Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Winning isn't all it's cracked up to be. I am not making this up. I used to think that winning was "the ONLY thing." Then I lost a few. The first ones were always because the other guys had been lucky. There were some when the other guys caught us on a bad day. Then, there were always the cheaters on the other side. I was glad that for the most part, growing up I won more than I lost. I never was "lucky" though. Not me. I was good. Better than most of the rest. Then I moved away from the warm confines of my small home town. Then I really had to prove to myself that I was in fact, better. It wasn't easy. Nevertheless, I did manage to win more than I lost. None of this .500, break-even bull for me. I would wonder how some people could go through life at .500. I still do.
If there is one important thing that I have learned it's that winning is not everything. Sometimes you have to be able to be satisfied with survival. As I've grown older, I have come to learn that sometimes even survival isn't anything to brag about. I think of the 9/11 survivors. I think of the Great Tsunami survivors. What about the Chilean miners? The Japanese tsunami/nuclear survivors. The prisoners of war who survive. Escapees from concentration camps. Do any of these humans ever regain what they had before surviving? I often think about the soccer players who survived a plane crash in the Peruvian Andes. They survived in large part because they ate the remains of those who had died. You call that winning? Do you even call that true survival? Surely, they are alive. I wonder if call it "being alive," boldly.. And they were athletes. Competitive sorts. They had to be good since they were on their way to an international match.
The Bible has some really great examples of Chosen Ones who were successful at what they did, but were never really totally fulfilled as long as they were alive. I think of Joseph, the son of Jacob who despite everything became a powerful person in Egypt. Thanks to his success and his rise to power he was able to provide God's people with a good life. But before he died he won it all. He was able to forgive his brothers. He therefore lightened their burden by cleaning their conscience. Then to make his survival complete, he made his brothers swear that they would bring his bones back to be buried next to his ancestors in Canaan. (Genesis, chapter 50)
The reality that shakes me the most is the one in which a person survives bad habits that are self destructive. You'd think that this is the most exalted victory of them all. If that is true, why do the ones that I know suffer so much from their "victory?" I know people who have "survived" different things. Drug abuse; alcohol abuse; the practice of violence towards others; prostitution; mental aberrations, etc. All of the ones with whom I am familiar are happier than before. True. It is also true that the residue is "killing" them. The Gospel stories and parables have strong lessons in them. They all have a "punch line." They also have a mission attached to the punch line. You know, easy stuff, like, "...Sin no more."
I could go on for quite a while about this. Be that as it may, I leave you with the story the way it is. I leave you to your own devices. After all, I do not have the answer[s], as neither do you. It is a mystery with which we all have to live. I can only wish that the reward for winning was always pure and absolute happiness. It isn't. No matter how much you win, or how much you survive, happiness will never be distilled to its purest form. We have to get used to it. Sadly, some of us never do. I hope that those of you who follow this series can handle living with this mystery. Plus, I sincerely hope that you will win more than you lose...in short, survive. I'm still convinced that it is better than the alternative.
Do I need to give you any more reasons why you should not cry at my funeral?