If you ain’t first, you’re last. I hate to lose. Everyone likes to win, but I really hate to lose. Failing to me is that thing that you do never, or maybe behind closed doors, and then only until I’m not failing anymore. (This is how I memorize lyrics: lots and lots of failing on solo car rides). Seriously, though. My fifth grade teacher gave me a B in reading for “reading aloud too fast,” I failed a history test the first month in seventh grade, and that pretty much did it for the next ten years. I am an overachiever and, mind you, for no other reason than because it’s difficult for me to sleep at night otherwise. My parents never pressured me, I hate being on stage. But that lady in my head is only satisfied with one thing.
Ask and you shall receive. I’ve always hated pride, probably because it’s easy to have it when you win. Disliking in others what I actually dislike in myself makes perfect sense. I win. But I really do hate to see people lose. A few years ago I started to ask God to help me understand others better, to empathize, not just sympathize. I asked for this because my mother is so good at it, and with that image in front of me, it became clear that I was not. And I wanted so dearly to understand people, why they did what they did, how they felt. But I’m a lover of logic, and that doesn’t quite cut it.
But I asked. And He gave. Not my way, but He gave.
I’ve done a good bit of losing this year. A number of battles haven’t gone my way, be it with finances, relationships, school. Jessica has done a lot of not winning. Didn’t get a scholarship to school, but I got over that, explained it away with my reasoning. But the past month has delivered me two more painful pills that, for some reason, have finally broken that barrier and oozed into me a humility that I can’t escape.
Remember that I don’t fail at school? Last month, I coughed up a 61 on my second Math Stats test. Those integrals owned me in such a way that I had never known before. I walked out of that room like I might die and the first thing I thought was, “That’s what it feels like…”
Because you don’t know what it’s like to lose until you lose.
But once isn’t enough. Or it wasn’t for me. I took a certification exam today. It’s supposed to be hard, but I’ve heard that a million times before. It would be a programming certification and it would have made me feel fuzzy inside. The required passing grade is a 70. I made a 69.
When I got to my car, I laughed. “Really, God? Okay. I hear You.”
I am not always going to win. I’m just not. And as I sat with that score on the drive home, for some reason I began to feel as light as a feather. This six month period has been one of the hardest in my life, because in twenty different ways (some big, some little) I have lost, lost, lost, lost. A lot of those battles are in my head and, for me, those are the worst kinds. The feeling reminded me of when I was in the Marshalls, bumbling away trying to teach kids with absolutely no experience in teaching. Jessica, definitely not the winner.
But why the feather feeling? Because I wanted God to help me love people better. And pain, losing little battles over and over, connects us in ways that good logic and intentions can’t. And God having that reason for my pain is the best one I can imagine, worth that feeling in the pit of my stomach every single time.
And you know what? He always lays a path before me, and it’s always better than the one I imagined. Turns out that the one He’s showing me doesn’t require a programming certification. So instead of inflating my ego with an unnecessary credential, He helped me be one point away. One point! He brought me down to humble me, to a place where pride can’t bring me. And I’m so thankful that I almost can’t contain myself.
And this is, yet again, what He means by “peace which surpasses understanding.” I failed today! And I am far better off than I was before. And that path I mentioned? I will do much better on it if I have experience with failing. Thank God for that 61. And the 69.
I’m just saying that if you’ve failed before, I’m sorry. I do actually know how you feel. It stinks. But it’s recoverable. Life is bigger than that test, that class, that degree, that certification. If you haven’t failed, I used to know how you feel. Haha. Just kidding. Really.
May you not always win. Because losing can be good for you, or at least for someone else. (And that matters, too.)*