“My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me.” (job 17:10 NIV)
Well, it’s finished. The Super Bowl is done and Denver begins their reign as champions of the NFL. For all of its over hype, I have to admit I enjoy the Super Bowl. I look forward to it even if my favorite teams aren’t playing. Actually my favorite teams haven’t played in a Super Bowl in a long time.
But I enjoy the hype leading up to it. I enjoy all of the analysis. I enjoy watching the commercials , at least most of them. I remain more than a bit uncomfortable with the puppy/monkey/baby creature. Mascots should make you want to buy the product, not create an urge to grab a baseball bat and try to kill it while you mutter prayers to send it back to the Netherworld from which it came.
And this game, at least on paper had a lot going for it. The old pro versus the brash young gunslinging quarterback. One QB a physical Phenom, the other moving as if he is put together by bailing wire. A top offense versus a crippling defense. In some ways that’s what you want to see in a Super Bowl.
But what I enjoy the most is the after game interviews and press conferences. Well, specifically the interviews with the losers. Please don’t think I’m being particularly sadistic about that. But let’s face it, the interviews with the winners are pretty boring. They all pretty much say the same thing. They thank their teammates, family and owners. talk about giving 100%, its a team effort. And of course, giving God a shout out. Or as Payton Manning said last night, “I thank the man upstairs.” Who is that, God? Jesus? Mr. Furley from 3’s Company?
Boring. But the interviews with those who lost? Now that’s interesting. It’s in those interviews we really see the measure of someone. It’s there, we truly discover what they are like. Because anyone can say the right thing when you win. That’s easy. It’s how one handles defeat and loss that makes the difference in life.
One of the things I’ve noticed is while God (or the Man Upstairs) is frequently mentioned and thanked during a win, we hardly ever hear about Him during a loss. I mean when was the last time you heard a player say, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for being with us during this devastating loss.” or “I want to give thanks to the Man upstairs even though I’m hearbroken’? Ok maybe Tim Tebow, but anyone else?
The point is this. It’s easy to see the hand and blessing of God when everything goes your way. It’s something else to see and acknowledge Him when we lose or experience pain and disappointment. Can we, like Job claim both our pain and the goodness of God?
It’s an important question isn’t it? Not all of us will experience the joy of being a champion. But all of us will experience discomfort, loss and disappointment in life. Can we claim our pain and God’s goodness in one breath?
This Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent, like Advent is a journey we take to prepare ourselves . In Advent we prepare for Christmas. In Lent we prepare for Easter, yet know we must travel through loss, betrayal, denial, and the cross to get there. It is in many ways a reluctant Journey.
Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality and the weakness of life. From the beginning, we are called to remember our loss and impermanence in the world. Lent is a time for us to set things aside, in part to focus on God. But also to recognize our weaknesses and how hard self denial really is.
But to simply make lent about loss and how weak, we are is missing the point. The point of Lent is not to remind us that we lose, or are disappointed. The purpose of Lent is to remind us that even in the midst of loss God, a good God is with us. He is with us in illness. With us during heartbreak. With us when we are disappointed.
Lent also reminds us that tears do not last and that the cross is not the end of the story. Lent always, always leads us to Easter. So let us rise together and take this reluctant journey. Let us seek God, even in our pain. And let us go to Easter.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><