Lessons from Losing

It finally happened. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh finally lost a volleyball match. They last lost in mid August of last year—112 matches. Elaine Youngs and Nicole Branagh, which happens to be the same team they lost to last year, beat them in three sets. Instead of focusing on why they lost, I want to focus Youngs and Branagh’s win. 

When I was in high school, we were in the same district as a multiple state champion. The week before we were to play them, our coaches spent a lot of time talking to us about knowing we could play with them, how well we were matched up with them, and what holes they had that we could exploit. They had us believe that we could actually walk on the field and stay with a team that had not been scored on all year except by a ranked team in a higher classification. 

They looked intimidating on film; they looked intimidating when they took the field. They showed a confidence when they lined up across from us that I had not seen ever. But we believed—no, this is not a Facing the Giants story—we lost 40-something to 8. We were, however, only one of two teams to score on them the whole year, including their playoff run to the state championship. And for a whole half, we actually thought we could win. In our minds, they were frustrated by our tenacity and refusal to role over. 

That changed at the start of the second half. They returned the opening kickoff for a TD. We never recovered.

And that happened at the Olympics. Treanor and Walsh would get down and one could see a spark in their opponents’ eyes. But then they would come back, win the opening set, and I could see the spark go out. 

But Youngs and Branagh were not intimidated. They did not give up. They did not roll over when the 112 match winning streak walked onto the court. Many teams that played the state champs that year lost before the opening kickoff. 

What does that have to do with me or you? Sometimes I see life as that state championship team or Treanor-Walsh. It intimidates me, doesn’t let up, keeps pounding: just this morning, I discovered that my rear brake lights won’t go off. I know—a small thing, but one more thing in the never ending stream of things. Not a hurricane like thing. Not a death like thing. Just a life thing—a slow persistent tapping on my shoulder that I am not in charge. And how should I respond? 

With joy! Joy because the Maker of the universe knows my name. And this is an opportunity for me to walk onto the sand and refuse to believe that I will lose. How do you respond to the little and big annoyances in your life?

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