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  • Writer's pictureToni Thrash

I’m Sorry You Had to be First

We are taught at an early age that being first carries a certain amount of prestige. First is the adrenaline rush everyone should feel at least once in their life! If you are competitive, second place is the worst place to be.

I, for one, hate to lose at anything! When my children were little, I did not let them win at Candyland. They had to earn it. (Yes, I am that mom and that competitive)

I remember when my oldest was in 6th grade and a very talented tennis player. Up until the 6th grade, he could not beat me. However, in 6th grade, I could no longer return his serve. I’m not a slouch on the court either, but after a complete butt whooping by my 6th grader, I deemed it unnecessary to subject myself any longer to that kind of punishment!

The older that I have gotten, I’ve realized two things:

1. First is not necessarily the place you want to be

2. Sometimes first is the most awful thing in the world

I’ve been involved with the same group of women since 2006. Now, a few have come and gone, but the base group has remained steady for all these years.

I’ve been first and let me tell you, I was blindsided. I was the first one with a spouse with mental illness who had 2 suicide attempts in 3 years.

We each have a story to tell, and I bet you didn’t want to be first either.

1. The first to lose a parent way too early in life.

2. The first to have a child go down the wrong path and go to rehab.

3. The first to divorce.

4. The first one to have infidelity in their marriage.

5. The first one to suffer through a spouse’s mental illness.

6. The first one not married.

7. The first one who lost her spouse of 30 years to cancer.

8. The first one to have a child come out and worry about what judgment there would be.

9. The first one to lose a child to that awful word: cancer.

10. The first one to have a spouse with addiction.

These are not prestigious. The only trophies: wounds and lots of scars, some of them still open and bleeding. These are hard life battles. This is raw, real and the most vulnerable we can be. Heartbroken. Not one of us wanted to be first in these categories and yet here we are. Horror flick in real-time. The shame and feelings of unworthiness have been at times, suffocating.

But Jesus. He has withstood all our arguing, anger, fear, doubt, shame, and unworthiness. He has heard things meant only for His ears. He has heard the wailings, seen the fear in our lives, tasted our tears, and touched our scars for the beginning of healing. He has laced us with grace, mercy, understanding, and love. He’s poured out in us what the “first” one needed. We have walked a thousand miles together and raced to beat the ambulance to the hospital after a spouse attempted suicide. Arms there to walk into.

I have chosen to believe that my God trusted each with their chosen assignment. He knew all these things needed to be part of our testimony. He knew we would need the tools: the heartache, the depression, the anger, the fear, and the blinding sucker punch to share our story one day. God’s ideal, I honestly don’t have an answer for this. But just like Job in the Old Testament, God never told Job about his wager with the enemy. I believe our hurt and pain are never wasted. He will use all this heartache for His glory.

I’m here to say that being first is hard. It is doing the unknown blindfolded and praying you get it right. It takes determination and perseverance that you simply cannot will out of thin air. Being first in this way means we were in a race we didn’t know we were in. It means during the race you knew you were going to crawl over the finish line. One-armed tied behind your back and a broken leg kind of crawl.

If you find yourself in the middle or at the start of a race unintended, learn to listen to those who have crossed the finish line ahead of you. Listen and take notes because we have firsthand walked through stuff we could never dream up. Ask them gently what they learned and how they kept breathing.

Just a thought, but instead of trying so hard to be first, you might sit back and ask the person who was first, what you need to know when it’s your turn.


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