My little guy is entering the third season of his soccer career. With current aspirations to be a famous soccer player when he grows up, this is a big deal in our house! This child breaths soccer. In his mind, there’s no such thing as too many soccer balls and the need for a break during play. His obvious love for the game shines through during every practice and every game, even when they lose. And, so far, he’s had a perfect game record… zero wins. Ever. But, from watching the glow on his face during play, you’d never know he had endured defeat. You’d think this child had already won his first Olympic gold medal.
I think maybe my boy has learned a secret that we often fail to remember. It’s not always about seeing the victory today. It’s about finding joy in the journey along the way.
If we believe in scripture, we know our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that awaits. We press onward for the prize for which God has called us. We know that when we wait upon the Lord we can run and not grow weary; walk and not become weak. But sometimes we are weak. Sometimes we do lose sight of the real prize and become discouraged when we don’t see our promised victory today. We focus on the losses and defeat and wonder why our joy has seemed to vanish. Instead of focusing on how many times we lose, we’d do better to focus on recognizing there is a victory that awaits us, regardless of how today may look.
I watch the faces of other kids as they are playing the game. There are others who are laughing and enjoying themselves, but I’m not sure I’ve seen others that actually skip down the field with a permanent smile during an entire game the way Zechariah does. Even when he’s getting corrected by the coach, his countenance doesn’t change. He accepts the discipline and uses it to further perfect his imperfect game. He doesn’t get discouraged when he misses a goal or one of his passes get intercepted, he keeps going. And he keeps smiling.
I’ve known defeat, and I imagine you have as well. Things haven’t gone the way we hoped or thought they would. Some of the blows have been sudden and taken our breath away; others have been gradual and altered our dreams over time. The more we focus on the shattered dream or painful present, the weaker we become. Strength is depleted because we allow our joy to slowly fade. The joy fades when we lose sight of our Christ-promised victory because we can’t experience it today. And we buy into the lie that every tomorrow will look just the same. But God wants to remind us today that we can find joy in the journey, even when the season has consisted of nothing but loss.
Zechariah has completed two soccer seasons which brought forth consistent loss, week after week. There were a couple tie games that brought a little hope but, in terms of actual wins, he experienced none. Yet his joy throughout the season never wavered. He stayed in the game. He didn’t quit and now he’s eager to get back out on the field and try again. Maybe they’ll win a game or two this year; maybe they won’t. To him, it doesn’t really matter. He just wants to get out there and do what he loves, regardless of the outcome.
Today, we’re in a season. It’s not a forever season, though repetitive losses might make it feel that way. It’s a season that will one day come to a close. Our attitude towards the season may not alter the outcome, but it will change the journey. Even in defeat, we can win … if we choose joy and if we choose to keep smiling along the way.