Yesterday I watched the rerun of our spectacular Brazilian massacre and between the tears and pain at watching my team lose, I managed to glean some powerful lessons that I will forever carry in my heart. I watched on with horror as the team proceeded to lose one goal at a time until it got to the point when I couldn’t take it anymore. I was just a spectator sitting thousands of miles away in the comfort of my sitting room. How much more did those brave boys feel the pain of the loss?
At the end of the match, I watched with shock as one David Luiz and his teammate sank to their knees and prayed. They opened their mouths muttered a prayer and finishing crossed themselves and stood up. How? Now who does that? Who takes time to pray after a moment of great loss? In front of their now shocked fans who booed them, they took time to pray? I would give a lot to know what was in that prayer. Did they thank God for the loss or were they just grateful it was over? They did not look like they said the prayer most would say.. why me, Lord? I wondered if would have found the grace and strength to thank God if I was in their shoes. The lesson I drew from this echoes a popular quote, our prayer and praise mean the most when we give it in a time of great darkness and loss. I have been challenged to pray and thank God at all times. It is a lesson easily said but tough to put in practice, but I will try my best to emulate those brave boys who prayed after their greatest defeat. May my prayers of praise and thanksgiving always rise in victory and particularly in loss, pain and defeat.
The second lesson I learnt was from their opponents. I learnt humility and grace in victory. I watched as the German players one by one walked over to their opponents and embraced them. They hugged them and they comforted them. They did not celebrate a victory they had earned, and instead opted to comfort the other team who they knew were devastated at the loss that had been handed to them. This again, challenged me to reflect on my own life. How often do we win and then spend the rest of the time gloating over those who we have defeated? Do we take time to think about their feelings and choose to downplay our own victory and share in our opponents pain?
Contrast our typical Kenyan response. When the elections are called and life must go on, we have always as a nation spent the time abusing our opponents. We ensure that in the greatest possible way we humiliate and turn the sword to inflict the greatest pain and wound possible. We must remind them that they have lost and we have won. We must call out their losses and forget their positive input. We must flog the defeated, wounded and hurt. That great Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has on two occassions in 2002 and in 2013, had to remind us that we need to give honour where honour is due. He has had to call out our bad manners when our leaders kept silent as we mocked, called the defeated names and generally behaved like spoilt brats. My prayer at this time is that God may always remind me that there is great victory in humility, and never is it required more than when we have won a victory that bring a painful loss to another. May our joy always come from embracing our opponents and allowing them dignity in defeat. Viva Germany for that.
The last lesson I take away with me is that defeat no matter how humiliating is but a step in our journey. Everyone will fail spectatularly at some point and probably win as spectacularly at another. No one embodied this as well as Luis Felipe Scolari. I watched the clip of the 2002 final played in Korea. Brazil met Germany in the final and they beat them in Korea. 2 -0. Brazilians were overjoyed. Who wouldn’t be? They were the World Champions. I carry about in my head the memory of Cafu’s smile when he lifted the cup high above his head as the confetti came streaming down. I remember the tears rolling down Ronaldo’s face as he won the Golden boot award for that edition. I remember Michael Ballack sitting down on the side of the field in tears. Scolari had led Brazil to their fifth World Cup title. He was the coach. Scolari was feted and celebrated as the coach who did it. Now he is condemned as the coach who has done it for other reasons. Fast forward 12 years and he exits the stage with the ignominious reputation of suffering the record breaking defeat Brazil have faced ever.
How fickle are the accolades of men! How fleeting is the adoration of men! Let me always learn to receive adoration with the knowledge that it too shall come to pass, and welcome condemnation knowing that it too shall come to end. Let us all remember to celebrate the good times and when the bad comes, let it not define you. Do not let your moment of defeat put you in the box and make you forget that you should treat the two impostors victory and defeat just the same. Celebrate your victory and do not let it overwhelm you. Acknowledge your defeat and do not let it define you.
I finish with the words of desderata.
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars
You have a right to be here, and whether or not it is clear to you
No doubt, the universe is unfolding exactly as it should”
Our destiny lies in God’s hands and we can rest knowing that “Everything works together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose”.