I was smart and incredibly nice, there was still a thing or two I could work on.
One of the things you were expected to do in grade school was learn to dance. My parents may have had some reservations at first, but since this was square dancing, it was okay.
Every time we went to work on our dancing, we did this terrible thing. The boys would all line up at the door of our classroom. Then, one at a time, each boy would pick a girl to be his partner. The girls all sat at their desks. As they were chosen, they left their desks and joined the snot-nosed kids who had honored them with their favor.
Believe me, the boys did not like doing this—at least I didn’t. But think about being one of those girls. Think about waiting to get picked. Think about seeing who was going to get picked before you. Think about worrying that you’d get picked by someone you couldn’t stand. Think about worrying whether you were going to get picked at all!
Think if you were Mary. Mary sat near the front of the classroom on the right side. She wasn’t pretty. She wasn’t real smart. She wasn’t witty. She was nice, but that wasn’t enough in those days. And Mary certainly wasn’t athletic. In fact, she’d had polio or something when she was younger; one of her arms was drawn up, and she had a bad leg, and to finish it off, she was kind of fat.
Here’s where Miss Owens comes in. Miss Owens took me aside one day and said, “Dan, next time we have square dancing, I want you to choose Mary.”
She may as well have told me to fly to Mars. It was an idea that was so new and inconceivable that I could barely hold it in my head. You mean pick someone other than the best, the most pretty, the most popular, when my turn came? That seemed like breaking a law of nature or something.
And then Miss Owens did a really rotten thing. She told me it was what a Christian should do. I knew immediately that I was doomed. I was doomed because I knew she was right. It was exactly the kind of thing Jesus would have done. I was surprised, in fact, that I hadn’t seen it on a Sunday school flannel board yet: “Jesus choosing the lame girl for the Yeshiva dance.” It was bound to be somewhere in the Bible.
I agonized. Choosing Mary would go against all the coolness I had accumulated.
The day came when we were to square dance again. If God really loved me, I thought, he will make me last. Then picking Mary will cause no stir. I will have done the right thing, and it won’t have cost me anything.
You can guess where I was instead. For whatever reason, Mr. Jenkins made me first in line. There I was, my heart pounding—now I knew how some of the girls must have felt.
The faces of the girls were turned toward me, some smiling. I looked at Mary and saw that she was half-turned to the back of the room, her face staring down at her desk. Mr. Jenkins said, “Okay, Dan—choose your partner.”
I remember feeling very far away. I heard my voice say, “I choose Mary.”
Never has reluctant virtue been so rewarded. I still see her face undimmed in my memory. She lifted her head, and on her face, reddened with pleasure and surprise and embarrassment all at the same time, was the most genuine look of delight and even pride that I have ever seen, before or since. It was so pure that I had to look away because I knew I didn’t deserve it.
Mary came and took my arm, as we had been instructed, and she walked beside me, bad leg and all, just like a princess.
Mary is my age now. I never saw her after that year. I don’t know what her life’s been like or what she’s doing. But I’d like to think she has a fond memory of at least one day in sixth grade. I know I do.
(Taken from Letters to My Children by Daniel Taylor. ©1989 by Daniel Taylor. InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515)
The good news of the Gospel is that we have been chosen by God. You are someone special in the eyes of God. God looked out over all the world and for some crazy reason saw you and me and said, “I choose you ; I choose Paul; I choose “Insert your name here”. The greatest day of your life was the day when God chose you. Yes, you have the opportunity to choose to accept Jesus as Saviour, And you can because he has chosen you first. Jesus said “You did not choose me, but I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last” (John 15:16).