As a middle-aged adult, I learned how to play bridge.
In a game that is very competitive, it is hard to believe that the “first rule” of bridge (at least, the first and best rule that I have learned) is lose what you have to lose first.
Last weekend, my partner and I bid a hand, and when she laid down her cards, we had a perfect fit . . . except that we did not hold 3 of the Aces and 1 King. Four tricks that we had to lose in order to take the other nine. It was clear what I had to do, force the opponents into playing all of those four cards before I could capture what we were capable of winning.
Not all bridge hands are like that . . . that clear, that easy, that straightforward. At least, not for me. But I’m barely more than a novice.
But what a paradox–lose in order to win. It took the first 3 years of playing before I was able to accept that sometimes I had to lose in order to eventually win the game. Three years of being obstinate, frightened, and stupid.
I can identify with the prodigal son in all of this. Foolishly taking everything that is mine (i.e., all of the winning tricks) at the cost of eventually losing the most important thing (e.g., self-love, father’s love, the game.)
The paradox. Lose in order to win. Be exalted, and you will be humbled. First shall be last. Sinner welcomed home.
None of us is perfect, especially in the ways that we negotiate our leadership. There are always points, discussions, issues, and actions that we are going to face that we’re just going to lose.
These losses don’t necessarily mean we are going to lose the “game” or the goal toward which our ministry and leadership is directed. But we need to know when to lose, when to agree to disagree, when to concede, and when to ask for forgiveness. It’s only then that we can truly move forward.