Over the weekend, there have been winners and losers, gains and losses. Sport is a competitive and often identity-charged activity. We invest in teams and games that don’t always have return. We set up hopes and expectations, we experience disappointment and excitement all at once. Wrapped up in supporting clubs can come a sense of pride, as well as frustration when things don’t go in our favour.
Somehow I was never aware that there are two grand final matches on the same weekend. Growing up in South Australia, AFL was always the preference over NRL. Rugby has never appealed to me (I still don’t know the difference between league and union and no matter how many times I am told otherwise … it just doesn’t seem to stick!). However, yesterday as a part of the NRL grand finals I had the privilege of working with my team to move Sydney. I work in the Operations team with Uber, where we are committed to getting people safely from A to B. Last night this was especially evident as we had a constant flow of drivers and riders leaving the grounds. The city was on fire with a raging night life for a Sunday evening in October. What an honour to have a part to play in such a huge movement of people. I am very thankful to God for my workplace!
To me, grand final weekend reveals a lot about Australian culture. Themes in attitude, spirit and socialising emerge.
- I see the tensions between the two “capital” cities – Sydney and Melbourne.
- I see the divide between sporting communities and faculties.
- I see the joy of friendship and family in gathering over the long weekend for drinks and dedicated time together.
- I see the folly of driving, spending and drinking.
- I see the perks for workers who get extra wages and for businesses who have increased thoroughfare.
- I see loyalty and passion, pressure and pain.
- I see the victorious alongside the dejected, the champions next to the failures.
As I was processing all that I was seeing, God was also doing something new in me
– teaching me about loss.
I don’t care too much for material possessions. I have them, but I don’t hold onto them too closely.
In the past I have wrestled with guilt and fear attached to the ordeal of gift-giving. As a strong-willed and often stubborn individual I can take things to extremes. Having seen poverty and visited developing nations, negative thought patterns began to emerge surrounding earthly riches. I would deprive myself of finances, food, and other physical/material needs in the name of spiritual grief toward injustice and poverty. While of course this came from a heart of wanting to see restoration and relief for those suffering and in need, there was a sickness in my spirit as I did not feel like I deserved anything. I was not free. I was living under a yoke of slavery. Living in fear that God’s provision to me was a lie, or wrong, or sin. Living in fear that God would not provide for the poor and needy. I robbed others of the joy of giving to me and consequentially failed to see how God is a gift-giver and how it is not a “sin” to receive.
The Lord has gently been revealing himself to me in his Word, healing me of this sickness in sight, my perspective on giving and receiving. My heart very much echoes with Solomon’s in Ecclesiastes when he comments on the vanity of self-indulgence, wealth and honour. He sees the oppressions done under the sun and is in despair at the power dynamics at work in the world (4). He sees how lovers of wealth are never satisfied, how “as he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry in his hand” (5:15). He declares grievous evil, what he has seen in the vanity of toil for the wind, what we are working for.
Then, he changes tact:
“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift from God.” (5:18).
After discussing pleasure, Solomon turns to having gratitude under God. Wow! He contrasts this with a heaviness that lies on mankind, where God gives a man wealth, possessions and honour – so he lacks nothing – “yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them” (6:2). He speaks to the vanity of a soul that is not satisfied with life’s good things (6:3). Solomon learns in his life that it is important to fear God; he recognises the subtle differences of living under the sun versus living under the sun under God.
I love wisdom literature, because it offers an invaluable perspective on how to truly find knowledge and understanding, and in this instance, how to find enjoyment in what God has given us. Rather that dismissing what God has given to me in fear that I am being greedy, selfish or indulging the flesh – it is transformative to turn to the Lord, to indulge myself in his love, to look to the selflessness of my Saviour who gave himself. The Lord has created wealth and possessions not as gods of themselves, but as gifts from himself to enjoy – and gifts to not only receive but to give to others, to enjoy their enjoyment and delight in receiving.
Sport is a gift. Possessions are a gift. How we esteem these influences our enjoyment of them. If we look to sport or possessions for enjoyment in and of themselves, we will be disappointed when they fail to deliver. If we look instead to God, we see that he has given us these things, that whether or not the things in and of themselves deliver, we can see beyond to a God who delights in delivery.
What happens when we lose a game (context: sport) or a gift (context: possessions). While I wasn’t overly invested in either of the grand final matches on the weekend, I experienced the latter form of loss. In this circumstance it is not so much the possession itself that I am grieving, but the emotional connection and connotation of this gift.
Last night, in the midst of waving my arms here there and everywhere directing traffic, holding signs, waving down people, I lost my pandora charms. Somehow, the clasp on my pandora bracelet had unfastened. At one point in the night, I looked down and realised. By then, it was too late. The charms were long gone. I was praying for a miracle but very aware this was a needle-in-a-haystack situation. There were kilometres of ground to cover. There was also the fact that I was still working, and unable to go off searching.
I shrugged off the sadness, commenting to colleagues that “It’s only a material possession“.
I am thankful for the empathetic responses people had.
Though there wasn’t really much we could do.
“It’s ok to be sad,” one workmate had told me.
I realised I am not very good at sitting with sadness.
I wasn’t allowing myself to feel the weight of sorrow in that moment.
Classic symptom of grief:
Denying the reality of the situation,
I received the pandora bracelet from my aunt and uncle last year for my twenty-first birthday. The item was silver, simple, dainty. There was a small charm that came with it, a ball laced with the infinity symbol – chosen as a reminder for me that God’s love is infinite. The bracelet is special to me because it reminds me of the depth and breadth of God’s love. Recently I received another charm from my parents, a tiny cross that again brings me back to God’s love for me in Christ Jesus.
Infinite love and Cross
Symbols of God’s love for me
Something I so often forget
Something I need to be reminded of
My heart has dementia
I have a terrible tendency not to take care of things very well … especially things that are quite precious and valuable of sorts. My chains on all of my necklaces break, I lose earrings, I accidentally leave items in places. Note that the necklaces were also Crosses… I mean, I sing and pray that God would “Break Every Chain” but really ?!!?! See I never intend to do these things. I’m not really being thoughtless, but sometimes things just happen that are out of our control. Sometimes it saddens me that this consistently happens … moreso because I wonder what on earth is wrong with me, why can’t I be more careful, no one can trust me with anything, I should never wear jewellery again …. Regardless, I always move on and am never deeply impacted by it, until it usually happens again and I am reminded of my failure to be a good carer.
So I can’t take care of jewellery very well
But it seems I also don’t do a good job of looking after my heart either.
Praise the Lord that he is both Carer and Repairer.
A Lover who never leaves.
I do not have to fear losing him.
His Love is here to stay.
I was scared to share the news of my loss with my parents, because I haven’t even had their charm for a month! But Mamabear’s response warmed my heart:
“Let’s pray that the person who finds it will come to know their Saviour if they don’t already!
It is ok my dear – it is only representative of our love for you and the most precious gift of all – Jesus!”
To conclude, we will come to times in our lives where we will be counting losses. Whether relationally, physically/materially, spiritually, emotionally. So how can we prepare our hearts to respond to these times? Notice how sports clubs have anthems? Usually these are formed in advance, for future success. I wonder if our heart can also listen to and form tunes for times of future loss or gain. Create a chorus of contentment. Two songs came to mind this morning. Usually when I can’t use words to process emotions in a moment, I will have lyrics floating through my head. I unconsciously do this, catching myself singing a song that speaks to my heart.
BLESSED BE YOUR NAME (Matt Redman)
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to stay
Blessed by your name
FIX YOU (Coldplay)
When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Let’s tune our hearts to sing regardless of whether we win or lose. And praise be to God, for leading us to victory in Jesus Christ ! He is the True Light that has come to the world. He will guide us Home. He will ignite our bones. We are filled with his Spirit. He will fix us. Transform us. Restore us.