Well, the Washington Nationals lost it all. Again. It seemed to be a season of losses, not only of games, but also of players, of respect and hope and, in the end, of any glimmering of enthusiasm fans might have had for the team.
For me, this cycle of high hopes followed by an erosion that reduces those hopes to a fine powder is all too familiar. I followed the hapless Washington Senators back in the day. I think almost everyone knows what was said about them—“First in war, first in peace, and last in the American league.” Every year they played the first game, and every year, if they won, they sat atop the American League (and it was the American League. Period. No east or west or central of north or south or Guatemalan or Antartician or what have you) in unmatched glory for at least one day. The next day, they usually lost. And continued losing after that, sliding toward the basement where they landed about the middle of July and remained stuck there until their season came to a whimpering, mewling pitiful end. It was sad
But I suppose that I learned some valuable things in rooting first for the Senators and now for the Nats. I learned that there is always hope, that there is often a way back from adversity, and perhaps most importantly, I learned to lose. Boy, did I learn to lose. And while losing is difficult and messy and in the “not fun” column, learning to lose gracefully is one of the most important traits we can practice. We all lose sometime. We lose our place, our way, our keys, our glasses, our balance, and more seriously, our jobs, our friends and our loved ones. And in this life, no matter who we are or how talented we might be, it’s not that we’re not going to lose. We are. It’s what we’re going to do with it that’s important. Are we going to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go at it again? Or are we going to sit there and have an industrial sized pity party complete with noisemakers, balloons and sour grapes cake?
If you think about losses and losers (and we are) and the Bible, the stories there have a lot of both. Adam and Eve lost paradise. The Israelites lost their identity in Egypt. David lost his moral compass with Bathsheba. Job lost everything he owned. Isaiah lost his standing in the community because of his crazy prophecies. The disciples lost their jobs and their comfortable way of life when they followed Jesus. And Jesus lost his life for us, the biggest and most important loss ever.
Certainly there are a lot of losses and losers in the Bible, but there is also hope and restoration. Humankind regained Paradise, as John Milton pointed out, with the sacrifice of Christ. Through miles of travel and hours of suffering, waiting and fighting, the Israelites regained their identity as a people. David became an even greater king after his losses. Job gained everything back, and we regard Isaiah as perhaps the greatest prophet ever. The disciples’ names have been known and their accomplishments revered throughout history by billions of people. And of course we worship Jesus for his love and sacrifice for us.
We might find it useful to remember that every loss is an opportunity to come back and to win. Baseball fans have a saying after a disappointing season: wait until next year. So, when you are disappointed or have lost something, say “Wait until next time!” No matter what you’ve lost, restoration and wholeness are out there waiting for you. Count on it!