Saturday, September 26, 2015

What to do with a loss...

It's football season and around my house that means a lot! Mornings are filled with making sure we have a high protein breakfast and that we have packed necessary workout gear for the day; afternoons are penciled inked in for practice; evenings are spent watching football or discussing the upcoming game, nights are spent lying in bed praying for protection for my son and his friends as they give it all they have got to win. 

The one thing I notice that is missing, is preparation for what to do if we lose. That is something that NOBODY likes to think about...or even consider a possibility.

Last year we had a phenomenal season. Everything seemed to go our way and despite a number of injuries and a couple of losses, we were considered a force to be reckoned with. We had every reason to believe that this year would be more of the same.

Last night I attended screamed at the top of my lungs for our fifth game of the season....and our fourth loss.

I'll just let that sink in for a moment. Fourth loss out of only five games.

I won't go into the bad calls by the officials at at least two of those four games (and no, that is NOT just a mama talking...we pretty much caught it on camera, but that is another story for another day - or not.) Fans were visibly upset, not at our boys, but at the adults surrounding them. We watched as our boys really did seem to leave it all on the field and yet the adults around them made mistakes and bad calls and the players had to watch their best efforts fail.

Fail is such a painful word.  According to the dictionary, it means "to fall short of success or achievement in something attempted, desired, or approved...to fall short....to lose strength or vigor; become weak; to break, bend, crush, or be otherwise made useless because of an excessive load..." Does that last part make anyone else take pause, the "excessive load" part?

In life I seem to find myself often burdened by an "excessive load." Something way to big for me to carry. Of course, I don't realize that until I've tried to carry it on my own and utterly "failed." Then I suddenly realize I am not invincible, or talented, or strong, or perfect...I am instead, based on that one particular incident (or game) a "failure." I "failed" to win. It is actually then that I realize how MUCH I need the Lord!

One look into the boys' faces as they exited the locker room last night to board that ugly cheese wagon for the long ride home showed that they saw themselves as having "failed"...at least for the night. Some seemed to have the wind knocked out of them entirely and I don't mean by an opposing player. Before the game, I could hear a few adults in the stands whisper they worried about the boys being able to rally themselves to play with full force if they lost another game...and here they had done just that. Lost. They gave it their all, and it just wasn't enough. What made it sting all the more is that those who had been called to serve had seemingly just let it happen. 

Life is a lot like that at times. We give it everything we've got and in return we get the opinion that it is not enough...insufficient funds, not strong enough, good enough, approved. We find ourselves tested under an excessive load and are found wanting. Maybe it's because of our own efforts, but it seems all the more unfair when it is simply not our fault. Those around us do what is wrong and it seems to go unnoticed. They are rewarded and we stand in disbelief as we are deemed the loser in the battle. Life is just stinking unfair.

So now what? What do we do with the loss? Do we allow it to define us, or do we allow it to teach us? The truth is, life will NOT be fair. There will always be those who cheat and seem to prosper. There will always be those who just flat out are better at something than we are. We are special in God's eyes, but that doesn't mean we always win...or do we?

Maybe winning is about something more than just a score. Maybe to truly win means we learn from our losses and become more of who we are created to be...one who serves God and trusts Him with the outcome, no matter what that outcome might be. (I'll admit, this is hard for a mama who looks into her child's eyes and sees the frustration and hurt...I so want life to be "fair" for my child.)

A couple of weeks ago I was praying and the phrase "the win belongs to the Lord" kept rolling over in my head. Being the loyal fan I am, I immediately thought this must mean we would win, but then another thought came. No matter WHO wins, the win belongs to the Lord. 

To many, football is just a game, but to those young men on the field; it is a part of the battle to become the man God has called them to be. Win or lose, the victory belongs to Him.

I won't lie. I truly hope that next week brings the turn around for our team that ultimately leads them to the "championship" so they can have a winning season, but no matter what the coming weeks hold I know that God can take it all and use it to shape them into who they are meant to be in Him if they will let Him. As a mom, I so want to protect my son from the "losses" of life, but in truth I know that those shape him into the man God created him to be. 

I remember once praying that my children would have greater faith than I ever had and felt that nudge from God..."And how did you learn to trust Me?" Because God, you have carried me so through all these trials and proved You are faithful and loving and...oh, I get it. I am asking You to rescue my child from the very trials that will help them learn to completely trust in You." I'll admit, this is a lesson I am still learning.

So what do you do with a loss? The same thing you do with a win...give it to God. 

I love this next verse...no matter what the "final score" is, it helps me to know what to do with the outcome:

Psalm 51, beginning at verse 10...
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.


I really like the way the Message translation puts it...

God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!

...Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.


Yep....that's what you do with a loss.

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