It was an election night party. We had just learned our candidate, our leader, lost the election. The whole room grew quiet. All 500 of us specially invited guests. Quiet. It was eerie.
And the room stayed quiet for what seemed like a long time. Then there were whispers, and people started to talk again. But this time it was different than when we were waiting for the election results. There was a weight in the room. It was the weight of dashed expectations.
We loved our candidate. We really believed he would make a big difference in our state, in our lives. Our fellow citizens didn’t give him that chance. If they only knew him like we know him. He is smart, practical, and driven to lead. He is imbued with all the right gifts from God to do this job, we thought to ourselves.
But he lost. We lost.
The room felt lost. We wanted him to come to the podium and speak. To tell us he was all right and that we were going to be all right. We were all staring at the empty, lighted podium. Where are you?
Then they appeared. The candidate and his wife. He, in his blue suit and red tie, and she, in her conservative dress with the pearls. He looked disappointed. I’d never seen him like that. She looked radiant but sad, very sad.
He looked like a man whose dream was stolen from him. He knew exactly how to lead this state. He knew how to right the wrongs, eliminate the wasteful programs, and implement new programs which would change the quality of life for the current citizens and future generations. He saw it. In an instant, it was gone.
I’m sure they were in their hotel room watching the same website we were checking in the ballroom. It showed the two candidates on a virtually blank page with vote count and vote share percentage next to their names. It also showed the number of precincts reporting.
Our candidate was behind from the moment the party started at 7 pm. At times, he would make up some of the distance to the incumbent and then fall behind. Then, suddenly, the votes started really accumulating next to his name on the screen.
Close to 9:30 pm, it looked to me like he was going to overtake his rival. Then, all of a sudden, a checkmark appeared next to the name of the incumbent. The other guy, the least qualified and least equipped candidate, was declared the winner. Statistically, there was no way for our candidate to win. It was over.
The room went quiet.
We all knew our hopes for a better state were dashed.
My thought was, Speak to us. Make us feel better. You’ve been our source of hope for the future for the last several months of the campaign. We believe because you told us to believe. We believe because you are believable. We believe in you. Tell us we weren’t wrong.
As he and his wife stood at the podium, everyone was applauding them. We wanted them to know we loved them and believed in them. But at the same time, there was a little voice saying, “They don’t count anymore. He lost. Now we need to support the incumbent. The guy we don’t believe in.”
He began, “The results are not what we all hoped for. Moments ago, I called the other candidate and conceded the election to him. I congratulated him.” And he went on from there. He said a lot of what you would expect. He told us we were the greatest supporters. He told us the issues were still real and needed to be addressed. He told us it was over.
But I noticed something which I thought was amazing. While he was speaking, I watched his wife. When he was giving his concession speech, she was smiling. She stood proudly by his side with her eyes fixed on him. It was like there was no one else in the room. Just him and her.
She was with him.
I’ve known this man and his wife for many years. I knew them as newlyweds. I knew them as highly competitive and driven business people. I watched as they struggled over careers versus children. Then they became parents. This was the first thing they did together. It changed them and brought them closer.
But that night, I saw an even bigger change in the midst of this disappointing loss. I saw they were one. Then I realized what happened.
For the first time in their marriage, they were competing together. They were focused on the same goal. They were sold out for the same mission. If they won, they would win together. If they lost, they would lose together.
This rarely, if ever, happens in a marriage. But in politics and ministry, it does. I can’t think of any other occupations where this unity of mission is forced to happen between husband and wife.
In most marriages, the husband does his thing, and the wife does hers. Traditionally, he works to support the family, and she raises the kids. In today’s society, husband and wife both work to support the family. They have independent and fulfilling careers. Then they reconvene at night to share the duties of raising the children.
But I realized a political campaign must be fought together. Husband and wife, arm in arm. Competing, speaking, leading, fundraising, networking. Together.
I saw the difference this experience had on this married couple. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes as she looked at her husband. He was her husband, a man and leader, who never lost at anything. And here he was in the most unusual situation of his life. He’d lost. And now he had to admit it to the intimate gathering of supporters. And, worse yet, to the world as he faced all those TV cameras.
They looked at each other differently that night. They might have lost the election, but they won in marriage. They came out of this experience one flesh. It was amazing to see.