It happened again. I checked the scores and saw the White Sox were ahead in the last inning 4 to 1. When next I checked it was tied in extra innings. They lost. For the fifth time in this young season they blew a lead at the end of the game.
I hate to lose.
Yet losing seems to be the norm.
Sunday my boy's ball team was in the championship round. They saved him to pitch the first game on Sunday morning as he is a good pitcher. He did his job well giving up two hits and two walks in his four innings. The two runs given up were because of errors. He left with a five to two lead. All was well, victory was in sight. My wife told me later, I spent most of the game wishing you were there, and then the rest of the time so thankful you weren't. His team lost 6 to 5.
There is something about a come from ahead loss, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing it, throwing it away.... well you get the point.
Now all this begs the question, does it matter? In a sense, I guess it doesn't. In a sense I could say none of it matters, but then, it is fair to counter, what does matter? If my favorite team does not matter, should I have a favorite team? If my son's game doesn't matter, should he play? Is the purpose of life living in a monastery and working in soup kitchen (prayer and service do matter after all)? Lord knows I have sometimes thought that is what I should do. It appeals, but so does the glove and bat. Living life not caring about hardly anything doesn't seem right either. I have read some of the church Fathers. John Chrysostom had a sermon on not going to the games of his day (4th Century) so I know there have been some Christian voices articulating that more strict view of things. Still, I have spent too much time as a youth minister to discount the power of play and games in the life of the young (and young at heart). There is something, dare I say it, God-given about it all. Of course, all things need to be in right order.
Having said that, sitting at the ball park on a breezy sunny day, watching young boys run, hit and catch does have a special feel to it. When my son is running round the bases after connecting on a fastball, there is a sense of joy. It is balanced out, of course, by the strike out and pop up, the failure to deliver, the bad taste of another blown lead and late inning loss. "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" was a memorable line each Saturday on the Wide World of Sports (pre-cable, hard to imagine that world today!). Yes, winnning and losing are part of life and they produce strong emotions.
As I deal with the post-Christian world I also encounter defeat. When I pray for the sick and counsel the troubled, as often as not, I endure defeat. When I try to get my parishioners to show up for church and commit to the Lord, often times I taste defeat.
Being a loser, whether vicariously or not, is painful. It does not feel good. Sometimes we lose at things that do not matter so much, while other times it seems to be very important. In any case, losing, is a big part of life. As I prepare for Palm Sunday and the reading of the Passion of Jesus Christ, I recall that Jesus was a loser. He failed in so many ways. The earliest and most frequent response to His message was rejection. He was betrayed by one of His intimate friends, denied by another and abandoned by all but a few women. Some people whom He had healed apparently turned on Him. His message was twisted by witnesses into capitol offense. He was tortured and crucified. What better image of a Loser is there than the cross?
Yet, there is more to the story.
There is more to every story.
"Unless you lose your life, you can not gain it."
Losers and winners, Jesus says, will be reshuffled in the end.
It is all a mystery too large to grasp, yet too important to ignore.
Lord Jesus, make me Your Loser, amen!