Saturday, April 08, 2006

Victory Disguised as Defeat

Well I didn't succeed in getting promoted to a job at work yesterday. I was narrowly beaten into second choice by a woman called Miss Perfect (I'm not joking... that's her name, I should have seen the portents and warning signs in that one shouldn't I!). Having not secured the position I was aiming for, I failed... didn't I?

Or did I?

It doesn't occur that way to me. I'm naturally disappointed, but I feel that despite losing one battle... I've won a more important long term one. You have to look at the bigger picture.

The very fact that I stepped up to bat at all, demonstrated that I'm not the doormat people take me to be. If I feel something is good for me... I'm prepared to go for it. I'm not just an "also ran".

When the working day was over and I was called in to be informed of the result, I was told that I had performed really well in interview. The panel had taken a level playing field approach and I had risen to the very top of that field - I should be proud of myself. Their was only one part of the job... one fatally crucial part that I was beaten on by one of the other candidates. I know it was hard for them because they took two hours to deliberate just between the two of us. Having had it explained to me, I know putting me as second choice was the right decision.

However good will come of this. I have won allies. all the people on the interview panel are on the management team. My own boss was so impressed with me (to a degree which surprised even her), that she fought to let me keep one aspect of the job that she felt would be good for my development. Furthermore, without wanting to go into too much detail... I have confidence that people are going to fight my corner when it comes time for my next appraisal. The other good thing is that I will get the time to train up in other areas I feel are important to both my career and future personal development.

So no, I haven't lost - this is one of my Gandalf moments!

What do I mean by that? If you've read or watched Lord of the Rings, you will know that Gandalf goes up against his superior - Saruman the White and is temporarily incarcerated at Isengard. Later on, Gandalf is confronted by the Balrog - a terrible demonic force, bent on destruction. Gandalf defeats the Balrog but falls "out of thought and time". Gandalf the Grey dies... but it is not the end. He is restored to life and sent on to complete his mission as Gandalf the White. Later in the hall of King Theoden he breaks the spell of Saruman the White that is holding the King... astounding his former superior, who's staff and authority he later breaks. If Gandalf had not fallen, not made the supreme sacrifice... he would never have received the power and authority to defeat Saruman.

Loss is an important part of growth. if the seed does not perish the tree cannot be born.

In the last couple of years, my God has taken me along this route.... he has started with my friends and now he is doing it to my colleagues. Bringing me into situations where I am cloaked in grey but giving me the opportunity to show my true mettle.

So the temporal physical result of my interview is not so much of an issue to me... I feel I have proved my character and my true nature to both my colleagues and myself. I still consider after all that has happened, that this is an achievement. Amusingly and poignantly Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" is playing on my Yahoo radio as I write this.

As we are also coming up to Good Friday... I couldn't resist looking at the ultimate example of victory disguised as defeat - the death of Jesus Christ. Metallica once wrote a song about this describing Jesus as "the God who failed". On the surface, it must have certainly seemed like that 2000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus lay cold in the grave, butchered under Roman law by gentile and jew alike. his disciples locked themselves away in defeat. One (Judas) took his life over his shame and act of betrayal, another (Simon Peter) harboured the dark secret that he had denied the existence of his best friend to save his own skin. Imagine the shock of Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, John, and the rest of the disciples as they each experienced something of a miracle. some at forst only saw the empty grave.... but others saw Jesus. On the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus disciples had the whole picture explained to them why the death of Jesus was necessary, why his story didn't end in death. Why... even today he lives. Metallica were wrong. God does not fail, he operates on a different level.... where the contexts of victory and defeat are fundamentally altered.

What mankind often conceptually regards as victory or defeat, often differ greatly from the real concepts of victory or defeat that God would have us understand.

For of man's victories he says:

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." - Luke 12:16-21

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" Luke 9:23-25

God is not against us making the most of our earthly lives... but his desire is us to live our temporal lives in a proper context. What is the point of living it up... if we deny ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the true riches which God promises? This is what the whole book of Ecclesiastes is about - the futility of living life "under the sun", just living this life in a "what you see is what you get" fashion. There is more, much more in life for us to experience than the brief joys of material gain.

Jesus promises that:

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:9,10

Live life above the Sun and in the Son.

Don't always trust your own perception of life's situations, trust in the Lord:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. - 1 Corinthians 1:25

Finally I leave you with some quotes I gleaned from the trailer to the Return of the King:

There can be no triumph
without loss

No victory
without suffering

No freedom
without sacrifice

All you have to decide is what to do with the time given to you.

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