I was listening to NPR/KQED Perspectives today and there was a segment on “Long Odds” — “Whether it’s playing the lottery or planning on spectacular personal success, Paul Staley says Americans believe in long shots.” One quote struck me in particular:

We consecrate the individual, which in mathematical terms means we’re all about a numerator of one. We do not consider those bigger numbers on the bottom half of the fraction, the denominator, to be predictive. Rather they are there to provide context for yet another story of heroic and exceptional triumph: the child who proves that anybody can grow up to be President, the woman who overcomes all odds to start a successful company.

It’s true, and that’s why stories are so powerful. We identify with the hero(ine) of a story, and hope that our own stories will have the same fate. However, for almost every story of success, there are millions of stories of failure that we selectively choose to ignore and that are rarely ever told.

However, upon reflection, there’s one story of success that truly means success for any who wants it: Jesus’ triumph over death. This particular story of success is interesting because his victory opens the door for others to be victors as well. It is not an exclusive story of success. Jesus’ resurrection beat the long odds and made success truly attainable for every living soul. In a world that seems like a zero sum game — in other words, one person’s success usually is on the backs of many others’ failures and losses — the divine success at the Cross multiplies and multiplies itself, democratizing access to triumph and changing “odds” into actual certainty.