“Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost.” – Lost, Coldplay
“We Are Marshall” was on TV again. Despite the fact that Greg has seen it more than 20 times, he watched it again. Despite the fact that I’ve watched it two or three times with him, I was supportive and watched it again with him.
The basic story is that in 1971, the entire football program was killed in a plane crash (except for three). The next season they try to rebuild what was lost — the program, the coaches, the players and the city.
We get to the point in the movie where the new Young Thundering Herd plays its first game of the season. Despite all courage, determination and hope, they lose. At practice the next day, Matthew Fox’s character is fed up, angry and still grieving. He tells Matthew McConaughey’s character that the motto of the former head coach was “winning is everything,” and that the new team wasn’t honoring the team that died by losing.
I looked over at Greg, and he knew what I was thinking before I said it. “You don’t agree with that, do you honey?” he asked.
I don’t just disagree that winning is everything. I also emphatically believe that losing is just as much everything, too. Beyond “don’t be a sore loser,” there’s so much more to losing. Both sports and life require the same perspective — there will always be losing. To play a sport, you have to enter into it with the understanding that someone has to lose. Always. And a lot of times, it’s going to be you. The same goes for life. The expectation that you can only win is not just an unrealistic expectation, but an unbiblical one, t0o.
The Bible is layered with examples of losing, and clearly shows that each team at some point lost. The Unbelievers had Saul who lost his position. Lot lost his wife. Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind. Pharaoh lost the Israelites. Judas lost his soul.
The Believers had a strong line up, but lost more. Abraham lost a nephew. Esau lost his blessing and inheritance. Daniel lost his name. Joseph lost his coat and brothers. Job lost his family and possessions. Ruth lost her husband. David, Naomi and God lost their sons. Disciples lost their lives.
What is remarkable about the stories of loss is not just that they continued to seek and serve God despite the loss, but that God felt their stories were so important for us to know, that he inspired those that wrote the Bible to include them in his permanent record. He intentionally, purposefully and lovingly laced the Word with loss. Because he knew it would be a constant part of life, and he didn’t want us to feel alone in it.
What have you lost? I’ve lost so much. I’ve lost my family. Relationships. Jobs. People. Children by way of miscarriage. Sense of self, identity, purpose and confidence. Money, position and power. I’ve even lost some of my mind and my heart. All loss is ugly, painful and isolating. God knows that. He saw the first and worse loss of all — he experienced it firsthand — the loss of innocence, the loss of purity, the loss of sinless relationship with himself. He saw how loss impacted the lives of the first two people he created and loved…Adam and Eve. And he grieved it. And he recorded many other losses in the Bible to tell us one crystal clear, phenomenal message in the middle of losing, “For God so loved the world.”
Jesus was the ultimate cheerleader for losers. His cheers held the same message, in various ways:
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matt 19:30)
“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt 5:39)
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39)
Losing is a part of life, not a part of God. If life is supposed to be only about winning, then God wouldn’t have created earth. We would all just populate heaven. And he would’ve left a much thinner reference for us to live by. Loss permeates scripture because loss just is. He was clear, upfront and honest about what we can expect. And yet.
It’s the yet that gives us hope, and helps us in our loss:
“Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.” (2 Chron 16:8)
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15)
“Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” (Psalm 31:22)
“Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)
“Yet you are near, O Lord, and all your commands are true.” (Psalm 119:151)
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.” (Isaiah 30:18)
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habbakuk 3:18)
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39)
You’ll never know how strong your house is built until it is shaken. You’ll never know how safe your car is until you have an accident. You’ll never know how free you are until you are bound. You’ll never know how strong your faith is until it’s tested. You’ll never know true intimacy with God until you lose. When your faith is tested, you then appreciate the faith you do have, even if it’s just a little bit. And you appreciate that God is good, all the time, and that he gives and he takes away, and blessed be the name of God.
Maybe, like the students at Marshall, we should all stand together after a loss, lean on each other and join in a rally cry that says, “We Are…Victors!” instead of “We Are…Marshall!” Because each person in the college and town had lost something — but then they appreciated what remained. Each other. And winning only two games out of 12 that season meant nothing to them. Yet it meant everything.
“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (Luke 9:25)