For the first 10 years of my life, I was a Liverpool fan; indoctrinated into supporting the Reds by my dad, a die-hard supporter who wanted his eldest daughter to share his love of the team.
But cue 1994 and the start of Manchester United’s glory years. I recall falling in love with this team, switching my allegiance from the past-it Scousers to the glorious squad that won both the Premier League and the FA Cup that year.
I was smitten, having been drawn to the fresh-faced talent of the likes of Eric Cantona and Lee Sharpe. And over the next few years, I became addicted to winning as it became the norm for United to add to the trophy cabinet each year.
It’s 20 years later and I’m no longer a football fanatic. It’s a year since Sir Alex – the mastermind behind two decades of championship-winning – has left. And his successor David Moyes has been sacked for being… well, rubbish.
United currently stand at seventh in the Premier League table. Seventh! It’s just not good enough for a team that’s been used to being at the top.
It’s a place many United fans of my age have never really been. The thought of not supporting the winning side is painful. And it’s made me question just what it is that is so repulsive about losing.
I’m an extremely competitive person. I hate losing. Whether that’s in exam results, or pub quizzes or sports matches.
And I’ve seen this strive to win creep into the way I go about sharing my faith. I want Christians to be on the winning side, not the losing side. I want thought-through, intelligent theism to thrash militant new atheism. I want my faith to be characterised by Bono not Ned Flanders. I want people to think Jesus was cool – a divine winner.
We’ve just celebrated Easter. And as far as the world is concerned, Jesus lost. He was killed, his mates deserted him and denied him; he didn’t save Israel after all.
But it seems our faith was never about winning anyway. All over the world our Christian brothers and sisters are giving up everything for the sake of the gospel. They are literally losing their whole lives. Hundreds of thousands of them. But there’s something ineffably beautiful about being prepared to lose it all, about daring to fail. In the upside-down kingdom of God, it’s the last that’ll be first; the people who lose their lives who’ll gain it. We’re called to humility; our servant saviour-king rides in on a donkey.
Here’s a lesson I’m learning: being a God-follower doesn’t mean you’ll always be a winner. Not in the world’s eyes anyway. Our faith makes no room for glory-seeking.
“‘My grace is sufficient for you,'” we hear Him say in 2 Corinthians 12. “For my power is made perfect in weakness.'” And Paul continues in the letter: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So as David Moyes becomes the poster-boy for losing, may we question our addiction to glory and may we learn lessons in how to fail.
Because as Christians we know that after death and loss and failure comes life and triumph and hope: resurrection.