All good stories end in a comeback. Alright alright, maybe not all. But a lot of good stories end in a comeback… some form of someone losing something (money, a game, a bet, health, life), and at the last second turning things around for an unexpected win.
Random examples: Michael Jordan. The Backstreet Boys. Beauty & the Beast. Ross and Rachel.
I often wonder why these types of stories are so intriguing to us. Sometimes I think it’s because it reminds us of the story of Jesus… the ultimate comeback story: a man who was despised and hated and abused and eventually killed, who lived out the biggest plot twist of all time by literally coming back… and saving the universe to top it all off. It really doesn’t get better (or more absurd) than that when it comes to a comeback story.
I’ve been thinking about comebacks in relation to my own life lately and I’ve come to realize something… the thing mainly being that I really do love them. So much so that I will actually go out of my own way to create my own comeback story, no matter how seemingly big or small.
1. I will let my apartment get disgustingly messy, just so that I have the satisfaction of cleaning it up. We’re talking dishes piled high, clothes everywhere, soap scum in the shower… (EW BIBS TMI!) and then I’ll devote hours to scrubbing it clean, from ceiling to floor, so that it looks IMMACULATE by the time I’m done. Sometimes I’ll even take before & after pictures, I won’t even lie.
2. Sometimes I’ll go a month without working out, and then the next month I’ll work out almost every day, just so I can tell my friends, “You guys, you wouldn’t believe it. I was such a lazy ass last month; I didn’t work out at all. But look at me now! I’ve been working out every day for the past few weeks and I’m running a 5K next week and I think I might even have actual abs now! (Is that amazing or WHAT?!)” And I’ll do the same thing with food. I’ll eat sweets and candy and carbs galore one month, and then I’ll “eat clean” the next month and talk about the huge life-altering changes I’ve made.
3. Same thing with school work. I’ll wait and wait and wait to study, I’ll do poorly on my first few exams, I’ll let my grades drop, I’ll complain to my friends about how “I’m going to fail out of this class I just know it” and “there is just no coming back from this.” And then I’ll bust my butt the second half of the semester, ace the rest of my exams and pull off a good grade come summertime. “I should have failed….” I’ll say, “but I DIDN’T! I made my way from the bottom all the way to the top!” What a great story of triumph! [Please note sarcasm]
It may sound silly, but there is a noticeable pattern of this in my life… of slightly (or sometimes significantly) sabotaging an area of my life, JUST so that I can fix it. As much as I may not always admit it, I kind of like cleaning up a good mess. And I especially like cleaning it up when I’ve created it. Let’s face it, messes are always easier to clean up if you’ve made them yourself, because you know where things went before you moved them around. It’s satisfying.
It’s also incredibly stupid though. Because the energy I use to make messes and subsequently clean them up could be used to NOT create any messes to begin with, and just to continue improving things for the better from the start. Instead of going back two steps then forward two steps, and bragging about my “comeback” to the people around me, I could just go forward four steps, and use the same amount of energy.
Instead of letting the dishes pile up, I could just do them at the end of each day. And instead of not caring for my physical body one month and then whipping it into shape the next, I could just work out a few times each week. Instead of digging myself into an academic hole and then digging myself out at the end of each semester, I could just study a little bit each week.
What revolutionary concepts! Less glamorous and not as riveting, sure. But it allows for a lot more true progress and forward momentum in the end, right?
I’ve been thinking about it and I do think I’m drawn to comeback stories because they remind me of the Jesus story. I think there’s a difference that I need to be aware of though – a key difference between the Jesus comeback and the other more typical comeback stories I gravitate towards and create.
My comebacks involve me losing something (cleanliness, health, grades) and then “winning” them back at the very last second.
Jesus’ comeback involves him appearing to lose throughout his lifetime up until the very end, but in actuality, revealing at the last minute that he was actually winning the whole time.
Jesus never “lost” and then won. He was always winning… he just looked like he was losing based on the standards of the world he was living in.
I think real winning means stopping the game of trying to make yourself look like a winner, and actually being willing to look like a loser, for the sake of true victory.
And as a good friend recently reminded me, real winning also means looking to Christ as the ultimate victor and as our victor, giving him the credit, and recognizing that any comebacks that do manifest in our lives are made possible thanks to the power and the grace of His very existence. Submission to God’s love and opening our hands and hearts to receiving his desire to propel us forward is the key to unlocking future growth.
Not ego. Not pride. Not determination…
But dependance, gratitude, & surrender.
Alas, I’m making it a point to break up with my love of the comeback. At least the kind of comeback I’m used to. And I’m slowly falling in love with the Jesus comeback…the real comeback… with being okay with looking like I’m losing and taking on the appearance of not keeping up with the world’s standards, of not subscribing to what society dubs as “success,” all with the hope and trust that doing the hard and unglamorous and sometimes loser-ish things are actually compounding in victory overtime.
So cheers. To the losers who are actually winners who sometimes look like losers before revealing they’re winners…
P.S. Have you ever created your own comeback?