In a display of honour, Australians and New Zealanders gather together on ANZAC Day to commemorate the Gallipoli campaign on the shores of Turkey during the first world war. This has become an annual day of remembrance, not of a victorious conquest, but of a crushing defeat resulting in heavy casualties and a retreat from a determined and strategically dominant enemy. If Gallipoli was a sporting event, it would have been a humiliating defeat best left hidden in the pages of history. However, as a failed military campaign, it has become the focus of national pride with its veterans earning respect and admiration across all generations.
In a proud nation like Australia, with a strong cultural value of winning, what is it about this failed campaign in the arena of war that evokes such pride? It seems that there are deeper values seen within the defeat at Gallipoli that transcends the superficial value of winning. This paradox is not only evident at a commemorative event like ANZAC Day, but in the sporting arena when Australians stand behind the underdog who displays the same kind of values seen at Gallipoli.
What are those values?
While attending this years ANZAC Day Dawn Service, the RSL Vice President gave a stirring speech that identified some of these values that are not dependent upon achievement or victory:
"They were deemed great not necessarily for what they achieved, nor for whether they were victories or successes. Rather, great events are distinguished by the quality of the human endeavour they called upon, by the examples they create for ordinary men and women, and by the legends they inspire." (Dawn Service Speech, Dandenong Cranbourne RSL Vice President Bill Shepherd)
The line in this speech that captured these deeper values for me is "the quality of the human endeavour." This speaks more of attitude than actions, effort than achievement, courage than victory, and resilience amidst overwhelming odds. The determination to stand firm while under attack, focused on a clear vision and committed to completing the mission, is what inspires others. The quality of the human endeavour describes the character of a person whose internal victory speaks louder than their external defeat.
The Bible is filled with stories of heroic people who personify the Gallipoli spirit by displaying this same quality of the human endeavour as they committed themselves to fulfilling God's purposes. None moreso than the person of Jesus Christ whose apparent defeat on the cross was an overwhelming victory for humankind. Despite temptation, misunderstanding, persecution, false accusation and a cruel death, Jesus overcame the battle against evil with a victory for righteousness. When Jesus defied Satan in the dessert by declaring, "Man shall not live by bread alone," He prepared Himself for victory in defeat. When Jesus said in the garden, "Not my will but yours be done," He positioned Himself for victory in defeat. When Jesus uttered the words, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing" while hanging on the cross in front of His accusers, He proved victory in defeat!
When the strength of a person is stronger than their circumstances, they too can have victory in defeat!