Life between victories

I have two inklingz posts outlined in my trusty notebook, but got home today and found something that struck me as more important. There was a catchy quote on a small envelope in my mailbox.  I read it twice, my interest piqued—but I guess not enough to open it. Distracted by my other mail and without really thinking about it I threw it down on my dining room table, got myself ready for a run and headed to Central Park.

Once back from my run I sat down for a bite to eat—and saw the envelope staring at me again. Its invitation reads like a tiny prayer:

“Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”         -unattributed

Once the wrapping was off, I could see the mailing was an appeal from the Special Olympics. The gift inside is a picture of a young man, red-headed, pale and freckled like me. He has a medal around his neck and his hand held high above his head, obviously in the joy of triumph.

I was overwhelmed for a moment with emotion, moved by the image and this tiny prayer.

Two things gripped me.  The first is the fact that we’re really not so different—this boy and I…or you and I for that matter. We all want medals and moments of triumph.  We all want to be loved. We all want to sense that our lives are somehow meaningful.

Yet, I am personally so quick to dismiss others as not smart enough, not good looking enough, not successful enough, not something enough to deserve my time. God is challenging me in this lately and I am trying to see people for who they are as children of God—all valued, all loved, all eternal beings (see On the (in?)significance of what we do: two perspectives).

The second thing that struck me is how carried away I get in the winning. It’s the second half of the prayer that I find so precious—pointing out the fact that we won’t always end up with medals. Life is about the living, not just the winning.  It’s about who we are becoming between victories—not so much which victories we win.

I feel fortunate that my worldview allows for failure and weakness and contends that God’s presence is often most clear to us in times of great vulnerability (see Upside-down, Inside-out). It reminds me of the account in the book of Judges where God intentionally sends Gideon with a very small army of 300 to conquer an entire kingdom—he didn’t even let Gideon’s guys use their weapons! Somehow it needs to be THAT lopsided for us to give credit to the God who gives us our abilities (1 Corinthians 12:8).

My worldview also compels me to look forward to the day when everything broken in this world will be fixed—when all the sad things will come untrue (see The problem of good in the world, Pt. III). Jesus’ so called supernatural acts restored life to a natural state, the way it was created—eyes made to see, ears made to hear, death and decay reversed. God’s ultimate promise is that He will complete this restoration, returning a state of shalom—complete peace and well-being—to this broken world.

The Easter resurrection tells us the realization of this promise is guaranteed, but life tells us it has not yet been fully realized. Until it is, we have to deal with the unnaturalness of disabilities, sadness, pain and death.

So the boy in the photo surely has many struggles to come, hopefully with a few more victories in between. But I’d be willing to bet that he shows more of God’s mercy and love through his life than I do through mine. If I listen to my heart’s pain when I look through this appeal, that’s part of the story it tells me.  In fact, many of the disabled or disenfranchised have stories to tell that are a benefit to all who will listen; they tend to understand that life is what goes on between the victories.

As for me, I will pray less for victory and its spoils and more for humility and the bravery to love more boldly, especially those who are often on the outside looking in.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, 
for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, 
for they will inherit the earth…”   -Matthew 5:3-5


Incidentally, the Special Olympics is raising money, but they are also encouraging attendance at competitions around the country. It’s a chance to communicate to participants that they are special–whether winners or losers of the games.  I would like to go.

Truth be told, I think it would be a blessing more to me than to the participants.

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