Debbie Salter Goodwin
A Time to Lose
Have you seen the pictures? Harvey and Irma have blown through the southeast with unrestrained fury and destruction. People return to their shredded lives with more questions than solutions. They sift through wet and mangled rubble. They face the agonizing truth that life as they knew it has been blown away and left them with pieces they can't put back together. Cameras catch their vacant eyes and wilted spirits.
But there is another picture. The wreckage behind them is the same, but they face it with a determination that comes when a time to lose becomes a time to rebuild. They squint their eyes and purse their lips in courageous rebuttal to loss. They reject defeat as they begin the arduous cleanup, one broken dream after another.
Losing is a hard way to learn the value of something we took for granted. Losing awakens us to treasures we did not fully appreciate: our children’s clutter of toys, a morning kiss, a goodnight hug, so many little things that supersize the moment they are gone. Loss is a hard teacher. Though we usually paint her dark and foreboding, we really should let her be the wise teacher she came to be. Loss teaches. We can learn about misplaced value or imbalance. We can take lessons from loss that help us rebuild.
Losing isn’t fun. Not in a game of hard-fought monopoly, not when your team depends on your next move, not when someone else gets the big break. Losing makes you feel less than, not enough, incompetent.
Parenting a child with special needs taught me too many lessons about loss. I naively went into it with my problem-solving, brainstorming mindset, ready to climb every mountain and ford every stream. But some mountains are too steep and some streams are uncrossable. In one of the parent resources we received when we were learning about how to meet Lisa’s needs, I read about the ongoing losses we would experience. In fact, this writer told me that because loss would constantly shadow me, I needed to learn how to grieve. It was like Solomon whispering “a time to search; a time to lose.” The life-advancing truth is to know the difference.
I remember one intense season when all of my best efforts partnered with every best effort Lisa’s teachers could give came up short. She was hopelessly behind and no new method, try-harder attitude, or extra time would make up the shortfall her brain could not accomplish. It was a personal loss because I had to face that the best I could do was not enough to make the difference I wanted to make. To continue believing I could was futile and a sure way to frustrate Lisa in ways that would make her give up what she could accomplish. Still, this time to lose devastated me in ways I still don’t have words for.
Before truth frees, it often forces you to change your mindset, your expectations, and give up control. We fight hard when we are asked to accept those losses. But what if the answer that really unlocks what loss has to give is on the other side of that acceptance? What if a time to lose forces our hand to give up what God says cannot bring His answer? Then, a time to lose is our best friend; not our enemy.
We don’t like to admit it, but sometimes losing strengthens. Many count their losses as steps to success. I know about writing teachers who require a certain number of rejection slips as part of a semester grade. The theory is that rejection makes the writer ask questions, revise, fine tune the message to culture or theme. Losing becomes a teacher.
Life is not always a winning season. We will lose sometimes. The issue is not when but how will we respond. I have learned during our recent overturned life, that a time to lose sends you back to a time to search. Not always for what you lost, for some things cannot return. Instead, it becomes a time to search for what helps to rebuild and restore.
What loss are you struggling with? What will it teach you? Where can it make you stronger? When you can hear the familiar voice remind you, “Do not fear: I am here;” then, you will know the way through.