While picnicking with my wife and daughter in a local park this week, I noticed that a junior league football game was going on. My attention was piqued - watching these little guys whose helmets appeared bigger than their bodies run, tackle and block like their Sunday-afternoon heroes.
After two possessions, it was clear that one team was dominant and the other was struggling. Three straight touchdowns from the "aqua" team, no touchdowns and two fumbles from the "blue and white" team. I felt for the little guys.
Then I looked at the scoreboard. The score read "0 - 0".
I'm not one of those people who is going to unleash a tirade about how much "better things were when I was a kid" but I have to remark on the situation. No score. No reward for execution and skilled play, no challenge for mistakes and poor play. I understand, by the nature of the word "play" it should be fun and enjoyable and without an emotionally-wrenching outcome. That is why many consider play to be a spiritual discipline, part of sabbath rest, because we've become so bad at doing something simply for the enjoyment of it.
When I think of following Jesus Christ, there is a presumption that it is irrelevant. Jesus was perfect. Jesus was divine. I am neither. Therefore, what could being an apprentice of Jesus have to do with my real life? How could it contribute to my working through the circumstances of every day?
Simply put, one of the best things Jesus can teach us is how to lose - and how to find joy in losing.
One of the loudest arguments against the existence and goodness of God is the presence of evil. Now, I understand there are tragedies and holocausts that quickly rise to a higher emotional and intellectual level than others. Let's set those aside for a moment.
How many times have we chalked up daily losses and struggles to falling out of favor with God?
How many times have we struggled with relationships, addictions, and hang ups only to deduce that God is playing some sick and twisted game of hide and seek with us?
If God is good, and if life is hard, then either God is not good or He is irrelevant.
Bear with me here - realize that God doesn't have to be good or evil for struggles to occur. They happen because people exist, because we choose and choose poorly, because things are broken.
So, if we're going to live any kind of sustainable real life, we have to learn how to lose.
Lose our way of doing life.
Lose our will or desires being done.
Lose our sense of self-importance in light of something bigger.
We either learn to lose or we assume that the struggles and challenges of life will always own us and destroy us. This is where God does the amazing - He takes our losses and teaches us to win through joy. When we avoid defeat, when we can't live in joy through adverse circumstances, we lose that gritty spirituality that gives us life and life to the full. Losing gives us life beyond what's easy and pleasant. Joy has to be hardier than that.
"Whoever loses His life for my sake will gain it." (Jesus)
A Jesus who can show us how to take joy in loss is eternally relevant to our every day existence.
What losses are you experiencing today? How have you learned to lose well, to find joy by following Jesus through the losses into a stronger, more beautiful life?