When Our Heroes Lose
It was billed as the fight of the century. If it was the fight of the century, then we are in the midst of a sad century indeed.
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fought an excruciating fight with little action and gave little satisfaction to the crowd gathered and invested.
Invested because many had paid $100 to purchase a pay per view event.
It would have been completely disappointing for the fight to end as it did, or to end with a quick knockout as many fights in my younger days typically ended.
There was little action. There was little satisfaction.
The element that pushed the disappointment level through the roof, however, was the "good vs. evil" nature of the fight.
Floyd Mayweather's history of domestic abuse, selfishness and extravagant living made him an easy villain.
Manny Pacquiao's rough upbringing and newly-disclosed Christian faith made him the hero. Hands down.
The only way this fight would have been more polarizing is if they had chosen a political party to represent in the fight. I'm grateful they didn't.
But in the end, the hero didn't win. With Jesus and a rags-to-riches tale, he still didn't win.
This is life - and I don't mean that in a "resign to your fate, it doesn't get better" kind of way but instead I mean it in a "let's be honest about reality" way.
Heroes don't always win. Victims aren't always vindicated. We don't always get things the way we want.
But the secret of Christian spiritual formation is that we desperately need to be able to look at these situations and say we must learn how to be well anyway.
Dallas Willard talked about the two concepts of "unmet expectations" and "surrendered outcomes."
Unmet expectations derail, undermine, and drive us into depression. They cause us to manipulate our circumstances, material goods, and even close relationships out of a fear that we won't get what we want. I have seen marriages end, friendships burst into flames, and corporations driven into the ground because of the bitter seed of unmet expectations.
When we give in to unmet expectations, we remain the victim forever and we let our behaviors and attitudes flow out of a wound that may not even be our fault. The problem is, even if it isn't our fault it is our responsibility. Forcing our pain of unmet expectations onto our life and others is destruction on a platter.
Surrendered outcomes are a result of following in the way of Jesus. In letting our heart, mind, and hands be shaped by the teaching of Jesus and the deeply rooted movement of His spirit, we learn that the outcomes don't belong to us. We can't manipulate them - we must not even try - because this is the way of anxiety, violence, and destruction. We snap the tether of unmet expectations, because we learn that our expectations being met isn't really the point and it isn't under our control.
When Jesus says, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for today has enough troubles of it's own" (paraphrase), He is speaking of surrendered outcomes.
When Jesus says, "Let this cup pass from me...but not what I want, but what you want be done" (paraphrase) He is living out surrendered outcomes.
When Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" we cannot take that teaching on - wisely and discerningly, I might add - if we are trying to manipulate outcomes.
To love like Jesus did meant to surrender control over the end product. This is how we can be well when our heroes - our we ourselves - lose.
Today, we're faced with all kinds of situations. We are growing more and more anxious by the day about things that, frankly, we can't control.
What we can control is what Father Greg Boyle calls, "Now. Here. This."
Surrendering outcomes, and moving beyond the frustration of our unmet expectations, means that we stay in this moment. The NOW. The HERE. The THIS.
We search for the next good thing to do, wisely and prayerfully, and we do it...
When it comes to our marriages...
When it comes to our jobs...
When it comes to our addictions...
When it comes to our finances...
To do this is to tell a profoundly different story - one in which we aren't always competent and capable.
One where we learn to surrender to others and to God when it is wise.
One where we go against the grain of our culture of accumulation and retail therapy and learn that disappointment is not a good reason for self-sabotage.
One where we learn the difference between what is right and what is righteous. What is equal and what is equitable. What is good and what is great.
We desperately need to abide with Jesus (John 15) in such a way that He points us clearly towards the next, closest, most important good than any of us might undertake. We learn how to do this through prayer, spiritual practices, and the gift of community.
When our expectations are unmet, when we make peace with that disappointment, we then begin to live. We thrive.
Even when our heroes lose.