This has been a big year for sport in the UK. Andy Murray was the first Brit in the men’s singles in 74 years.
When we entered our church, St. Andrew’s, Oxford on July 8th, Wimbledon was on the big screen rather than Christian graphics.
Our sports-mad Vicar, Andrew Wingfield-Digby, was founder and National Director of Christians in Sport, chaplain at the Seoul and London Olympics, and chaplain to the England National Cricket Team. So we watched Murray play Federer while the worship leaders strummed worship songs. Very surreal!!
Everyone was gripped, so Andrew democratically asked for the vote as to who wanted to watch the final set at Wimbledon and who wanted to worship God. Wimbledon won (our family voted with the victors), so the worship leaders looking grumpy and resigned, continued strumming Be Thou My Vision, and I Surrender All, while we watched the screen, the sound now turned on, and church started at 6.20 p.m. instead of 6, with the TV switched off just as Andy Murray broke down.
I think crying is a natural, and not unmanly response to a loss made more terrible by the fact the hopes of a nation are pinned on you.
Loss in the Olympics are even sadder. Years and years of training and it’s all over in a few minutes, sometimes seconds. And only one gets the gold. 3 get medals. The rest have lost.
Is it worth it?
* * *
Yes, because the one loss at Wimbledon or the Olympics is preceded by a thousand victories. An elite athlete probably begins excelling in Kindergarten, winning numerous events in PE, for her house, her school, her town, her country, her country, internationally… Many successes for each big failure.
And so it is in anything competitive: we win some, we lose some, and when we do, we have to decide whether we are going to focus on the heartbreak of the loss or failure or rejection, or the joy of the thousand little successes that got us to the point of the big failure.
I was crushed by the rejection of a book manuscript I had written at great cost about 16 years ago. I told a kind lady who was mentoring me that I felt I was a failure. She reminded me of all my little achievements, the prizes I had won, the publications. “Many people would be green with envy to have achieved what you have,” she said kindly, but it didn’t help.
Now, years later, I have decided that, when I meet a setback, I’ll remember all the little successes which got me to the stage at which I credibly hoped for the prize, the acceptance letter. And thank God for them instead of sinking into despair.
And continue striving for excellence. For there is as much joy in the quest for excellence as attaining it.
Here’s a poem by Robert Francis called Excellence:
Excellence is millimeters and not miles.
From poor to good is great. From good to best is small.
From almost best to best sometimes not measurable.
The man who leaps the highest leaps perhaps an inch
Above the runner-up. How glorious the inch
and that split-second longer in the air before the fall.
* * *
And another thing now keeps me light-hearted. I have given my writing and blogging to God and so do not feel that I own my writing, or that it is entirely my own responsibility. I am in Jesus, a branch in the vine, and will write as his sap and juice flow through me. His grace is sufficient for me.
Here’s my favourite Max Lucado story:
Tom walks down the street and meets Dick, who is grinning from ear to ear.
Tom, “What are you so happy about?”
Dick, “Well, I’ve met a man who promised to do all my worrying for me for $80,000 a year.”
Tom, “$80,000 a year. How are you going to get that?”
Dick, grinning, “That’s HIS worry!”
This helped me hugely in my approach to money. Travel is expensive because it is all unfamiliar. One thing is guaranteed: mistakes. In the past, when I felt money haemorrhaging because of my mistakes or because I was ripped off, I would feel sad or annoyed. If it was Roy’s fault, I’d engage in mild recrimination.
Now I feel relaxed about it. I try to be wise, but have realized that stupidity is not a sin, and mistakes are part of being human. And it’s not really my money. It is God’s abundance temporarily in my hands. I am but a temporary conduit, and try to act wisely, but he will not hold mistakes and misjudgements against me.
And just as I have been blessed by other people’s errors (I own a publishing company, and people buy our books every day even though we are rarely the cheapest!) it’s okay if money flows through my hands to other people, willingly or unwittingly. It’s not really my money, but God’s and he will look after it. And me.
* * *
On this holiday, I made another cognitive shift which I sense will be important in my life.
I have unsuccessfully battled with weight for most of my life. And so, I made the sort of bargain with God which has transformed so many areas of my life. Somewhat as alcoholics say at AA, I said, “Lord, I have failed to eat healthily and exercise enough to be really fit. Lord, you step in and take over. Lord, empower and enable me to be healthy.”
And I know he’s heard my prayer, and so I am waiting to see how he will answer it.
His grace is sufficient.