“A Loser Like Me”
I was talking to a boy the other day who was trying to put together an intramural team at school. The team had to have a mixture of both boys and girls on the roster, regardless of whether or not they actually played. “I went and asked a few girls that I knew would never play if I could use their names for my team,” the boy said. “Why did you do that?” I asked. He looked at me with a kind of resigned look on this face. “Well, what girl would ever want to play with a loser like me?”
A loser like me.
In that moment, it struck me with the force of a sledgehammer to the side of the head, what a truly monstrous thing it is for one human being to mistreat another… What an unspeakably horrible thing it is that the thought should ever occur to a boy or girl that some people are worth more than others… What a gross and damnable injustice it is that there are some people who get to make collective decisions about the value of other people, and that those on the wrong side of this evaluation should ever have to get used to the idea. I looked at this boy who was already forced to have this ugly, hateful word—loser—in his vocabulary. I felt a lump forming in my throat and I thought my heart would snap in two.
What is wrong with us? We cherish our hierarchies and evaluations and categories. We are so desperate to exalt ourselves at the expense of others, and so we push people down. We pick on the vulnerable, the nervous, the misfits, the socially awkward, the ugly, the poor, the lazy, the ones who aren’t fit and trim, the ones whose skin is the wrong colour, the ones whose sexuality is different from ours, the ones who can’t seem to get it together in the way that matches what we have collectively decided “together” looks and sounds like. We fortify and defend our fragile identities by tearing others down, convincing them they matter less than we do. Why?
In Luke 17, Jesus told his disciples that there would be plenty of things in life that would cause people to stumble, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a stone tied around their neck than to cause a little one to stumble. I though of this passage today as I walked the dog on a glorious fall day. I though of all the ugly, rejected, un-athletic, un-academic, unpopular, un-whatever kids in our town and in our world—kids who were walking around with that vicious word “loser” hanging over their head, kids who are already convinced—Christ have mercy!—that they do not measure up on the cruel scale of public opinion. I thought of how often I have participated in this dehumanizing madness. I repented for the innumerable and inexcusable ways in which we make people stumble in a world with no shortage of stumbling blocks.
As I walked, I prayed for these kids. I prayed to the God who was ugly enough for people to hide their faces from, the God who was scorned, rejected, despised, misunderstood, and ultimately murdered on a lonely hillside outside Jerusalem. I prayed that the God who knew and still knows what it’s like to be a loser would come alongside these kids, that he would speak words of life and love as an antidote to the poisonous lies they are all too familiar with.
And I prayed that those of us who claim to follow this loser God and his foolish gospel would only ever speak words of life, grace, and truth. I prayed that whatever these kids might hear in a world bursting with hateful, heartless categories and inflexible, crippling hierarchies, that from us they would only ever hear one consistent message: You are precious to God and to me. You matter more than you will ever know. You are dearly loved just as you are.