Playing to Win or to Lose?

by Elouise

I’ve never been one to volunteer for competitive games. Not because I’m a shy girl, but because I don’t want to look like a fool. Which means I don’t want to lose.

Furthermore, if I win, I want to win with a bang, not a whimper.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been known to step right up and volunteer for many things. For example,

  • Serving on and leading committees
  • Keeping the minutes
  • Helping organize events
  • Strategizing for the future
  • Showing or telling other people how it’s done

When I was a girl child, I loathed the common childhood practice of choosing competitive teams. Two team leaders got to name their 1st draft choices, 2nd draft choices, etc. until they came to the bottom of the heap and exposed to everyone their last choices (read ‘non-choices’).

As I stood there waiting to be ‘chosen,’ my mind wasn’t on how much fun the game would be, but on how humiliating this method was. I was usually at or near the bottom of the heap, along with other predictable ‘losers.’ For me, the game was over before it began.

I did, nonetheless, offer this small benefit: I was a rule keeper. My team could count on me to keep the rules! Which meant they wouldn’t necessarily lose or win the game because of me.

I was more like a neutral force. I wouldn’t embarrass them and I wouldn’t help them score an upset. Sort of safe. Better than sorry.

Play isn’t easy for me—play that involves significant risk. I might fail, or as I would put it, ‘make a fool of myself.’

There’s something about Sabbath rest that brings this fear up in me. Perhaps it’s fear of making a fool of myself.

  • There she goes again, thinking she knows how to do this!
  • Did you know she’s been doing this for ____ months already, and I can’t see it’s made her a better person at all. Wasn’t she OK just the way she was?
  • You’d think just having a day of rest would be enough. But no, she’s trying to take it to extremes! We don’t need extremes. We need predictability!
  • Besides, isn’t it enough to go to church on Sunday and participate in the life of the church? What’s she trying to prove? That she’s better than we are?

Even though my mind can easily call these voices to mind, that isn’t why Sabbath rest or play is difficult. Anyone in competitive sports knows the answer already. We might lose! We came prepared (we thought) to win, and now we’re going home empty-handed and humiliated!

Whatever possessed us to follow that leader? That coach? That mentor? That Savior? There were plenty of signs this couldn’t possibly work out.

Now our leader looks like a fool—after saying all those bold things about announcing the kingdom of God, and release for the captives and all that. And what does he have to show for it? Nothing! Everyone ran off. Deserted him.

Do I want to play his game anymore? Look at that! He’s already way ahead of us, looking more and more like a crazy type. Ignoring us. Ignoring them. Never looking back. And he hasn’t even given us a map!

This doesn’t feel like a game anymore. It feels like a gamble at best; a lost cause at worst. What good could possibly come of this Sabbath keeping? This call to let everything else go by the wayside for 24 hours, one day a week.

If you ask me, that’s a really high cost to pay. And for what?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 June 2015