Saturday, November 22, 2014

Down but not defeated

Defeat is often a stepping stone on the path to victory. There is no better example of this truth than George Washington.
The heroic figure of American history and our first president certainly had his fair share of setbacks. From a young age Washington had obstacles and defeats and disappointments. When he was a young man his father died and Washington was never able to finish his proper schooling as he had intended. Instead he became the surveyor of a little county in Virginia. This was his mothers wish. She didn't want him study far away and she didn't want him in the military. Surveyor seemed safe.
During the French and Indian War Washington was called on to fulfilled the role of "adjunct general." He didn't command many men but did share in a number of defeats. Worst of all was at Braddock. As the British were attempting to take over the Ohio Territory they experienced a massive set back when, in 1755, the Indians pushed back the army and served it a severe blow in regards to causalities and land acquisition. Throughout the war Washington longed to be commissioned by the army but the call never came. He headed up a small regime of men but was never elevated to the military status he had hoped for.
Then came the American Revolution and Washington's big promotion. The man with little experience and no professional title to his name was appointed commander of the Continental Army. This would have probably been more exciting if Washington would have had ample supplies, a strong force and endless financial resources but he didn't have any of the above. Instead he had a ragtag army, challenging weather conditions, a lack of military provisions and even a shortage of shoes. But in 1775 Washington became commander.
He fought in Boston and won. He took his army to New York and was terribly defeated. He couldn't keep his enemy out of Philadelphia and suffered terrible loss due to disease and trying weather conditions in Valley Forge. The future of the Continental Army looked bleak.
But then came the summer of 1779. Washington hadn't given up the fight. He plotted one last campaign to overtake the British and miracle of miracles, it worked. For the next few years the American army beat back their foes until the British had retreated all the way back to Europe.
Even in those final years of victory Washington was fighting not only an opposing army but the dissolving of his own. Supplies ran short. Money was scarce and the troops were getting restless. Yet Washington never gave up. He fought until the battle was won. In 1983 America claimed victory and the revolution was won.

This may seem like a bore of a history lesson that you learned in grade school. Maybe you remember the details or maybe you promptly forgot them after you took the test on the subject. But there is a method to my historical madness and a lesson in the life of Washington.
Washington endured so much defeat that anyone would have understood if he had completely given up. Not only was he being defeated by an opposing military but he was freezing and hungry, too. And we know how people are when they get hungry! Not a pretty sight.
Yet, with all of the cards stacked against Washington he refused to let defeat stop him from trying again. Even after military losses Washington never stopped devising new strategies and new plans. Even after harsh winters he picked up the pieces of a ravaged army to fight again. He never let defeat keep him down and out. He rose above it and kept the hope of victory alive.

If you are like me then some days you need to be reminded to try again. Defeat is a dangerous trap and it threatens you and I to stop moving forward in our lives just like it threatened Washington and his army. But just think, what would have become of this nation of ours if Washington would have given in to defeat?
That is a question I don't even want to know the answer to. The ramifications of a defeated spirit would have been so great that history dares not ponder the possibilities of it for too long. 
The great news is Washington never stopped trying and believing that victory was possible. He looked defeat in the eye and overcame it. You and I can do the same thing. Whether it is on a physical battlefield or just the battlefield of our mind, we can overcome any defeat with the power of Christ in us. We have the great promise of a victory already won. So laugh in the face of defeat and try, try again because the battle is already won and the foe has already retreated.

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