Expecting to Lose

Like so many of us, I have struggled with who I am, how I am defined. Throughout my life, I would give myself to certain interests and seek to be defined by them; whether it be dinosaurs, football, music, girls or even drugs. I would devote myself to be filled with every tidbit of info I could find about these interests and would find gratification in the search. But I have also felt a common thread through each of these things, I would lose.

Football has been the clearest example of this losing for me. My high school team lost 29 straight games during my career and went on to lose 20 consecutive more after I left. To be the captain of that team and to love something as much as I loved football, that hurt. I can’t even give words to how it felt to lose so much or how demoralizing it is to think we never had a chance. And to add to this, the team that I gave my attention to, the South Carolina Gamecocks, were perennial underachievers. The first time they ever won a post season game came 100 years into their experiment with football back 1995.

The gamecocks flirted with success here and there but only to find our hands empty. After a while, you just expect to lose. I have realized that the one word that best sums up my self-opinion is ‘loser.’ Football seems small compared to the failed relationships, the drug abuse, practically flunking out of college, and severe depression that became my story.

God has this thing for giving new names. The great persecutor of the early church, Saul, rode the meager christians out of town and into death, but God defeated him and gave him a new purpose and a new name: Paul. He would go on to write 2/3’s of the New Testament and was almost single-handily responsible for bringing the faith to all of Europe. And yet he never forgot his first name: ‘chief of sinners.’ And because he never forgot, the power of his new name was unsearchably immense.

God is giving me a new name too. Once a loser I now find myself living under the moniker of ‘victorious.’ Its a hard pill to swallow. Even though I sobered up, made it through college with honors, and have the greatest relationship of my life with my wife, I still am scared that I will lose it all, that I will lose even my new name.

And it was in the midst of this fear and uncertainty that I watched the Gamecocks win a second consecutive baseball national championship this past year. And not just win it, but do it in style. Pulling off near-miraculous plays when all seemed lost, breaking the all-time record for consecutive tournament wins, doing it against near-insurmountable odds like your best player playing with a broken wrist. And best of all, I kept expecting them to lose and I was so wrong.

This team comes from a place that knows nothing of winning. The school’s athletics seemed so doomed to lose that the local papers refer to the ‘chicken curse’ as stifling all the opportunities for victory. But this group of self-proclaim nobodies won in a way never seen before. And while most simply enjoyed the spectacle, I was floored with the sprig of hope these gamecocks were bringing me.

I am not destined to lose.

Life has thrown me some wicked curve balls, I’ve had my share of brokenness but my expectations are changing with my name. I am beginning to believe that I might just win. And that, my friend, is the greatest hope I can imagine.

Michael is the pastor of the Church at Argenta in North Little Rock, AR. He is still a hopeless gamecock fan and hopes their baseball team can pull of the even more improbable three-peat as season started this week. He blogs semi-regularly at A Sprig of Hope.


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3 responses to “Expecting to Lose

  1. Georgie-ann

    “Winning isn’t everything” & “it’s how you play the game that counts” we might hear, over and over — especially if your mother was a perennial self-proclaimed “fan of the underdog,” as mine was! In other words: “root for whoever is losing”(?) An idealistic transplant to New York from Kentucky, and a great fan of Mark Twain, she not only had a real heart for stray animals, but she absolutely hated the Yankees. And she just loved doing it. (She could be very self-righteous about hating the Yankees — and, who knows? — maybe she was right.)

    I’m not going to say that I found this to be confusing — “life was good” growing up under the umbrella of my mother’s absolute definitions of things, and she was a real giver and doer “to boot,” amazingly self-satisfied and generating her own sunshine (and apple pies), wherever she went! But it WAS confusing, in that it contributed to my own perpetual identity of being destined to feel somewhat like “a square peg in a round hole,” or “a fish out of water”, etc. Content enough in myself, I still didn’t feel quite like I “fit in” with our new surroundings,…(and I often still don’t, even decades later!).

    My mother danced to her own tune, while the harder-nosed, brashly self-assured, extremely competitive and over-achieving New Yorker-types paraded on by, running their own shows, willfully stepping on others — if necessary — to do it, and pretty much oblivious to this anarchist of “defining your own happiness” and “making your own bliss rules” living in their midst. So, I was never able to be happy when the Yankees won, … and even so to this day … and they DO win a lot! Go, Mets? Not really. Instead, I’m so conflicted about winning and losing, that I just refuse to get involved.

    In the same way, though talented enough, I don’t like to compete when something is “near and dear” to my heart. The edge of pushing against someone else just to advance myself, or to adopt a “winning and competitive style” that is not my own, has never worked well for my personality, peace of mind,…or sadly, pocketbook. But fortune has smiled on me somewhat in the long run, and the old Tortoise and the Hare adage of “slow and steady wins the race,” is proving to be a little bit true. I’m very happy with the musical opportunities that have gradually come my way, and am blessed to be able to regularly “do my bit” among some very wonderful Church musicians. I was just reflecting on that and dearly appreciating my fellow musical buddies (and God’s faithfulness), yesterday (Sunday)!

    I firmly believe that “in God” and in being true to ourselves, we ultimately can’t lose. But before we really “find our groove” with Him, those “first rows” getting there can be pretty “tough to hoe!”

    A Christian friend and comedian/minister, Burt Rosenberg, has a pithy saying (one among many!): “We get to what it IS, by the way of what it ain’t.” I think God lets us “be led” this way in our early years very often. Finding His plans for us will have that “synch” and “victorious” feeling that will not only be a great relief, after floundering around in our own personal deserts for awhile, but will distinctly help to point out for us and confirm to us “the Way” to go.

    Isaiah 30:21 “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

    Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.'”

    “Onward, Christian soldiers!” (-:

  2. You are a winner in my books. You hit the jack pot with Michala and struck gold with Marry Grace. Just think how awesome Tellyblue will be.

  3. Georgie-ann

    edit: ” … contributed to my own perpetual identity crisis … “

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