Professional football hall of famer Bill Parcells boasts a successful coaching career with an unbelievable number of wins. He is the only coach in National Football League history ever to lead four different teams to the playoffs and three different teams to a conference championship game. Parcells’ teams won two Super Bowls. Some call him the czar of football coaching. When a sports analyst asked about the joy, the sheer elation he must have felt with each victory, Parcells shrugged and said that after so many years of coaching, he just felt relief.
Can you imagine being that successful and just feeling relieved?
Parcells lamented that the pain of losing lasted a lot longer than the happiness of winning. So when his team did win, relief trumped jubilation.
His comments seemed unfortunate. Knowing that a football coach eats and breathes this game every waking moment to achieve his goal and cannot rejoice in the win is sad to me.
This spurred me on to think about my own responses to the ups and downs of my life. I don’t think one needs to be a famous football coach to have similar reactions. Disappointment that comes with loss seems to linger much longer than I’d like. And when the rigors of life beat me up and I finally have that breakthrough I’ve been praying for, I do find myself awash with relief.
But I think God wants us to move beyond relief.
Because when we get stuck in the emotional state of relief, we have trouble moving to rejoice.
This past week my son in China navigated through some major life transitions. We received a quick email from him New Year’s Eve day and then another one five days later with details of what had transpired. His email was full of joy for today and hope for the future. My immediate reaction was relief to hear back from him, relief that life was going well, and relief that some of his fears hadn’t become reality. While all that is well and good, my son just didn’t need to hear how relieved I was. I needed to express my delight and rejoice with him.
For a moment, look back at 2014. Friends, we’ve made it through some rough times. Many of us have persevered through great loss, navigated stressful jobs, conquered health issues, or experienced compassion fatigue that comes from serving others. We can take a deep breath and be relieved that we made it through another year.
We can also rejoice! Because with those hard fought victories behind us come new beginnings, endless possibilities, and pathways for unimaginable blessings.
I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s words:
Though our bodies are dying our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. (2nd Cor. 4:16-17)
And Happy? Winter!