February 12, 2023
• Rev. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
We continue on in our relationship series Tug of war today as we look closer into how we deal with the constant pull in our relationships. Even healthy relationships come with a constant back and forth. How we handle this often determines the quality of our relationships. The hard part is that in the game of Tug of War is that someone inevitably wins and someone loses. And today is a reminder that you don’t have to win every battle.
What better way to talk about this, than looking at one of the most entertaining games of Tug of War, the Super Bowl. (Slide) Tonight is a big game! How many of you are rooting for the chiefs? What about the eagles? Here’s a tidbit for the Black History, this is the first time two Black Quarterbacks are starting in the Super Bowl. I don’t know I’m going for tonight, but I’m just hoping it’s a good game.
Both teams had really good seasons. The Chiefs were 16-3 and the Eagles were 16-3. Fact check me if I’m wrong, but there has only been one nfl team that’s ever had a undefeated season and went on to win a championship. They’ve lost along the way and someone will lose tonight. Tonight someone will win and someone will lose. They will game plan. They claw and scratch. They will leave it all out there on the field. Someone will win and someone will lose.
It’s a familiar strategy for many of us because that is the way we approach the conflict and the tug of war in our relationships. At home. At work. With our family. With our kids. Our parents. There is one winner and one loser. We bring our A game. Our best arguments. Well crafted points of views. Our ideas. Our wills. Our way of doing things. The goal is to win at all cost.
Because we are a culture that is obsessed with winning, we define success professionally and relationally by our record of wins and losses.
But today we want to look at conflict from a different angle because if you desire to have healthy relationships that add to the quality of your life and help you become the person God has created you to be, You can’t win every battle. You don’t have to win every battle.
Which begs the difficult question, What makes losing so hard? (Slide). What makes us so uncomfortable and even afraid of losing? Why do we approach many of our conflicts and pull with a goal of being undefeated.
What’s so hard about losing?
Our text is one of the best examples At its core, our text teaches us, a culture that is defined by winning, how to lose well.
Isaac, the son of Abraham, the Father of Jacob and Easu is trying to negotiate and interesting game of Tug of War. Isaac is living in the land promised to him by God and the Lord blesses him immensely. His prosperity brought the attention of his neighbors and they became envious and even intimidated and it puts the conflict in motion. The Philistines hear about it and they start filling up the wells dug during the time of his father. So he moves on and builds another well. This happens to him on several occasions. He was just trying to dig wells for his family and every time, someone comes along, causes some conflict and he has to move on to build another well.
They are pulling over the ownership of wells and he seems to always be on the losing end.
When Pastor Mindie and I were talking about preaching this week, we realized it was Super Bowl weekend. I’ll let you in on our text thread,
Her response was, “I hope both teams just have fun.”
My response, “I don’t think that’s the concept of playoff games. It actually sucks really bad when you lose.”
Pastor Mindie’s response. “Oh right. Not fun.”)
No one enjoys losing. Regardless of the sport, the event, the discussion, the game, the goal… we do not like to be on the losing side of anything. At the heart of being a sore loser, is an unspoken grief or expectation that had gone unacknowledged or unmet. We wanted something and didn’t get it. We expected a certain outcome and it didn’t happen. So losing hurt! We always told kids it’s whether you win or lose, it’s just about having no fun. Well losing does not feel good. So we want to win!
“If we are always winning that means that someone else is consistently losing.”
Here’s the challenge, if we are always winning someone is one always on the losing end. ASK PEOPLE TO COME UP! Does this look familiar?
The Bible can sometimes be vague about details, but at others, the details really matter. Our text is very clear about the people involved. Here’s why it’s important, because behind every win or loss is a person. That means if we are always winning, then someone is always on the losing end. Remember the tug of war is this constant pull of needs, desire, wishes and dreams being pulled in opposite directions. So if I’m always winning, someone is always losing. Someone else’s needs, someone else’s desires, their dreams, their hopes are not being met.
Some battles aren’t worth fighting
So here’s a needed reminder, some battles aren’t worth fighting. (Slide) We are going to get into this a bit next week, but there are definitely times when we need to dig our heels in the sand and fight for certain principles. For Isaac it could be one of those times, but maybe it’s not?
In our marriage class here at St. Luke’s, we use a booked called 7 principles for making marriage work by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. One of the chapters is is geared around managing conflict. They did some research and followed couples over a course of several years. They compared the content of their discussions around the problems in their marriage from the last time they were in the lab. They found that 69 percent of the problems that couples discussed were the same problems they talked about the last time they were together. They concluded that the majority of that couples experience are perpetual problems they are never going to solve! Never! Even if you try! Even if you dig your heals in!
So they draw and distinction.
Perpetual problems are problems that center on either fundamental differences in your personalities, or fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs. (Slide). These are things that are probably never going to change. There will always be a constant tug of war around these issues. Always.
Then there is what they call solvable problems. Solvable problems can be about is about something situational. The conflict is simply about that topic, and there may not be a deeper meaning behind each partner’s position. A solution can be found and maintained. (Slide)
What this suggest is that Every battle doesn’t deserve your energy or attention. Isaac doesn’t have the language but he’s emotionally intelligent enough to know that if he responds, they are just going to keep fighting over the same wells. This is not an issue that’s going to solve itself. The Philistnes will just keep filling up the wells. The other nations show no signs of backing down. They are threatened by his presence, so these wells are going to be a perpetual problem. So he lets them have it. He moves on to a differ t spot and just finds another well.
Let me put it like this. “There are some battles you are NEVER going to win. Can u be ok with that?” Can you be ok with moving on?
Here’s what this looks like in break life.
Now let me just say. After last week, I’m really questioning my relationship with some of you. I made some comments in worship that I thought could stay between you and I, but apparently I over estimated your allegiance. Literally by the time I got home, some of you had already alerted my spouse to the intimate details of our Sunday morning conversation. So in light of… I wanted to give her an opportunity to speak into this series. So I asked for her opinion on things I did that annoyed her. Here’s what she said,
1. You don’t take your shoes off in the house.
2. You snore
3. You get in the bed in clothes that you wore outside and not pajamas.
4. You kiss me without brushing your teeth
5. You say "yes I'II do that" but never say when and then have to be hounded to do whatever it was
6. You cook but rarely clean as you go leaving an incredible mess behind
7. You answer the phone on speaker phone- either making us all listen to your conversation or putting me out there
For the record, she did ask for my opinion on return. Not at all. I can tell you with certainty there are certain things in this that are never going to change, so she might as well move on! The challenge is not to win every battle, but choose your battles wisely. Choose battles not just the ones you can win, but the ones that are actually able to be solved.
Learn how to lose well.
But that requires you to learn how to lose well (slide). By all accounts, we could say that Isaac lost more than he won. He lost about 4 or 5 wells. So let’s peak ahead a bit and see what a loser he was. Let’s take a look at all the things he lost by losing these well. “That night the appeared to him and said, I am the God of your Father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of your father Abraham.” Sounds like he lost a lot doesn’t it? Let’s keep peaking..A few more verses down, some of the same people that have him a hard time see saw how God was moving in his life and they return to apologize and make a convent with each other. They eat, toss a few back and leave peacefully. Wow, Look at all the things he lost!
When the hand of God is on your life, you don’t have to fight over one well. You can lose gracefully and sometimes willingly because you have a much bigger picture of what God is doing in your life and through that particular relationship.
Faith is a journey that requires us to learn how to lose well. It’s hard to live as faithful disciples and always be in the winning side. It’s hard to maintain healthy, mutually beneficial relationships that add to quality of your life without losing losing sometimes. Walking with God will require you to lose well.
Listen to what Jesus says about Losing. Truly I tell you unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Peter said to Jesus in Luke 18. “Jesus we have left everything to follow you.”
Jesus challenges our narrows perceptions of winning and losing. Isaac is certainly not playing in anyone’s Super Bowl. He has losing record! And get, the Lord continues to add to his life. He built the weeks he needed. And came away with more relationships ships then we be started. Was it his desire to win or willingness to lose.
How is God challenging me to redefine the definition of a win? What is success in my faith? At home? At work? With my kids? My parents? It always to to win? All the time?
YOU CANT WIN EVERY BATTLE. And the truth is, you don’t have to.