It's great to win. Winning is central to American culture. This is demonstrated by the fact that one of the worst things you can call someone is a loser. If you don't want your daughter to date some guy, you might tell her, "Don't date him, Honey, he's a loser."
If you ask any pro athlete which drives them more, the desire to win or the fear of losing, they all say that they hate to lose more than they love to win. Nobody likes to lose. My favorite sports team is the Denver Broncos. The thrill of the Broncos' two Super Bowl victories in the 90's are wonderful memories, but the memories of those other Super Bowls, those humiliations on national TV still haunt me. My fear of that happening again yesterday was much greater than my excitement that they might win. When you're 2-5 in Super Bowls, which they were until yesterday, it's easy to get a complex. And believe me, Bronco fans have one.
The problem with winning is it's a zero sum game. In order for one side to win, the other side has to lose. Only one NFL team is happy at the end of the season. I don't think that giving every child who participates in a sport a trophy or ribbon prepares kids well for life. Life doesn't work that way. Everyone doesn't get a trophy. Most of the time, you win or lose. If someone else gets the promotion you thought you deserved, do you feel like you won or lost? When you get that promotion, how do you feel? Like a winner.
What brought this on today was not the Super Bowl, but a comment I heard in church yesterday morning. Someone talked about a cancer patient who had "lost" their battle with cancer. We've all heard that expression many times before, but now it really bothers me.
People talk about dealing with cancer as "fighting." They frame it like you're in a contest, a battle with cancer, and if you win, you "beat' cancer. If you die, you "lost" your battle. If you don't try every treatment out there, you're giving up. I don't hear people talk about any other disease that way.
Let's get two things clear. One, if I'm cured, it won't be because I beat cancer. I don't have that ability, and neither does anyone else. Except one. If I'm cured, it will be because God healed me. No other reason. It will be a genuine miracle, because that's what it will take. If you've never seen one, hang on. You might see one soon.
But if that doesn't happen, here's the other thing I want to make clear. If the percentages prove true for me, and a miracle cure is not in the cards, don't anyone ever say that I lost my battle with cancer. No one exits this life as a loser. Instead, I will have won the greatest prize of all. Eternal life, in the presence of God and my loved ones. What could be better? Death is not losing. It's going home. It's actually way better than winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy or even the billion dollar Powerball. And it lasts forever.
Of course, I understand while I might feel like I win either way, I know that's not how you feel. If I don't "beat" this thing, if it beats me, like it does most guys in my shoes, you'll feel like you've lost. I've been there. I know. But if that's what happens, remember that you haven't lost me. You'll know exactly where to find me.
Many thousands will line the streets of Denver tomorrow for the Broncos' victory parade. I might even be there. I want to celebrate this championship as much as any Bronco fan. But my cancer is not a contest. If I live, I didn't win, and if I die, I didn't lose. Either way, I will have accomplished my goal.