When You Feel Like A Runner-Up

Photo by Katherine McBroom

Photo by Katherine McBroom

By this point you’ve probably already heard of the unfortunate mistake at the Miss Universe Pageant. Videos are plastered all over the internet of the heart-wrenching moment the crown was taken off of Miss Colombia and placed on the rightful winner, Miss Philippines. It is hard to watch without a deep feeling of sympathy and disappointment for Miss Colombia, the runner-up. As I watched the video replay, my heart pounded out of my chest and tears stung my eyes, because the feeling of rejection is all too familiar to the human heart. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that rejection may be one of our deepest fears as women. 

We want to be chosen. We want to be loved. We want to know we are worthy. But we fear we are just not enough, we don’t make the cut, or we won’t receive “the crown” that proves our worth.

Growing up in church, I heard the “you are beautiful, loved, and worthy” message in every way possible. For some reason my heart struggled to believe it. I would look into the mirror and see what I wanted to be instead of who God created me to be. As a matter of fact, one of my childhood dreams was to one day be Miss America. After all, the year I was born, Miss America was named Gretchen Elizabeth! This dream faded with age, but the longing to be known still burned fiercely in my heart. 

I even got close to wearing a crown once. My senior year of high school I was nominated to be on prom court. After months of searching, I found the perfect dress. It was a fushia pink with a beaded bodice. I tried it on everyday leading up to the night they would announce the winner. I felt like a princess. The night came for them to announce the winner and the fear of rejection struck my heart. What if I’m not chosen? My heart beat wildly when they shared the results in front of an auditorium of people. They announced the winner, and it wasn’t my name. My head that I had spent hours curling and hair spraying remained without a crown. 

I wasn’t chosen. 

Standing in front of the crowd, it felt like it was broadcasted that I didn’t make the cut. A vote was cast and I was deemed a runner-up. What do we do in these moments of life when rejection cripples our hearts? The problem with the “you are beautiful, loved, and worthy” message is that the focus is on “me.” Our tendency is to preach a message to girls about beauty, as if putting a bandaid on a deeper wound. What we need to hear is that Christ came in the form of human flesh to be wounded for us so we might be healed. It is His loveliness, His mercy, and His grace that makes us whole and able to stand against the lies of the world. We need to hear the full gospel message; because without Christ, we are without hope.

Earlier this year, I released a Proverbs 31 study called Women of Dignity, Washed in Grace. The first week I shared these words, “In a sense, we all feel like we are in a casting call, getting ready for our big debut and audition. We are afraid the judge will look past us and say ‘next,’ sending us away. The call gets ugly in this world and our identity gets trampled on when we look to the world for affirmation and success. This is where Jesus Christ steps into the casting call, right between you and the judge and says ‘she is mine.’”

Did you read that?

You are His.

Photo by Katherine McBroom

Jesus stood in your place and received the crown you rightfully deserved. This crown was made up of thorns that pierced his brow. He wore it in your stead, bore your punishment, and received your shame. Isaiah 53 explains that “he was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (verse 3). Jesus was rejected for you. He was crushed for your sins. He took your place and he wore your crown so you could be a part of His family. 

He did this because His love runs deeper than your worst sin. His grace is fuller than your greatest failures. His mercy stretches His hand out to you and lifts you up from the place of “runner-up” to be seated with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6-7). 

It is true that you are beautiful, loved, and worthy, but you cannot miss why. It is because of Jesus. The loveliness of Christ crowns you with abundant life, exceeding value, and never-ending love. An earthly crown will not satisfy your desire for worth. A title will not give you the confidence and joy you search high and low for. Applause will not meet your need for affection. Only by the blood of Jesus are you washed of your sins, made white as snow, and set free to live fully in Him.

Because of the cross, because of the crown of thorns, because of His death, you can have new life. That is why you can say with full assurance, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4).

We have all had a moment like Miss Colombia, facing rejection, shame, and the struggle to believe that we are worthy. In reading the responses that were written as a consolation to Miss Colombia, the common message was to affirm that she is beautiful. We must remember that worth runs deeper than a pant size, a plastic crown, and a title. Beauty is not defined by your appearance; it is defined by your Savior.

Photo by Katherine McBroom

Let us look to Jesus who took our place, bore our thorny crown, and chose us because of His grace upon amazing grace. You are beautiful, loved, and worthy, because the loveliness of Christ washes you white as snow and crowns you as His daughter. 

Live your days for eternal crowns that will not perish, always seeking the beauty of Christ. Because He dwells in you, because He fearfully and wonderfully made you, because He rescued you from your sin and adopted you as a daughter, you are worthy, you are loved, and you are beautiful. (Psalm 139:13-14, Ephesians 1:3-14, 1 Corinthians 9:25)

your sister,

Gretchen

above photos by Katherine McBroom