Beaten But Not Defeated

by Joanie Butman

How would you like your legacy to be making the worst play call in Super Bowl history? Unless you live under a rock, you know what I’m talking about. Sports analysts and Monday morning quarterbacks have been rehashing the last 30 seconds of Super Bowl XLIX ad nauseum. As a Russell Wilson fan, I am still reeling. When I called to check on my little buddy, Sam, his mom informed me he is now in the fifth phase of mourning – acceptance. So, what’s left to discuss, you may be asking? More than football, that’s for sure.

Well, let’s start by saying thank goodness no one is privy to the playbook of my life, because it is full of incredibly stupid choices and a multitude of strategic miscalculations, including my variety of hairdos! In fact, if I ever write an autobiography I plan to entitle it, What Was I Thinking?  Something I did very little of over the course of my youth, or if I did, it was with a logic no one else could follow, much like Pete Carroll’s call with victory just inches away.

At least I didn’t have an audience of millions watching. The friends and family that witnessed my frequent acts of stupidity were more than enough. I’m so glad I grew up without social media, where every bad decision is made public in a nanosecond coupled with the added opportunity for anyone and everyone to weigh in on said decision. For better or worse, our generation had the luxury of plausible deniability. With the evolution of Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and who knows how many other venues, there is nowhere to hide and no denying what’s there for all to see.

In much the same way we’ve over analyzed and dissected Carroll’s decision, don’t we do the same with God when He calls a play we disagree with – when it seems our prayers go unanswered, when the victory doesn’t come, when the job goes to someone else, when the relationship isn’t restored, when the healing doesn’t arrive? It’s easy to be faithful when we are recipients of God’s blessings. It’s when we feel defeated and alone that it is hardest to trust that His ways are not our ways, and that sometimes His blessings come through suffering.

Nevertheless, some of our greatest opportunities to witness for Christ come through pain and loss. I think Russell Wilson’s voice was louder in defeat than it ever could have been in victory. Have you ever seen an unhappy winner? How you handle your defeats is more of a testimony to your character and beliefs. Let’s face it, most of us don’t need to learn how to win and probably have more experience losing. Life is not a zero sum game. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt the despair of losing someone or something – a dream, a job, a home, or in this case a game – when the support of others is critical. Isn’t that the role of the Seahawks 12th man?

Given my previous comment regarding the myriad questionable calls over my life, I derive great comfort from Wilson’s statement, “I won’t let one play or one moment define my career. I will keep evolving.” And so should we.  God isn’t a Monday morning quarterback. He already knows our playbook, which is why He sent his Son – to save us from our own sinfulness and stupidity. Fortunately, He’s not counting downs and is always waiting and willing to give us a replay – another chance to get it right. As Wilson tweeted after the game, “Thank you God for the opportunity. We’ll be back…I will never waiver on who He has called me to be…Thanks 12s” We are a constant work in progress. When we stop evolving, we stop living in the truest sense. As another football great once said, “The measure of a man is not in how he falls down, but in how he pulls himself off the ground.” (Vince Lombardi)

Does this mean we don’t suffer the consequences of our choices? Absolutely not, or we wouldn’t learn anything. Pain is a most effective teacher. It makes us stronger and wiser. God then provides the opportunity to take those lessons and apply them in the future – to come back stronger and better having gotten to the other side of our pain. To use what we’ve learned in the process to encourage and support others. Wilson’s Monday morning tweet says it all, “Every setback has a major comeback. #GreaterIsComing." Amen to that!!


I have the utmost respect for the way Wilson accepted the fatal call without question, trusting his coaches and his instincts. I think we can learn something from his example because who doesn’t question the plays God calls at times? A cancer diagnosis? A rejection? A crushing blow emotionally, spiritually, financially? Really, God, that’s Your best call? It’s at those times we have to trust our divine coach and run the play to the best of our ability, relying on our teammates to help us. It won’t always lead to a victory as the world sees it, but it makes us all winners in the end because we know that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

Finally, when discussing his team’s goal, Wilson could have been describing the Christian life in general, “Our goal is to prepare the right way. Our goal is to keep our mind right, stay strong mentally and just keep fighting.” He continues, “Keep focusing on persevering. Keep focusing on guys you have around you, and keep focusing on caring about those guys and working, and just continuing to fight.” Sounds awfully close to some of St. Paul’s pep talks where he continually encourages Christians to “be prepared in season and out of season.” And Hebrews 12 encourages us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

More than any one play or moment, it is who or what you choose to focus on that defines you. Russell Wilson is very clear of who He puts first. Are you?

Choose wisely.

*With the birth of an NFL franchise in 1976, Seattle fans were no longer starved for their own professional football team. As the Seahawks strengthened, their loud, sold out crowds became known as the 12th MAN.  (