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Losing

March 20, 2021

“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'”Mark 4:38

You have no doubt noticed by now that I like sports. A lot. This is one of the best times of the year for sports. The men’s college basketball tournament is underway. The women’s college hockey tournament is wrapping up. Baseball is in the air, for the pros and for my kids. What a time of year! I am fired up to see the Badger women skate for the championship tonight, and I was thrilled to see the Badger men take down the Tar Heels on the court last night. I’ve been enjoying the success of the Royals in Spring Training, even if the wins are meaningless. Thanks to March Madness, I find myself caring about things I’ve never cared about before. Have I paid any attention to either Kansas or Eastern Washington this season? I have not. Was I passionately cheering for Eastern Washington anyway? Yes. Yes, I was. What a game! A tough loss, but what an effort by the Groves brothers (not that I’d heard of them before today).

The thing about sports is that for every winner, there’s a loser. There were 68 teams in the men’s baseketball tournament at its beginning. By the end of today, there will be 32 teams left. In the end, only one team will be the champion. 67 will be losers. The thrill of victory is so powerful because not winning is the norm. Heck, my alma mater is one of only four original Division 1 teams to never make the tournament. We are losers among losers, year after year. On the other hand, we are tied for third place for producing presidents of the United States (and I think our two are worth more than Yale’s three, but now I’m veering into subjectivity and I’m also just mad that Harvard beats us on this score with five).

My kids are getting to the age when they have to try out for sports (although not for Grace teams, for which I am thankful). They’ve done well so far, but eventually they’ll reach the limits of their ability and passion. This is true in other areas, too, of course; life will rank them out from honor roll to roles in dramatic productions. Sometimes they’ll make the cut, sometimes they won’t (even at Grace).

Kept in perspective, the joys and sorrows of sports are a lovely diversion. When this perspective is lost, however, we can lose ourselves. This is true whether we’re athletes or fans; this is true in sports and in other things. We may win, but often we’ll lose. Will we be okay with this?

Today’s New Testament passage from the Daily Texts isn’t about sports (unless competitive storm-boating was a thing in Jesus’ day) but it is about losing. The disciples’ craft is about to be swamped, and there’s Jesus, sleeping in the storm. Doesn’t he care that they’re perishing, about to lose it all? Of course he cares. But he cares for them, not for whether or not they win. Jesus’ message is not dependent upon winning. It is centered in losing. Not in life, but in death.

We put so much stock in winning. God wins by embracing losing. You don’t save everyone by choosing one team out of sixty-eight, but by siding with the losers. Does Jesus care that we’re perishing? Absolutely. He cares so much that he uses our perishing to save us. He loses everything for us.

However your team does this weekend, may you find victory in losing. This is the message of the cross, that victory and life emerge out of losing and death. But they do emerge. And so shall you emerge from whatever losses you endure.

Go Badgers!

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God, thank you for your constant care. Your eye is always upon us, and you neither slumber nor sleep. Help us to let go of our need to win. May we lose everything for your sake, and find everything from you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Torsten t-ball throwback. Here he is at three years old. Goodness, where does the time go? And yes, whoever ordered the shirts forgot to specify that they should be sized for children.

From → COVID-19

One Comment
  1. Susan Messerli permalink

    Thought provoking, as all your Daily Dispatches are. I am so grateful to be receiving them!

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