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Saturday, January 16, 2016

When Your Hands are Tied

Life is funny, sometimes.  Literally.

The other day I watched a movie that I don't feel that I can recommend for entertainment purposes, although it sure was an interesting watch if you ever want to contemplate a variety of positions on the afterlife.  At any rate, there was a takeaway phrase (well... two... but you'll understand).  Here are the words:

"Sometimes when you win, you lose," and, "Sometimes when you lose, you win".

I don't like to lose.  Ever. 

However, there are a variety of ways in which these statements could be applied to recent events in my life, and I think they hold more truth than I might like to admit.  There is a whole lot of unpacking I could do on this idea, but, mercifully, something rather amusing and a little bit crazy happened, today, and it will make the point just as well.

If you don't already know it, we are a Bible Quizzing family.  Today my three oldest kids participated in a tournament.  Although they have won several tournaments during their quiz "careers", a victory at this one has eluded them, which is actually sort of ironic for multiple reasons.  Leading up to this day, I hoped this might be the year they finally won it, but I wasn't sure they were prepared.  The truth is, their quizzing wasn't beautifully executed, today, but after the preliminary rounds, they entered the single elimination tournament seeded second, and they fought their way to the final round.

I've been around the quiz world for 21 years.  As a quizzer, I spent a lot of time on the seats praying things like, "God, please let us win.  Please let me get this jump.  Please help me remember how to finish this question.  Please help me remember what I studied.  Please help my team members remember what they studied.  OK, God, please help them to remember what they didn't study, because I know they can't pull this one.  Please let us guess well.  Please let us win!"  As an adult, I have spent much more time praying for quizzers as they come through my room; that their lives would be blessed and they would use their knowledge of Scripture to become the people they were created to be and to bring the Kingdom of God to their unique contexts.  I guess I just needed you to know that, since I was so honest about my consuming desire to win, as a teenager.

At some point during the semi-finals round, though (I think it was after I exited the room for the second time to not so gently let the teams who were running through the gym, screaming, that they had better can it, because they were disrupting quiz rounds...  I have been known to morph into "psycho quiz mom mode," although I'm trying to be better), I found myself saying, "You know, God, it would be nice if they could win today..."

Well, the final round was fairly evenly matched (that's usually the case).  On question 18, Seth quizzed out to tie the score.  On question 19, Caleb errored out, and the other team went up by 20.  And on question 20, Grace quizzed out to tie the score... again.  This means that the quiz had to go to overtime.  The next quizzer to answer a question would determine the winner of this round and, subsequently, the winner of the tournament.  A correct answer means the win in this situation.  An error means a loss.  It doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, it's usually intense.  Today would have been no exception, if it hadn't been so painfully obvious that we had already lost.  It was completely out of our hands.  All three of my kids gave everything they had, and that resulted in no one left on the seats for our team.  With no quizzers to jump, the other team could simply wait for a question they knew, for sure, and then answer for the win.  Question 21 went unjumped.  Most everyone in the room chuckled a little bit.  Question 22 went unjumped.  Even I laughed.  Question 23 was read, and one of the opposing quizzers jumped.  There was too much time and space between her jump and her words.  She began to answer, and in the 30 seconds that followed, it became more and more clear that she was going to error.  And she did.  I think there was, perhaps, a brief moment during which everyone in the room considered this odd turn of events, shaking our heads.  And then we all laughed... both sides... because we are, after all, friends.  It will be a good story for a long time to come, but it was truly the most anti-climatic tournament win I have ever experienced.  Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words...

 This has me thinking about that idea that, "Sometimes when you lose, you win."  I still don't like to lose.  I sure don't like to lose on question 20.  But, perhaps, I don't always look far enough ahead to see what happens at question 23...

I mostly just wanted to share this story... this piece of our lives in this moment in history that won't really make or break anybody in the long run.  My Scripture reading, this evening, though...  Just wait for it... 

"May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  May we shout for joy over your victory..." (Psalm 20:4-5a, NIV).  Possibly pretty bad proof-texting, and believe me, I get it that every kid on that platform deserved to win, not just mine, but you have to admit the irony is thick, here...

I loved this one more, though...

"What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?" (Psalm 116:12, NIV).  I hope that's the one I live out on most of my days...


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