The 2016 Olympics were on the television hanging in a corner of the waiting room outside the Intensive Care Unit. My son and his family had gone in to see my husband, Wally, so my daughter and I sat silently watching life go on in the outside world.
I don’t remember what Olympic event pieces we caught over those long days at the hospital, but I do remember snapshots of faces. Athletes straining and concentrating. Teams exhausted yet jubilant in victory. Competitors dejected but determined to finish.
One camera shot, in particular, caught my attention. The focus was on the winning runner, but in the background came a solitary participant, the last to cross the finish line. His dreams may have been big, but he seemed content just to have been in the race and to have finished. In his own country he was the best, so he had earned his spot in the Olympic games. He was not upset; he may have raced not expecting to win, but he still wanted to do his best and he was satisfied.
“Someone has to lose,” my Mom would say when teaching children to be gracious winners and even more gracious losers. As hard as I may try, or practice, or wish for an outcome that would be in my favour, that does not always happen. If there is to be a winner, then there must also be a loser.
Competition seems to be part of our human nature. Young children will play together, but their play will include competition, whether wrestling over a toy or finding out who can scream loudest. Try as we might to convince children to cooperate rather than compete, the winners and losers still appear.
When my son was in elementary school, those in the seat of wisdom decided sporting events would no longer have 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place awards, but everyone would receive ribbons of participation. My son came home from track with his ribbon, and promptly told me who was faster than him, and who he was faster than. Ribbons or not, the competition was clear, and the comparison was natural. Someone won and someone lost.
As Christian writers, we like to think we are perhaps more gracious to one another. We celebrate with those who are rewarded for their hard work with publication. We encourage one another when a rejection letter comes. Maybe we are not in direct competition, but sometimes the discouragement of not being published or of not winning a contest makes us feel like losers. We know we are precious in God’s sight no matter our success, but it would be nice to realize the writing dream that others are living, wouldn’t it? And that is when I hear Mom’s voice again.
“Someone has to lose.”
This is not a voice of accepting failure. This is the voice of contentment, because eternal success does not look the way society tells us earthly success looks. Losing does not make a loser, but it does make one who tries, and that in itself is success.
As a writer, I may never publish a book. I may never have a readership of more than my friends and family. It may seem that every other writer I know is winning, and I am losing. Yet, I am participating. I am writing. I am striving to improve my craft, to write my best for each opportunity. I am sharing my writing in small ways now. So I am successful, a winner.
We certainly felt like winners the day Wally was released from hospital. Many families who gathered in the waiting room, blankly watching the Olympics, did not take their loved one home. We left with a diagnosis of cancer, but we had an answer to Wally’s health issues over the previous months, and we had a treatment plan for the future.
While our life may look like we are straggling in last, we celebrate our blessings. We have the hope of Christ which brings God’s peace and His strength each day to run our race. We see others with more faith than us, and we see others who struggle more than us, and we are satisfied in our place at this time. In life and in Christ.
The Olympics and cancer are huge to the world, but God is bigger! Even when it looks or feels like we are losing, we are winning, because “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)