Losing sucks! Losing your keys, losing a friend, losing an election — all of these things happened to my thirteen-year-old daughter during her first two weeks of eighth grade. This was not supposed to be how her final year of middle school started. Losing the house key might not have been a big deal once the lecture from my husband about responsibility was over. Being left behind by the friend who had provided security and belonging during the early “I’m-just-trying-to-survive-puberty” years stung a little more. Add losing the ASB (Associated Student Body) election, which may or may not have been rigged (but don’t get me started), and she was left wondering where her place was. What did she do now that her secure person and her secure position suddenly disappeared? (She did eventually find her key, so at least she can get back in the house.) At thirteen, how do you navigate through disappointment and deficit and the unexpected loss of what you hoped for?
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
In the midst of comforting her, encouraging her, reminding her of her awesomeness and letting her learn to grieve in a way that fits her and not me, my own thoughts of loss were stirred up. Darn it! God has a way of using my kids to re-expose the places of my own soul that are still in need.
-The plans I had made that didn’t quite work out.
-The broken relationships that left me feeling “less-than”.
-The life I had imagined for myself that didn’t materialize (despite my best efforts).
But then I read, literally, the next morning, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25) Loss. It is part of this life of discipleship. Jesus says so. It is definite. I will lose my life in pursuit of Jesus. Gratefully, I am not threatened with loss of my physical life. I do, however, lose a tight hold on what I think is important as I learn to value what Jesus loves. I lose the right to pity myself and judge others as I practice grace and forgiveness. I lose my definition of a successful life. Life is defined by what Jesus purposes, not the plans I so carefully make.
Despite how it feels, a thousand losses experienced in this world are nothing in comparison to what I find with Jesus. And I don’t say “will find”, I say “find” in the present tense because even as I am continually losing, I am simultaneously finding. On the other end of loss is great gain. In the kingdom economy, I receive keys to an unshakeable kingdom. I gain the lover of my soul and my closest friend. I win the race that really matters. I find peace in the midst of conflict. I find purpose in loving people like Jesus does. I find hope in knowing Jesus is my advocate. I find security in God’s promises: an anchor in His Word.
My beautiful teenage daughter? She wins all this too. She is learning to lose with grace and is grabbing hold of the bigger win, seeing Jesus come through for her in ways she didn’t expect or know she needed. With maybe still a bit of a catch in her heart, but choosing to believe God anyway, she posted a blurry picture of herself on Instagram captioned with Jeremiah 29:1, “‘I know the plans I have for you,‘ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” The blurriness of her picture underscored her choice to hope in God and His intent for her life. She may not see clearly, nor do I, but we choose to trust and hope in Jesus, who secures our win.