How could this have happened? How could something we worked so hard for be handed over to the enemy so quickly? Those were the sentiments of the San Jose Sharks immediately following a home game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Sharks were dominating and victory was within reach. Then calamity struck. One misguided backhand landed the puck in the wrong net. The Avalanche won by a fluke. Dan Boyle went to his dressing room stunned, embarrassed, and defeated. In a strange way I know exactly how he felt.
Although it was two years ago, I can still feel the shame and humiliation as if it happened yesterday. My pastor’s family had faced a disaster of indescribable proportions. His wife Lori had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and she was in the early stages of treatment. On the first day of her chemotherapy treatments her house and everything in it burned to the ground. The area where she lived did not have fire hydrants so the fire department had to pump water from the nearby delta. The home and its contents was a total loss. Miraculously, none of its eight occupants were home when the fire started but suddenly cancer seemed like a small hill to climb. Lori was not only fighting for her life, she was also homeless.
I immediately sprung into action. With the help of my small church, Operation Restoration was underway. We set up a bank account where money could be deposited and my garage became a used clothing warehouse. Donations poured in. By this time I was exhausted. When I wasn’t on the streets asking vendors for help (something that went way beyond my comfort zone) I was working on the website. My writing and family went by the wayside as I spent hours helping my friends recover from their tragedy.
That is when I had my Dan Boyle moment. On the website was a list of items the family had lost. Through a strongly worded email I was mortified to discover that I had made a terrible blunder. Words like “grand piano” and “Harley Davidson leathers” were highly offensive to donors who wanted to help a family in crisis. I cannot remember specifics but I can still feel the anger that the writer poured into her words. I had never witnessed such contempt from a total stranger. In trying so hard to help my pastor restore all that he lost, I inadvertently caused him more problems. Donations came to a screeching halt. I was accused of running a scam and taking advantage of hardworking people. The fundraiser I organized was a near failure. We barely made enough money to pay for expenses. For all my labor, Satan received the glory as I silently wept.
In the aftermath, I realized that sometimes our best intentions can have disastrous results. Perhaps we miss a key detail and go left when we should have gone right. We mean well but in the end we are human and we make mistakes. Joy returns when we choose to get up and keep fighting. Despite my disgrace, I rose above the gossip and got back to work. The following Christmas my church and I adopted fifty needy families and we gave back to our community. I learned that the most rewarding accomplishments are the ones that are a direct result of pain and suffering. Even in our failures, we are driven to persevere because it is our birthright to succeed. Satan may win a battle-- but the war is already won. Today Lori is cancer-free and lives in a beautiful two-story home. She just celebrated a birthday and all of her party guests congregated around her new piano. What happened to Boyle and his team? He scored the winning goal in the next game and they won the series. Our adversary will fall when we decide to rise. In Christ we are more than conquerors.