One summer, we gathered some friends around the campfire to make s’mores. I was in the lawn chair of honor as the Mom with the Marshmallow Bag. All the kids hovered around me like I was a YouTube clip on a cell phone. (Kids these days…) Each of those sun-kissed kids passionately wanted marshmallows… and each one of them wanted to be first.
Except for Dylan.
In the midst of a dozen little hands reaching in for marshmallows, 5 year old Dylan said, “I can go last” and took his place in the back of the group.
This was huge.
This was significant.
This was universe-altering.
In my memory, even the lightening bugs paused to absorb what he had just said: “I can go last.”
(The thing that struck me the most was how he said it: he said it as if it were an ability or a skill he had learned. He said it like a gymnast who had been trained to do a backflip. After hours of practice and instruction, a gymnast could say, “I can do a backflip.” Or, like a trained medic who answers the desperate plea, “Does anyone know CPR?!” with “I can do CPR.” With all the confidence in the world, he said, “I can go last.”)
Those four words changed my life.
For the past 3 years, my kids and I have talked about that moment a lot. They were there – getting their marshmallows before Dylan – and they think he was amazing, too: wow, to offer to go last when the fire is crackling and the summer stars are singing and the chocolate is waiting… it is nothing less than heroic.
Now, everyone in our family wants to be like Dylan and say, “I can go last” in those moments when it’d be awesome to go first.
So, we talked about it one day and wrote down some examples of when it’s hard to go last: when we’re nervous, when we’re hungry, when we’re really excited about something, and when we want something.
We talked about what makes going last great: it allows someone else to go first and get the kick we wanted for ourselves. More than that, it’s one small way we can live like Jesus did: didn’t He often putting Himself last when He deserved be first?
No wonder Dylan said, “I can go last” like it was a golden opportunity.
Then, one of the kids pointed out that it’s equally as hard to go first sometimes. So, we added it to the chalkboard and listed some real-life examples: it’s hard to go first in being friendly, answering questions in class, and being the first one to do something scary.
This is the real stuff of laying our lives down for one another: the day-by-day, tangible examples when it all becomes real.
These strengths – of going first and going last – are superpowers. We can’t lay our lives down well or consistently without help from God Himself who goes first when it’s inconceivable and goes last when it seems impossible. And He will certainly help us.
“We love because He first loved us…” 1 John 4:19
“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28