By Phil Callaway
I love to win. Always have. You don’t meet many people who say, “You know, I prefer losing. Yes, some of my fondest memories involve being clobbered in checkers and belted at backgammon.” You don’t hear sports fans chanting “We’re number twelve. We’re number twelve.” It’s easier to brag when you win. Baseball great Ted Williams said, “I can’t stand it, I’m so good.” Hall of Fame pitcher Bo Belinski said “My only regret is that I can’t sit in the stands and watch myself pitch.” Winning is nice, but colossal losses in sports make for great stories.
The most astounding football defeat on record is Cumberland’s loss to Georgia Tech back in 1916. The final score was 222-0. The worst baseball loss ever goes to the Baltimore Orioles back in 2007 when the Texas Rangers thumped them 30-3. The game was close, until that opening pitch.
When I was a staff kid at Prairie, we sometimes taunted pitchers during softball games. “I’ve seen better arms on a beanbag chair!” Mr. Ed Giger was the umpire, and he quickly put a stop to the heckling. In high school I heard some heckling myself when I scored a goal – into my own net. I felt like a loser for weeks.
Maybe that’s one reason I love reading the Bible. It’s filled with stories of people I wouldn’t have picked for my team. From Genesis to Revelation, this book never hides the faults of its heroes. I find such hope in that. These are the people God loves and uses. Some would call them losers. People who have failed miserably and sometimes publicly. But God says, “My power shoes up best in weak people” (2 Corinthians 12:9, TLB). And let’s be honest, he doesn’t have much else to work with. The perfect people gene pool is pretty shallow. By his grace, God works in and through people like us. Forgiving us. Redeeming us. Using us.
I once thought of life as a ladder If I could just do enough good stuff I would climb that ladder toward God. The higher I climbed, the more I could impress others and look down on the real losers. It felt great. Until I read about the Pharisees and found myself among them. Until I read that Paul considered himself to be the chief of sinners and wondered where that put me. In need of grace, of which, thank God, there is an ample supply. Ever since, I have sipped eagerly at the spring of God’s grace.
During a Monday night football game Walter Payton, the Chicago Bears’ famous running back, surpassed over nine miles in rushing yards during his career. His average run was 4.6 yards. That means he was knocked down almost 3,500 times. His success came from getting back up each time and running again.
May each of us find the grace to do the same.