I don’t really have an in depth thought to go along with that title. But the phrase “Blessed are the ones that lose” has been repeatedly popping in my mind during the Olympics. I’m excited when the athletes that I pull for win their events, but then my eyes wanders to corner of the screen. In the background, behind the gold medalist being interviewed, an athlete hangs his or her head in defeat. Then there are the times when the loss is not in the background but takes center stage.
Times like yesterday when we were watching the finals of the women’s 1500 meters. Right after the bell for the final lap, American Morgan Uceny—who was in the mix for a possible medal—was clipped and fell on the track. The same thing knocked her out of the 1500 in the 2011 World Championships. She was sprawled flat on the ground as the rest of the field ran off. She sat up on her knees and began pounding the track with both fists as she cried. An official came out to try and help her, but she couldn’t be consoled. It was uncomfortable and heartbreaking and painful to watch.
These past two weeks in London have been about the glory that can come with athletic achievement. We laud those that finish first, but often start calling people failures that don’t finish on top of the podium; people who, mind you, are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 18th best athlete in their sport in the world.
Occasionally, a commentator will watch someone’s valiant efforts and talk about how the Olympics are about more than just winning gold medals. But in those instances, the person is still winning. Not to take anything away from plenty of inspiring stories that evoke those comments, but those comments basically mean “They had no business being here in the first place and just by being here, they are winning.”
But losing is another matter. It rocks our individualistic and achievement-based systems to the core. We all want to be winners and, even though we all experience loss, we’re not quite sure what to do with defeat. Then here comes Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount telling us that mourners, the poor, the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful, the pure in heart are going to be blessed. It doesn’t compute. But God often works in an upside down kind of way. Our definitions of power and glory don’t really translate into the native language of God’s Kingdom.
I’m not saying that it is wrong to win or even to want to win. But I do think or, rather, I hope that there is blessing in losing. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment of defeat. In fact, it often feels like going through hell. Yet my hope and my prayer for those that I see suffering heartbreaking losses or when I myself experience those losses is that God would bless. As Christians, I think that we are likely supposed to try and find where we can be a part of God’s blessing for those men and women.
Like I said, I don’t have anywhere particularly deep to go with this, so let me just end with this word: When the world looks at your loss and casts you aside as a failure, may God’s love be with you always.