Losing as a way to win.
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial covers one hundred and seventy football fields and contains 9,388 white crosses. It sprawls across the French countryside on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the primary sites of the Day-D invasion. It is the collective resting place for thousands of men and four women who gave their last full measure of devotion on the European battlefields in the second World War. It is a perfectly manicured dichotomy, with the real price of winning and losing graphically displayed row by row. Among these thousands of crosses are 307 special headstones. On each one is this simple inscription, “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY A COMRADE IN ARMS KNOWN BUT TO GOD”. These are the graves of the unknowns of Normandy.
If winning is everything we've made it out to be in this culture, why do we attach so much reverence to those who have clearly done the very thing we all secretly despise so much - to lose? Not just a ballgame or a championship, or grand slam, or gold medal, or Indy 500 or Super Bowl, but way higher stakes than that. In the case of these three hundred and seven souls, not just losing your life only to be buried in a foreign land, but even giving up being known by others for who you were in that place of sacrifice. That's too much to ask of anyone. And yet, what if it's really true?
What if really winning on the most sacred battlefields of life really does require a willingness to lose at that level? To give your last full measure of devotion and then some. A haunting prospect indeed when juxtaposed to my need for recognition and my desire for self-preservation. The trouble is, most of the time I'm simply not willing to sacrifice myself like that even when I have the smallest opportunity. Many times it’s not as much about my desire to win as it is about my fear of the cost of losing. I'm just too intent on protecting myself even at the expense of something much, much greater than me.
But what if winning and losing are not what I've imagined at all? What if they're really not the adversaries I had assumed they were but are in fact strange bedfellows that demand fellowship with each other because having the one means having the other? What if winning and losing are really just the same because winning only has any significance at all when it is accompanied by great loss. If that is true, then all I have to do to win in these different arenas of life, is to be willing to lose at a much deeper level, to lose not because of failure, but for the sake of love. Like the field at Normandy where everyone lost so that everyone could win.
Scripture to consider - Matthew 16:25 - For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
As you walk this journey today, how have you lost at different times in ways that made you feel like you had failed?
Do you see yourself differently when you win or lose?
How would you look at your life differently if your success or failure were not defined by winning or losing?
How have you experienced a great loss so that someone else could win?
How will you invite God to guide you in this endeavor of losing?
“If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?”
― Vince Lombardi
“The gambler who expects to lose is the happiest person at the track.”
― Marty Rubin
“You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”
― Barbara De Angelis
“Because you are not willing to lose, you are losing.”
― Meir Ezra
“A loser is someone who still has something to lose.”
― Péter Zilahy
“You've got to lose to know how to win.”
― Steven Tyler
A simple prayer for Losing:
Father, thank you for being my guide. Would you give me your perspective on what it means to really win and lose. Would you open my eyes to the ways that others sacrifice for me and make a way for me at their own expense. Show me how to follow your example of personal sacrifice that is motivated by love. Give me the grace to lose with great dignity and purpose and win with great humility and reverence.