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A Loser at Life, but Winning in Christ

Joshua Crawford

I was so scared of living a boring life. If there was one thing I was set on, coming out of high school, it was living an exciting, fulfilling life that made me happy. Let me tell you, I chased more dreams! Anyone who reads this will surely think I have an extreme case of ADHD. Maybe this will help someone, maybe someone feels the same way.

I grew up playing basketball in the efforts to get a college scholarship. Wow, what was I thinking? I didn’t have the height, the build, the speed, or anything. I practiced more than anyone on the team, but could never do much of anything in a game when it counted. That dream didn’t go past high school.

After high school, I really liked working out, so I got into bodybuilding. That lasted for less than a year. I just lost interest and couldn’t see the point of pushing yourself to look a certain way for maybe a day. Oh well.

After that, I became a personal trainer. I did that for over 10 years. I opened up 3 gyms, which all failed despite working 80 hour weeks. I even had a non-profit for kids where I played this super hero, helping kids get fit. I never was able to get much funding to do anything with it. So much for that.

Close to 30 at this point, I figured I needed to go to school, which is something I never did. I went for an undergraduate in Psychology and finished in under 3 years. By the time I finished the degree, I had no interest in Psychology, to be honest.

With a degree, I thought I’d devote my life to teaching. I tried to teach high school English. I never was much of a reader, but apparently I thought I could help others. That didn’t work, as I only lasted one semester. Sensing a pattern here?

I was able to get a great job as a Health Coach, but within a couple months, I was looking for something else. The funny thing is, I finally had a job that paid decent money, and I wanted out badly. I started looking for jobs that paid half!

I went back to school for my Masters in Exercise Science. I learned a lot and enjoyed it. However, once again, before I even graduated, I knew it wasn’t going to change my life.

Believe me, there’s more little silly failures that I left out. There’s the time a couple years ago that I said I was going to dunk a basketball in a year and try out for a local semi-pro basketball team. That ended quickly, when I badly hurt my back about a month into training.

I don’t want to even go into how deep I got into watching sports and playing fantasy football. I somehow thought that would make me happy. I won a fantasy football league once; I woke up the next day and life was exactly the same as before. Lame.

Did I mention that I got married at some point amidst all that? I guess I should tell you that didn’t work either. I was sure that a relationship was going to do it. I’m sort of still in the aftermath of all that right now. That’s a whole other story, which I’ll tell another time.

After all this, I came to one very painful, but undeniable fact: I was one pathetic loser. No, seriously. I tried my best, for sure, but I was a chronic, couldn’t help myself loser. I lost at everything and had no idea how to fix it! Try harder? Did that. Get smarter? Did that. It just didn’t make any sense and I had nowhere left to turn. I’ll admit, I was doing things the last couple years just because I hadn’t tried it. For instance, I didn’t want to be an English teacher, but I hear all the time how teachers are so fulfilled; I thought I’d give it a shot.

I was at the end of my line, the end of my wits, for sure. The thing that really, really confused me was the fact I tried really hard at everything! I worked hard in those businesses to make them succeed. I worked hard at school and did pretty well. I worked really hard in my marriage, too. I had always been told from my old basketball coaches, my sports heroes, the Rocky movies, that giving it your best was the way to go; you’d eventually breakthrough. My best wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. At 33 years of age, where was my breakthrough?

My breakthrough was right there, when I realized I wasn’t enough. It was almost like I took myself out of the game. I said, “Coach, I’m getting killed. I’m not quick enough to guard that guy and I sure can’t get a shot off. I don’t know why, either. I don’t want to play anymore.” Right there, at that moment, that’s where I found Jesus Christ. He met me right there and I felt like he said, “I’ve been waiting for you to say that.”

Admitting my worthlessness was the most painful, discouraging moment of my life. Yet, it was followed immediately, and I mean instantaneously, with an outpouring of love from the Creator of love. Vivid thoughts of The Lord saying, “I’ve got you,” and “You just stick with me,” or even, “Now let me work on you,” filled my heart and mind, restoring my courage and will to live. After a few nights alone with God, I figured out more than I ever did in 33 years on my own.

I was never supposed to succeed on my own. At any point, God could have snapped his fingers and made anyone of those efforts successful, but he didn’t. He knew that if I would have succeeded without Him, I would have taken all the credit and turned my back on Him for life. If I’m honest, all the things He denied me wouldn’t have made me happy anyway. Success in sports would have most certainly made me arrogant and forced me to rely on athletic ability, which fades by age 40. Success in my profession would have turned into more of those 80 hour work weeks – a recipe for a miserable life. It’s painful to admit, but the way I was doing marriage was leading me away from God at breakneck speed. If that union had succeeded, I would have started a whole Godless family; children without the knowledge of Jesus Christ in their heart. God was protecting me from all sorts of poor outcomes, even though I practiced a Godless lifestyle.

Did you catch that? Our God, Our Father, protected me from all kinds of unhappy endings even when I didn’t crack open my Bible for a year at a time. (Read Romans 5:8) I boldly defied Him, lived my own way, and yet, out of incredible, indescribable love, He still protected me. I know you may be thinking, “I’m not sure you should credit God for all those failures.” Trust me, some of my attempts in life failed in such an against all odds, jaw-dropping way that it was certainly the hand of Our Creator denying me. I understand that now.

Please understand I’m not writing this with my life put back together. I’m still going through a heart-breaking divorce, which I can explain in more detail another time. I don’t know how The Lord is going to put everything back together in my life, but I know that He will. He says so in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” The Creator of this universe that put the stars in the sky, carved out canyons, and keeps the Sun burning just hot enough has a specific set of plans for each one of us. That promise alone is enough.

The only catch to that verse is God was speaking about Israel, His people. If we’re not willing to be one of His, we won’t get the full realization of those benefits. We can’t expect His awesome blessings and protection if we keep running out into the street when He says stay in the yard. That’s why I’m surrendering everything to Him. After being saved on one fateful night, the first verses that spoke to me were Hebrews 12:5 and Proverbs 3:11. Each of those verses talks about God, as our Heavenly Father, chastening us and we shouldn’t reject it. After all, he only rebukes those He calls sons. If He didn’t care about me, He would have let me run into the street on one of those many wild left turns I took without His blessing. I’m staying in the yard from now on.

Has staying in His yard, trusting Jesus, and accepting God’s chastening gotten me anything yet? Yes! For starters, all that madness I had about jumping from job to job, hobby to hobby, etc. is gone, I mean gone. The Lord took that awful, 20 year old burden in a single moment. I actually enjoy my job now as a Health Coach, am content with my athletic ability, and I’m not looking for the next thing to peak my interest. You can’t imagine the peace that’s brought me!

I’ve even got peace through a separation into divorce, which should be the most stressful time of my life. Don’t misunderstand – I feel very badly about what happened. Yet, I have peace. I don’t lie awake at night thinking, “Why was my marriage so bad? What could I have done? Was it me? Was it her?” I have peace because I know when we don’t allow The Lord into any part of our lives, especially a marriage, it will suffer and die. At least now I know!

I’ve also got forgiveness that I’ve never been capable of. I have no bitterness from my marriage, I truly don’t. Trust me, I’ve been an immature person in my life and letting go of things hasn’t been my forte. God has allowed me to let go of things done to me and not become bitter. After all, how can we not forgive others when we grasp the way God has forgiven us through Jesus Christ? (Ephesians 4:32)

I don’t know who is reading this or if anything of my little story helps you. I do think a lot of people out there are struggling to find feelings they want to have, whether that’s happiness, contentment, fulfillment, even excitement. I just want to say that new jobs become our ‘boring, old jobs.’ Brand new cars become that ‘old thing I’m driving.’ Even new relationships become that ‘same old girl.’ You know what’s different? Jesus Christ. “I am making everything new,” He tells us in Revelation 21:5. Having Jesus in my heart has made me look at everything differently, new. I tried so hard to get this feeling from so many other things and nothing stuck, but giving the desires of my life to The Lord has given me amazing feelings that aren’t fading day by day.

You know, maybe it’s just because I tried everything else. I got to the end of the line and Jesus Christ was right there, open arms and all. Maybe that’s it. At some point in The Gospel (John 6:68), many disciples leave Jesus and He asks the twelve if they want to leave as well. Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Basically, I feel he was saying, “Seriously? Where else are we going to go? You’re the Son of God. To follow anything else makes no sense, at all. Of course we’re staying with you.” Once you’ve seen Jesus, as Peter did, nothing is boring and nothing is mundane. He was my answer to that ‘happiness’ question and I’m finally getting rest from all that chasing.

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