When people ask me about the book, one question that often comes up is: why I am so focused on the label “loser”? It’s in the title of my book, rendering me by default an expert on the topic. I have identified myself as a loser, and now that identification is out there for all the world to see.
So the questions come: Why are you so hard on yourself? How can a child of God call himself or herself a loser? Don’t you realize you are under grace?
Allow me to answer these questions.
First, why am I so hard on myself? Really, I am not. It’s taken me the better part of my life and a couple of kicks below the belt to realize that I am at best an ordinary, frumpy, broken, sinful person. I have failed more often than I have achieved. I have not now, nor will I ever, overcome the “if-only” syndrome (if only I can conquer this sin / overcome this flaw / achieve this status).
However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The point of Losers Like Us is to show how God uses ordinary, broken individuals (losers) and does so quite frequently in the biblical narrative. How is calling myself a loser any different than Paul calling himself “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16)? Or how is it any different than Moses saying he is not qualified to do what God asked (Exodus 3:10ff)? The Bible never hides such flaws and sins. Why should I?
The second question is, how can a child of God call himself a loser? Doesn’t that deny the reality of God’s redemption? No. In order to truly understand redemption, I must remember the mess that is my life. Only God and I know the darkness in the corners of my heart. And, to borrow from Philip Yancey, only with that knowledge can I truly understand what’s so amazing about grace!
That brings me to the final question: Don’t you realize you are under grace? But I say, if grace blinds me to my need for grace, then it means nothing. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12). We must never forget how sick we really are.
The truth is, some get very uncomfortable when I discuss these things. And that’s okay. Forcing ourselves to look within, behind the image we try to project, is unsettling. Often, if we’re honest, we don’t like what we see. Further, it goes against our human nature, our American can-do spirit, our competitive “just do it” mantra.
However, after spending the last several years rummaging through old hopes and dreams, I realized that the debris was more than that: it was my framework of God that lay crumbled at my feet.
I had constructed a god of cutting-edge ideas and trendy slogans. A god who celebrated status and accomplishments. This was a god who merely affirmed my own plans and actions. He was there to bless the next development of my life. That was the framework of the god who lay at my feet.
But into my hopelessness and despair came the real God. And I found this God not to be a god of achievement but a God of the impossible. This is a God who actually enjoyed moving history through the ordinary and broken.
Even the graduate school failure.
Looking within and seeing the mess of my life in the context of grace is freeing. It allows me permission to stop trying so hard to impress. Maintaining an image is exhausting—especially if that image is far more impressive than the real me. There is freedom in understanding that my ordinariness is the best I’ve got and watching to see what God will do with it.
And this is why I proudly call myself a “loser.”