Learning to be a Good Sport in the Game of Life

My husband just completed his first sprint triathlon, and boy, was I one proud wife!  This past Christmas I gave him the gift of time.  Time to train and prepare for the triathlon over the following six months.  The week before the race I made a countdown sheet, the girls made posters, and together, we even made up a few cheers.  The competition started early, but I was determined to be there to cheer my man on from start to finish.  With two sleepy girls in tow, we made our way to the pool, just in time to watch their Daddy line up to dive in at the 7:OO a.m. start.


After the athletes swim, they bike and then run.  If you aren’t familiar with triathlons but plan to participate as a spectator one day, I’ll let you in on a little secret:  there is a lot of waiting around, which is why most competitors do not have many fans present to cheer them on, especially not wives accompanied by children ages four and under.  Nevertheless, for months we had talked about this upcoming event, and I really wanted to use this opportunity to convey to our oldest daughter that we are family, which means we support each other, even when it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable.


Well, at this same time, we were ending a particularly difficult week with my daughter.  She had recently turned four; however, in her mind, she was every bit fourteen, and like a teenager, she had a horrible attitude. Along with her listening skills, her manners seemed to have flown out the window.  So, I was quite glad when she appeared eager to make signs for her father, but hey, since it involved glitter, this wasn’t too hard of a sell.  And when it came time to get up and go, she did, without fuss, so with relief I thought this is going to be a good day; this week was tough, but today we are going to have fun.  Wrong.


Because it would be at least an hour before we would see my husband again, the girls and I went to the playground.  While there, some of the bikers came in and began the run, so naturally, I clapped and shouted words of encouragement to those athletes starting their final phase of competition.   My daughter then looked up and asked, “Was that Daddy?”  After I told her that it was not, just other people in the race, to my great chagrin, she replied, “Then why did you wish them good luck? I am only going to cheer for my Daddy because we should only cheer for people in our family.  I hope those other people lose.”   Needless to say, I snapped my head around and glared at those beady eyes and pursed lips of hers.  “What did you just say?” I retorted .

OF COURSE, it is wrong to boo at someone in a race.


OF COURSE, it is wrong to be all about winning instead of having fun and finishing the race.


OF COURSE, it is wrong to ignore Proverbs 24:14: Don’t rejoice when your enemy falls; don’t let yourself be glad when he stumbles.”


So to say that I was hot, is an understatement.  That was it for me — enough of this insolent four-year-old and her “attitude.”   I mean, it wasn’t like my husband and I had never spoken to her about good sportsmanship and or never told her that races and games were not all about winning, etc.  OF COURSE, we had!  We even discussed with her the fact that her daddy probably would not win the triathlon, which was okay.  The important thing was that we should be excited and happy for everyone participating and what they accomplished, that finishing the race is almost as important as winning.  Yep, we told her all of that and figured she got it.  Wrong.  Once again, God was using my children to teach lessons that He wanted their mother to learn.


Eek, while trying to remove the speck out of my daughter’s eyes, that plank was sticking pretty far out of my own. (Matthew 7:5)  No, I do not wish for others to lose or drop out of a race, but I surely act that way when it comes to the “game of life.”   It’s sneaky though.  There was a time when I blatantly made snarky remarks about other “competitors,”  but now that I’m a mom and a more “mature” Christian, I don’t allow myself to be so mean.  At least not outright.  These days, more subtle, “sophisticated” thoughts enter my mind, convincing me that I deserve what others have achieved, regardless of how I “place.”

My happiness depends on being better than someone else, or to really break it down, on having something to hold over someone else, something to gloat about.  Who’s keeping score?  I am.  Always.


Sometimes, to break loose from these sinful thoughts, God reminds me of the story of Esau and Jacob.  God had specific plans for both of them, and for a while, those plans ran smoothly.  The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.” Genesis 25:27  Here’s the thing though, Esau was his father’s favorite and Jacob his mother’s.  One would think that both brothers were satisfied with this arrangement, but, just like us, greedy Jacob wanted more and desired to “one up” his brother instead of living contently with all God had given him.

So what did he do?  He took advantage of his brother’s physical weakness, which resulted in a famished Esau “selling” Jacob his birthright (special, God-given blessings), for a bowl of soup.  SOUP — SERIOUSLY?


“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom. )  Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”  “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:29-30


This story seems a bit extreme, inheritance for soup, but it demonstrates an important truth about the human heart.  From where do we derive pleasure?  What are we seeking?  Is it possessing something our friends or siblings do not have or possessing a bigger, better version of what they do have?  Jacob went on to trick his father, taking from his brother again.  His mother was so afraid for his life that she sent him away.  Fast forward — this story has a “happy” ending, but not without its share of struggles and hardships.  Jacob returned home after significant time had passed, and amazingly, Esau welcomed him with open arms.

This story also demonstrates another truth:  although separated from his family because he SINNED against both his brother and father, God eventually reunited them after Jacob REPENTED and HUMBLED himself before the Lord.  Most importantly, God chose Jacob to carry on the Abrahamic covenant, not Esau. (In theological terms, that’s MASSIVE!)  However, because Jacob stole what was rightfully his brother’s and deceived his father, he suffered many consequences,  including losing precious time with his family.  Time that he could never regain.


Y’all, we have to stop looking at others as rivals in a sort of race to get ahead of us in life.  People must engage in the challenges of life just like us, and life is not a game. This doesn’t make them our enemies.   Remember that last commandment?  “Thou shalt not covet.”   Looking out the window with envy never brings satisfaction and joy.  Let me tell ya somethin’ — nothing good comes from greed or jealousy.  God doesn’t owe us anything; all that is given to us is on loan from Him, and it is our duty to make the best of it.


What relationships, what bounty of blessings, are you forfeiting because you cannot cheer people on around you and be glad for them?

For many people life is pretty tough, but it’s much more bearable, not to mention more enjoyable, when we celebrate others — their victories and their efforts.


For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment:   Love your neighbor as you love yourself.    Galatians 5:14


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