In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus told the following parable: “What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10).
While Jesus drew attention to the happiness in heaven that accompanies repentance, the parable also provides us a worthy New Year’s resolution. Maybe in 2011, we too lost something valuable that we need to recover. The woman lost a drachma, a Greek coin worth about one day’s wages, maybe $180.00 in today’s America. But sometimes we can lose much more than a few hundred dollars.
Did we, for instance, in 2011 lose the precious coin of doing something we really love doing? The most anticipated and publicized chess match of all time took place in 1972 when the prodigy Bobby Fischer challenged the World Champion Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. The challenger Fischer won the series of games to become the world’s greatest player. No one was better at chess than Fischer–or had more passion for the game. But after the tournament, Fischer mysteriously stopped playing chess and became a recluse. Twenty years passed before he returned to the game he loved, again at a tournament pitting him against Spassky. And once more, in 1992, at Montenegro and Belgrade, Fischer defeated Spassky.
Did we this past year lose the precious coin of doing something we love? Did we bury our talents? Did we not do our best work? Or maybe there is some other coin we lost: The precious coin of being a good friend? The drachma of generosity? Of a clear conscience? Of prayer? Of happiness? Whatever of great value we lost, let’s put effort in 2012 into recovering it.
Jesus’ parable ends with a celebration. Festivities, publications, and news stories marked Fischer’s reappearance into the chess world in 1992. At our New Year’s parties a year hence, let’s rejoice together because we found in 2012 what once was lost.
The Fischer story acts as a strong example. How someone could relinquish something they loved so dearly is truly a mystery.
You ask the questions: Did we bury our talents? Did we not do our best work? I believe that in many instances this is not a loss. In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged those in Atlantis took away their coin so that it could not be used by others who do not value their abilities. They did not lose the coin. They maintained their talents for their own sake. In his speech John Galt states that, “All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.” I believe that in some cases it is necessary to take one’s own coin away from the stream of commerce to save its value. The Bobby Fisher example is a powerful one. The question must be asked, who was Bobby Fisher playing for in 1972? I do not think he was playing for himself. He was playing the role of a pawn on the chessboard known as the Cold War. In 1992 he was playing for his own sake and it is that very reason that the American government did not condone the rematch. It is interesting food for thought.