I hate to lose.
Want to know why? Three words.
Middle. School. Wrestling.
When I first got into Jr. High I remember wanting to sign up for a winter sport. In my smaller school, there wasn’t too much of a choice. It was either basketball or wrestling. Unfortunately, basketball was out. I would have loved to play basketball! I liked watching it on T.V., rooted for the Portland Trailblazers, and knew the game. One problem: I was short. Some people would say, “You can play basketball even if you’re short -- you just have to have a good outside shot; you know, put up three pointers all day!”
Yeah... so... like I said; basketball was out.
I hesitated before I signed up for wrestling. I really did. Something about those outfits. “Singlets,” they called them. They looked more like “Wedgie-Wear” if you asked me. I was also a little heavy for my height, so I was concerned about who I would wrestle. You are matched up with guys that weighed the same as you. Well here’s a bit of info if you’re new to the world of wrestling.
Not a lot of short chubby guys with a bad outside shot sign up for wrestling. They usually did other “winter activities” like Super Mario Brothers. Not me! Sign me up coach!
So there I was: wrestling guys that were a lot stronger than me, a lot tougher than me, had actual muscles that you could see -- and oh yeah... had to shave.
So I lost my first few rounds. Big surprise. I discovered something at that time that everyone failed to mention. Nobody told me that it’s really easy to cry after losing a wrestling match. Yeah. Really, really easy to cry. It’s not a wussy thing, it’s just so much work -- every muscle in your little chubby body is straining; being pushed to the point of exhaustion, and then…
You lose. It just plain stinks.
I lost my next few matches. I stopped crying. Pretty much because I expected the same outcome every time. I expected to lose. I made a decision. I would make a new goal! I made it my goal to not try and beat the guy anymore, but to try my hardest to put up the best fight and make people proud of me. You know, they might say something like, "That poor little doughboy. He sure put up a good fight. Too bad he barely lost." Yeah. Something like that. That would be cool.
So much for that goal.
I lost my next few matches. New goal. Just don’t get pinned.
Strike two. I got pinned the next few matches. New goal.
Forget the goals. Just end the season and go back to breaking my high score on Super Mario like all the other short chubby guys with bad outside shots were doing. At least I could feel better about myself beating up on turtles and mushrooms. Bowser? Please. He was easy to beat.
One more wrestling match and the pain would end.
One day something was different.
I was matched up with a guy that looked to be about my level. He was not particularly strong, he had a little bit of baby fat on him, he wasn’t very tall, and he didn’t have razor burn from shaving his beard that morning. This was good. He wore glasses and had to trade them for some goofy goggles for the match. This is really good. I could see hope springing up in my little 7th Grade eyes as the theme from Superman began to play in my mind…
…no… it was the eighties….
The Eye of the Tiger, baby. The Eye of the Tiger…
I walked up to the match with a new sense of purpose. A new confidence. I adjusted my Wedgie Wear, snapped on my dorky-looking headgear and waited for the whistle that started the match.
We wrestled. We struggled. We wheezed. We scrambled. We fought like two pudgy gladiators in the arena of stinky mats and yelling parents. I then noticed something. From underneath his sweaty armpit I looked out at the side of the mat. He had a huge crowd watching him. Friends, family, coaches, and teammates all around him cheering him on. Then I noticed something else. They looked surprised. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The kid was winning! Obviously this little marshmallow was like me in more ways than one. He also was hoping to get his first win. I spun my head and peeked underneath his other armpit at the little flip-style score boards. I was just a few points behind. Now was my chance. My chance at not being a loser anymore. My chance at proving something. My chance at coming away from Jr. High wrestling with at least a sense that I did something right.
My little stumpy legs shook with excitement. My puny arms flexed with new purpose (although no one could tell.) My eyes narrowed like an anime ninja ready for battle.
The whistle blew again and we grappled. The match ended in seven seconds.
He pinned me.
I really really hate losing.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose… blah blah blah. Whatever. Here’s the bottom line though: nobody plays the national anthem for the silver medal winner, you know? Nobody sees the guy carrying his flag around the victory lap for “doing the best he could.”
I didn’t know it in seventh grade, but I know it now; and I would like to remind you of something very cool. You don’t lose with God. Ever.
More thank conquerors. That sort of thing.
Yeah. Much better. I like that. That’s winning.
Even if you feel inadequate.
Even if you feel weak.
Even if you feel like you never win. You win.
We feel inadequate when we feel like we’re stupid or ugly, or we feel afraid of things. But God says in His word that He created us in HIS image and that He loves us no matter what. So we win.
We feel weak when we’re tired and worn out and feel like we can’t keep going. But God says in His word that He will give us strength and energy when we wait on Him. So we win.
More than a conqueror. Yes. More than a winner.