A few years back, I read the classic epic poem the Iliad with my daughter, and I’m not gonna lie. I cried like a baby when Hector died.
I had always thought of Achilles as the Great Greek Hero of the famous Trojan War, but reading it this time, I didn’t like him. I just couldn’t see past his petty jealousy, self-pity, and childish revenge.
But here’s the thing: he won. And history is written by the victors, they say.
And then there’s Hector. He’s the brother of Paris who got drafted into a war he never wanted. He’s the patriot. The loyal son. The devoted husband. The loving father. He’s the Ideal Man.
But he lost!
And for me, it wasn’t just Hector who died. It was the death of the Ideal.
One of the most poignant moments in the story is when Hector crosses over the Greek fortifications with his warriors in what seems to him to be a step closer to victory…. But the reader knows better. We know that Mount Olympus has already ruled that when Hector passes over the barricades, he will be setting in motion a train of events that will lead to his own death and the downfall of Troy.
“Don’t do it!” we plead with Hector in the pages. “Don’t lose!”
Oh! And how life feels like a losing battle sometimes….
I remember one such morning not long ago. We began the day right. We had a great Bible class around my kitchen table. A rich conversation about spiritual things. We even had a nutritious breakfast! All the right ingredients for a great day.
But the brokenness of our lives could not be fixed so easily. Soon all that work fell apart.
My adult daughter with disabilities slammed down a plate because someone had used an extra water glass (breaking a law that she had written in stone). Another child started shouting … and maybe pushing. (I can’t remember.) And the other child there escalated the tension by giving off unkind accusations with the rolling of eyes. And then my dog threw up.
With no one in the room feeling a service attitude, I didn’t even bother to ask. I got on the floor and started cleaning up the mess, tears smarting my eyes.
“God, I cannot win this battle,” I whisper.
And I really can’t, not in this life anyway. No matter how much I try, how much expertise I acquire, how many great plans I execute, I still feel alone and defeated.
So, what should I do? What if my life doesn’t really work out? I don’t want to lose!
And then I think of Hector.
Maybe losing well is a kind of winning.
I think of him loving his wife, choosing to be courageous when afraid, showing kindness and longsuffering with those who started the conflict that will cost him so much, and laying down his life for his city.
Maybe his story is not the death of the Ideal, but the immortalization of it.
Which makes me think of another Story…. It has been said that among all the great stories, there is really only One Story – God’s story of redemption. So I think Hector actually reminds me of Someone else who knew well the art of losing….
Here’s the thing – I still don’t want to lose. I don’t want to end up on the wrong side of history. I don’t want that story.
But when it comes down to it, I guess I really don’t get to choose the end of my story, my battle.
I just need to decide who I am going to be in the middle of it.
“And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name….” Philippians 2:8-9