Over the last few weeks, my four-year-old son has discovered the amazing sport of baseball. He has a giant blue plastic bat, and a few oversize whiffle balls (if the neighbors have thrown some back over the wall).
Every day after I get home from work, he comes and asks to go out in the back yard and play “hit ball”. It does sound a bit like what Tarzan might call it, but, it is indeed baseball. He loves it. There is only one slight problem. He’s not used to, nor does he enjoy, losing.
It’s the same story in every aspect of his little guy’s mind. He always has to be first. He has to win, or he acts like someone is trying to pluck out his fingernails with a pair of pliers. He has to be the first one back in the house when we get back from a car ride anywhere. He has to be first back home after a bike ride. He has to be first to finish his cereal. He has to be first to buckle his seatbelt. Everything is a make shift competition. Unfortunately, this little quirk that seems to drive his every action, somehow does not apply to bedtime. He’s happy to drag his feet then.
So, we as a family have had to make a decision. Do we let him always win these little perceived competitions? Or do we deal with the dramatic weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, of a four-year-old 2nd place finish? Seeing how he is child #4, and we as parents are now nearly beaten into submission, he tends to “win” so we can keep the peace, our hair, and our sanity.
But, I guess the game of baseball has given me another chance to teach him a valuable lesson….How to lose.
The first couple of days when he would get tagged out, he would get that super frowny cry-face that kids can get. He acted like you just stole his ice cream cone from his hand and ate it in front of him. He’d start to cry, whine and complain while skulking off into the shrubs to try and elicit pity and sympathy from everyone around him.
Its a hard lesson for a four-year-old. And sometimes, it can be a hard lesson for a 38 year-old.
Getting out is part of baseball. Striking out is part of baseball. Failing is part of baseball. In fact, getting a hit only 3 or 4 times out of 10 up to the plate is considered hugely successful! The earlier my little four-year-old can grasp and understand that, the better. The sooner that the rest of us old people can understand that life also works in much the same way, the better.
We are here on this earth to struggle. To lose. We aren’t here to win every time, get a trophy and go home to our Heavenly Father with nothing but blue 1st place ribbons draped around our necks. We aren’t here to return home to Heaven having never tasted anything bitter, never felt loss, heartache, disappointment, pain, anguish, anxiety, inadequacy, or discomfort.
In fact, its quite the opposite. We are here to experience exactly all of those things. We need to learn to lose.
When we are allowed to lose, struggle and fail, we increase the spectrum of feelings we have experienced. Only with the lowest lows, can we then be able to savor the experience of winning, overcoming, and succeeding in a much more meaningful way. How much better is that slow trot around the bases after a home run, when our previous 3 at bats were strikeouts?
When we struggle, or face a fight we just cant seem to win, sometimes we just need a new perspective. For me, the perfect pep talk comes from Moroni. When I feel knee deep in the middle of slump, or when I feel like I am 0 for my last 50 at bats, he provides the best reality check there is. He uses the Lord’s words to explain the origin, source, or reason for our weakness and struggle.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” -Ether 12:27
It is interesting to me that the Lord, in this scripture, teaches us that it is He himself that gives us our weaknesses. Our weaknesses and struggles are not heaped upon us by a malicious adversary. They are lovingly placed upon us by our Savior in order to mold us into what he wants us to become- humble and submissive. He wants us to depend on Him. And, if we do humble ourselves and have faith in him, our weaknesses not only vanish, but become strengths.
If the Savior is the one who places these weaknesses upon us, then He is certainly willing and capable of removing them. His master plan includes struggles, and burdens, and it always has. But, it is always for a wise purpose. It can bring us closer to Him.
“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” Mosiah 24:14
Losing is part of life. Struggling is part of life. But, we can’t get discouraged. We have to realize and recognize that those obstacles or weaknesses we struggle with are actually placed there by our loving Savior. We have to try and see these big obstacles in our way not as stumbling blocks to hamper our progress, but as stepping stones to promote it.