I know many of you are in despair over the UNC Tar Heels basketball season.
The emotional challenge is going from feeling like a winner to feeling like a loser. How do we deal with such feelings? How do we regain hope? How do we obey the Bruce Springsteen command from his song New York City Serenade, “Walk tall, or don’t walk at all?”
Almost 30 years ago I had a very painful and intense experience of going from feeling like a winner to feeling like a loser. I was serving a church in Huntsville, Ala. Almost nothing was going right. My sermons were not very popular. My pastoral care was not impactful, and the church was not growing like the members expected. Of course I made mistakes and lacked wisdom. I ended up resigning, and it took me a long time to recover emotionally and spiritually from this experience.
While I was licking my wounds, I wrote a short novel titled For Pete’s Sake, based on some very positive childhood experiences living in Corpus Christi, Tex., in the late ’60s. It is in a box collecting dust in my closet. I had to dig deep and reinvent and reclaim myself and slowly learn to walk tall or don’t walk at all! I had to reclaim the power of God working within me.
There is a fine balance in the spiritual and psychological life between learning to be humble and feeling humiliated. Humiliation is not all bad. It is painful but also a dreaded learning experience. No one really wants to learn through pain, but that is usually how it works out anyway.
My wife Kate says with the best of the Stoic philosophers, looking with profound boredom at the TV, “Oh, another ball game. Someone wins and someone loses.” It is fun to win and not fun to lose. But we can’t always win. We can’t even always feel like winners. Except in the most profound spiritual sense.
God is with us always — steady, patient, and reliable. To receive the love of God in Jesus Christ, we are eternal winners. Even the losers, the sinners, get lucky sometimes.