For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? -Jesus (Mark 8:35-36 ESV)
But, I just want to win. Really, I do. In fact, this is the second attempt at typing this blog post. I lost to the computer demons that deleted my original thoughts. I hate when that happens! Its like hitting traffic by taking a wrong turn or someone else getting a business opportunity I sought. And, no matter how much I actually win there is always someone who is winning more than I. The American Dream is not enough. This is why bands with a name like “Middle Class Rut” exist. The suburban dream is surely a nightmare, with impoverished foreclosures on marriages that are failing along with the homes that lay empty.
Economic concerns aside, we pursue the happiness of achievement. Envy is the motivator. “If I succeed like this dude, I could smoke those nice cigars he enjoys.” It is a craving to fill the soul with more. “If only I could have more margin, I could take my family on that trip to Europe someday.” Aspirations are human. Ambitions can surely leverage help for humanity. But, envy steps on people. The secret is this. Winners make losers. You cannot have one without the other.
Well, I am not going to preach against capitalism, but somehow winning can’t be everything. In a spiritual economy we marry our cultures win-at-all-costs mentality to our prayers. There are so many losing propositions to thwart a winning spirit. Injustices like child sex trafficking barely register let alone spark outrage. We would rather watch our premium package on our HDTV screens than feel the pain of dealing with complex problems. We would rather take sides in the political football matches than talk to our neighbors and hear their stories. A middle class rut, indeed.
In our political debates there is a fallacy screaming to be exposed. Liberals may feel the very rich should lose so the downtrodden can win. Conservatives feel those who perform better should be winners. The truth is that each side needs a loser in order for them to win. In what reality is both truly a winner? The Stephen Covey “win win” is just an idealistic principle we flash on Powerpoint at a business retreat. We really know that winning feels better when the other team is defeated. It is their sense of loss and resulting envy that we feed off of and hope satisfies the empty lost souls we hope to resurrect.
The most personally defeating belief is that by winning I win. In the famous hard saying of Jesus about taking up your cross and losing your life we try to find a formula. “So, if I just lose then that is my strategy to win?” we ask. The statement by Jesus is that you will lose. The call is to share in suffering. This is just too much for us to bear. Really? Share in the suffering? Yes. To win the Olympic gold you have to lose your life to train for it. Why would we think real glory in life is any different? Pain. It is part of knowing I am really alive, not a punishment.
Yes, we can go through delayed gratification to win. But, what if the pain is actually losing it all? What if we simply cannot win? What if the idea of winning is not in our domain? What if the real fight is done by others on our behalf? This is why religiously-recovering people like me struggle. We want to win over God so God can then favor us when the reality is we can’t do it. God fights that battle. He is the hero.
What does it profit a man if he gains the world? The answer is in how Jesus asked the question. To profit the world, we all know that we have to sell our souls to the other side. Is it worth it? If we can actually win, do we win? Jesus flips this with the notion that being ready to end it all and lose it for him and his agenda, we actually find a real life. We become alive. We live. But, I still want to win.
Prayer: God, help me to lose for you sake. In know my real life is found when you win on my behalf. As I seek more for my life, let you be that life that I seek and not just more of counterfeits. Change what I see. Let me find my life in all the ways you allow me to lose. Amen.