Win or go home.
It’s the mantra that will be in the head of every NCAA Basketball player as the annual March Madness tournament begins this morning.
If you don’t win the next game then you’re done. You’re heading home; there’s nothing left for you.
“Going home” is usually equivalent to losing. Only losers go home; winners keep on playing. Winners do not retreat.
I sure felt like a loser when I moved back home. I first moved out of my parents’ house in 2007. For one year I lived with a good friend of mine in my first apartment. I have wonderful memories of that apartment.
Sure there were struggles – times when we ended up eating peanut butter for dinner because we’d spent too much of our money on dvds and video games, times when I wished my mom would come clean up after us, and so on.
But after getting that taste of living out on my own, I never wanted to go back to being under my parents’ roof.
Then, just a year later, my roommate quit his job to focus more on school. I didn’t have a job at the time, so we were unable to keep up the rent for the apartment. 365 days after moving out I was back unpacking my boxes in my old room.
Mom and Dad were great about it; they had no problem taking me back in. And there were certainly some nice parts about coming home – the food, the cleaning, the ability to save up some money.
But I couldn’t help feeling like a failure. I felt like since I was coming home I must be a loser.
I think Jesus might have felt this way during his final days on Earth.
During his 30 or so years here Jesus fully experienced life the way we do. He made friends and relationships during this time. He ate food with other people, he shared memories, he listened to jokes (and maybe even told some). He formed bonds with others.
You can sense the pain and despair in Jesus’s heart when you read about his final hours. When we see him praying in the garden before he is arrested, he cries out to God asking for another way to accomplish God’s will.
Jesus wants to serve his father, but he’s not overjoyed about being taken away from his friends and disciples. He’s certainly not excited about the way he knows he is going to go out either.
I don’t know if Jesus felt like he was losing by going home, but I think part of him wished things didn’t have to go down the way they did. I think part of him hoped he could succeed in another way.
When Jesus died upon that cross, it looked to so many of those watching like he was losing his battle. The broken body of Christ drooping on the splintered wood looked like the end of his fight to the naked eye.
Looks can be deceiving. In reality Christ’s death was a victory over sin. His resurrection showed the life God offers conquers death. Without the loss of Jesus’s life, we could never experience the win of eternal life.
A loss is not always the end of the story God is telling. Going home does not always equate to losing.
Going home can be a victorious moment for you as well. Each of us must recognize we don’t have to do things on our own.There’s no shame in going home to God’s loving arms. God’s strength and God’s love for us are good and powerful things, and we should embrace these things rather than run from them.
I don’t always feel like I’m in winning in my job. I struggle with doubts and insecurities as I minister to students, children, and families. I wonder if what I’m doing truly has any impact. I question if I’m really doing anything right.
My office is a mess. I’m bad with money. My plans often fall through. My messages feel more like strike-outs than home runs. But I trust God is working on another level than me. I have faith that even though I feel like I’m losing, God is in control, and he is winning.
Every day I must come home to that victory. Every day I must recognize I can’t do things on my own, and there is no shame in coming home to my Father.
Have you been avoiding coming home? Do you feel like coming home to God looks like failure sometimes?