Last week my son had two basketball games. In the first, his team won pretty easily. It was a party as his guys went up big and cruised. The second game also featured a big win … by the other team. We couldn’t dribble, play defense, or get a shot to fall. Everything that was in our favor just a few nights earlier had tilted. The other team was better prepared and we couldn’t handle it.
I talked to him about it afterwards. He’s still kind of early in this whole sports thing, so all he knew about the loss was it didn’t feel good. He didn’t like it. He wanted to make sure he experienced it as few times as possible.
Obviously, I’m happy with that attitude. We shouldn’t like losing and need to work to avoid it. But, losing gives us opportunities winning doesn’t. It reveals our weaknesses. It gives us the chance to see how we respond and get better. Really, it can teach us more about ourselves than winning does.
Of course, losses occur in more areas of life than sports and often with much bigger consequences. It can happen through a medical diagnosis, meeting with your boss, or conversation with your spouse. Losses happen. In fact, they can often feel more common than winning.
Those are the events I’m wanting my son to be ready for. Games like he had the other night will help get him there.
I’m a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan, so I’ve had a lot of experience in losing. But, I’m also a lifelong University of Alabama football fan. I get views from both sides of the fence. The expectation of something going wrong, because God obviously has it out for your team, isn’t new to me. Neither is the icy (jealous) stares from other football fans when you wear your 2015 National Champions hat with your 2012 National Champions sweatshirt over your 2011 National Champions t-shirt.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Running the race is important. In fact, we enter one every day and have no choice to participate. Check that, we do have a choice but often feel the correct one is to sit it out. Don’t try to get better and work at those areas where we need help whether it be time management, money, fitness, or making quality time and memories with those who mean the most to us.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul laid out the math.In the race there are a lot of participants but only one gets the prize. The next sentence isn’t “So run if you feel like it, because really the odds aren’t with you.” Despite the odds, we’re to run like we can win.
Paul’s point in using the athletic metaphor is to emphasis a single-mindedness for living out the gospel. In whatever we do, if we identify as a Christian it reflects back. We’re called to a higher standard and beyond that know our efforts aren’t for a perishable award, but one of much greater value.
Following that second game my son had a choice. Accept the loss, or learn from it and get better. He’s kept me busy in the driveway working on shooting, passing, and dribbling exercises. He’s the smallest kid on his team, and so we’ve focused a lot on defense. As a result he’s become known as a pest by the other team, stabbing away the ball with his arm, hand, leg, whatever it takes.
That kind of effort, I tell him, doesn’t get the attention of scoring points, but it can mean everything for your team needing a turnover or a spark on offense. Even if you don’t win, always play like you can.
Last night they played again. This time, the hustle and effort were there. Shots were falling. On defense he was knocking the ball away, covering his guy, and basically being a pest when the other team had the ball. On offense he knocked down a couple of shots.
It was fun way to learn.