The Agony and the Ecstacy
Duke has won!!
What an incredible game to watch. As it unfolded I felt like I was watching a heavy weight boxing match up. One team would throw a punch and appear like it had knocked out the opponent. Then the other team would rally and throw a punch and regain the upper hand. Which one would throw the knockout punch…and when? Back and forth the game went. It was truly a game to remember, a National Championship game!
As the game came to an end the ecstasy and the agony began to unfold. You could see on the faces of the Wisconsin athletes and fans the realization that they would not win the game. Dejection…tears…coming to grips with the fact that everything they had worked for over the course of their young lives as well as the season at hand had come up short. The agony.
But, on the other end of the court you could see the ecstasy building. As the margin on the scoreboard widened and as the clock began its inevitable count down, as it became increasingly obvious that Wisconsin would not be able to rally and close the gap the other side of realization began to set in: eyes widened, smiles broadened, voices elevated, until then the final buzzer went off. The ecstasy!!
Having spent some time in the athletic realm I have learned both sides of this equation. Truth be told, I have been much more of a Wisconsin than a Duke. It doesn’t make much difference the setting: the Little League field in the first rounds of the playoffs; the football field in the league championship game; playing college baseball; men’s recreation league basketball; flag football in graduate school; the agony and the ecstasy are part of sport just as they are part of life.
The agony and ecstasy in life experience signal something that resides deep within: hopes and dreams. We all have them and they are not just about sports.
I want to be a doctor
I want to be a fireman
I want to be a teacher
I want to be a rock star
I want to discover a cure for cancer
I want to become the president of the United States
I want to walk on Mars
With little children these hopes and dreams often reflect the impact of a significant adult, very often a parent or a teacher. As we age we often find that one hope or one dream becomes imbedded in our soul. That dream becomes a driving force moving us toward a career, some would call it ‘a calling.’ We begin to strive to see if that hope or dream might become a reality. Oh the ecstasy when we experience success as we move toward that goal. Oh the agony when hopes and dreams are dashed by the realities of our world. There is only one team that can be the champion. All the rest come up short.
How tragic it would be if this was the only tool by which to measure success in life. If this were the only tool the majority of people would live their lives with an overwhelming sense of failure. Agony had won.
I believe Jesus taught another model for how to live life. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus talks about a master that gave gifts to his servants to be used to advance the master’s purposes. He then left on a journey and allowed the servants to take those gifts and use them as they saw fit. Upon his return each servant came and gave an account of what they had done with the gifts the master had given them. The reward in this model was not a “national championship.” What the good servant sought was to hear the master say,
“WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!!”
Sometimes our gifts to be used in the master’s plan are small. Sometimes the gifts we have been given are great. All the time our goal should be to hear our master say, “Well done.”
“Well done husband and wife as you love each other;”
“Well done physician as you work to heal body, mind, and spirit;”
“Well done construction worker as you build safe homes;”
“Well done policeman as you help keep social order;”
“Well done student as you work to gain knowledge to shape career; “
“Well done politician as you work to better community;”
“Well done you who have committed to loving God with all your heart;” and
“Well done you who have worked to love your neighbor as yourself. “
Within the analogy of sport the goal is winning with the championship the highest reward. Within the “Well Done” model it is hearing those words from the one who has given you your gifts.
Of course, this raises the question for each of us: Who is your master? From whom do you desire to hear those words of praise?