On Winning


Lord, sometimes I wish I could just win once in a while.  Nothing big.  Just the little daily battles that wear me down 'til I tire of fighting.  Like the kids.  How I wish I could make them stay asleep at night.  Inevitably Paul and I will crawl into bed, whispering a few sweet words to one another before turning out the light.  Sure enough, no more than five seconds elapse before one of the boys starts howling.  Oh, just to rest my weary head on a pillow for more than two minutes.
And in the middle of the night--be it nightmares, stuffy noses, lost pacifiers--whatever, they wake up.  Let the baby cry.  Okay, go ahead.  We do it. Then the three-year-old wakes up screaming.  It's just not worth it.  We can't win.  So we walk around bugged-eyed, pushing in pacies, taking toddlers to go pee-pee.  Anything to get them to BE QUIET.  And in my mind, I think:  someday I'm gonna win.
Someday these little frustrations will be gone.  But I won't have won.  I know there will be a different set of problems to face with the kids.   And in our ministry, more and more acquaintances will call right at dinnertime with their sad stories.  Others will stop by to spill out their lives on my freshly vacuumed carpet.  I can never win, I suppose, in this life, if winning means that things go MY WAY ON MY SCHEDULE.
But wait a minute, Lord.  You didn't win either, did you?  You tried to rest, and crowds crammed in around you.  You healed a man and hundreds of others rushed for help.  You closed your eyes for a much needed nap in a boat, but angry waves scared your friends and they woke you.  Yet you weren't FRUSTRATED, like I get. 
Somehow, even being God, so perfect, you knew that earth days are filled with interruptions.  Necessary interruptions.  Holy halts.  Changes of course.  Just to chip away a little more at our prideful paneling, until the sacred temple shows through.
You washed your friends' feet.  You served even when others spat and mocked and hit you.  You didn't come to win, did you?   Or to prove your point, or to have your life neat and organized.  You came to lose, to lose EVERYTHING on that piece of wood.  They taunted you, "Win, win, Jesus, if you can."
But you stayed and lost.  You lost so fully that you won forevermore.  Won for everyone who would embrace that paradox.
Maybe I don't have to win after all.  Maybe after I have lost time and time again, I will finally, ultimately lose myself in you, and what will emerge is "that gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God."
Change my perspective, Lord.  Prune the pride that must prove I am right.  Soften the harsh words that tumble out of a tired mother's mouth.  Let me lose the little battles so that I can win the war.
But it is only in being with you that I can learn the art of losing gracefully.  Only in arming myself with your weapons of wisdom and love that I can "fight the good fight".  Only in laying down my life, day after day, for little boys, hurting friends, and straggling strangers that I can hear, "Well done."

Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser, c1991