In God We Trust. Or Do We . . . ?

In God We Trust            Have you ever asked God to do something and He came back with some very odd instructions for you? For example, you need money and the Lord tells you to give away what you do have? Unusual, right?

            Not so much. Twenty years ago next month, the Lord gave us our house. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Big deal. He gives lots of people houses.” True that. However, if you really understood how impossible it was for us to get a house – ever – you’d realize the miracle that it was. We had no money, bad credit, and my husband’s business was not a money maker. And that wasn’t just a temporary situation – we were poor, and we’d lived in the same apartment in a not-great part of the city for ten years. (Did I mention that I was pregnant – again?) The bottom line is that I was beginning to lose hope that we’d ever get out, much less own a home.

            But – enter God.

            It all started about eight years in when I’d begun trying to save money for a house, scrimping and saving for two long years. Even so, after all that time, I didn’t have much – not in down-payment terms, anyway – maybe $2000 (almost). But then the car had to go and die. So – there went that.

            Nevertheless, I began saving again and by my birthday, I had about $100 – gifts from parents, in-laws, etc. At the same time, my church began fund raising for a building extension and guess what the Lord asked me to do? Correct. Give it to the building fund. I pretended I didn’t hear Him for awhile, because, well – then I wouldn’t have any money. And how much sense would that make? It couldn’t be God.

            But I knew it was.

            Finally, I said, “Okay, I’ll give you half the money.” And I was feeling pretty generous about it, too. But no. The Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I want all of it.”

            What could I say? No? It was the God of all the universe asking.

            So I sighed and said, “Okay, I’ll help You build Your house and You help me build mine. Besides, who am I kidding? I need way more cash than I could ever dream of saving. Take it all.”

            And the really funny thing was, when I thought about all of the people who might potentially get to heaven because they would have a church to attend, I felt good about it.

            Six months later, September 9th, 1996, we moved into a home of our very own. (Long story.) But it gets better: we had two little boys, 1½ and 3½ and they each had a bedroom. Their bedrooms had been painted and decorated before we ever saw the house; one bedroom was pale green with a teddy-bear border and the other was blue with Sesame Street characters on the walls – Big Bird and Cookie Monster. And (drum roll) – there was a deck, a pool, and a big, fenced-in backyard. (Not to mention a new kitchen, new wall-to-wall carpeting and all appliances!) And all of it located in a really good school district.

            But God.

            Remember Naaman, the army captain who had leprosy? He was told to go find the prophet Elisha to be healed; Elisha told him to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times. However, Naaman was insulted because he’d expected Elisha to heal him in some – less unusual – way (2 Kings 5:8-14). Now, you might put that down to “just another crazy Old Testament thing” but probably not. Imagine going to a church service for healing and being told to go dip in the Seneca River (or Mississippi or Rio Grande). Would you? No?

Sometimes God does some pretty peculiar things. And He expects us to go along with them.

Imagine asking two very old folks who could never have children even when they were young to believe they’d be the father and mother of an entire nation. Imagine asking a boy to pick up a slingshot and stone and kill a Philistine giant. Imagine walking around stark naked for three years as an object lesson to the nations of Egypt and Cush. (If you aspire to be a prophet, realize that living a prophetic life is often not fun. Ask Isaiah.) Imagine asking a poor, unmarried, 14-year-old girl to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary’s response?

            “’I am the servant of the Lord. May it happen to me according to your word’” (Luke 1:38). And so said all the others as well.

            What strange, bizarre, it-makes-absolutely-no-sense thing is God asking you to do? When the Lord asked Queen Esther to risk her life going before the King without being summoned, Mordecai reminded her, “’If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place’” (Esther 4:14). In other words, if you don’t do it, God will find someone who will. Esther’s response? “’If I perish, I perish.’” But notice she didn’t. She did become a heroine. David became king. Abraham and Sarah became parents of an entire nation. Naaman became whole. And Mary became the mother of God.   

           What could you become?

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To Quit or Not to Quit? That is the Question.

Grandfather Clock           Ever feel like you just want to throw in the towel? You’ve worked, labored, toiled at some particular thing for a long time – weeks, months, even years – and suddenly, you come to the realization that it was all a waste of time. Or you think it was. Isaiah thought so. Isaiah knew that the Lord had called him to speak for Him and yet still, he doubted the impact of his calling and labor: “’I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing . . .’” (49:4a).

            Isaiah felt like many of us when we give years of our lives to some dream and then it all falls apart. It’s devastating. It could be sowing into a career, a ministry, a business; it could be something we’ve been striving to create or to build – it could be any dream or vision fused with our hearts.

           And the emotional train wreck is not the only problem. After we hit the Big Wall, we find ourselves stuck on the question: “Is this just a temporary setback in the will of God or have I been on the wrong track the entire time?”

Because if it’s the “wrong track,” that means we’ve wasted the only real commodity we’ve got in this life: time.

            The problem is – which is it? The distinction is huge. The difference makes all the difference.

            As Christians, we put a great deal of stock into “seeking the will of God” – as well we should. However, when things don’t pan out, then we’re often in doubt: Was it ever God’s will that I pursue this dream? Or was it not? (Of course the assumption is that we did ask first.) Nevertheless, whether it was the will of God or not, we have the same two choices: We can persevere – or we can quit. However, if we know that pursuing that thing is the will of God, then quitting is not an option. We’re going to push through because the encouragement we have is that we’re not on the wrong track – we’ve just hit a temporary obstacle. But if it’s not the will of God, it would be stupid to persevere with something that God was never in to begin with. So then the fundamental question remains: was it God or was it not God?

            What if we really just don’t know?

            Back to Isaiah. Granted, Isaiah had the advantage of having heard from the Lord in the first place that what he was doing was what he was called to do. So knowing that, he was able to say, “’Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward’” (41:4b). But when we haven’t heard directly from the Lord about what we’re doing – and let’s say we did sincerely ask – then what? Do we fight through or do we back up?  Fascinating question.

            There’s always the option of putting “the dream” on the shelf. If it’s God’s will that we get back to it, then we won’t have to dig through the trash to find it. If it’s not God’s will that we ever pick it up again – well, then, it dies on the shelf.

            I have to believe that somewhere along the way, God will show us which it is. And really, isn’t that what Isaiah did?

            Sometimes it’s time to leave a dream behind, to move on, to begin a new thing. And sometimes it’s time to persevere, to fight forward, and to keep that thing alive. In the meantime, dealing with the devastation of loss is excruciating – whether it’s temporary or permanent.

           “’Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand . . .’”

           The critical thing is this: do not quit moving forward. If you’re not be able to move forward with that vision, then seek God for a new one and move forward with that. Just do not let the loss take you completely out. Because then, guess who wins?

           It’s not you.

Coincidence?

           Open Doors One of the great things about God is that He’s always in control; He has our destinies in His hands and, with our permission, will guide and direct them. Now, we always say that, but every now and then, it’s good to prove that claim. So – let me introduce proof: my friend, Wendy Dunham.

            Wendy is an author and has, to date, written two books. The third is, as they say, in the oven. (She’s writing it.) Wendy writes for middle-grade girls, Christian books – and both of her books contain very inspiring messages. Her first book is called My Name Is River and the second, Hope Girl.

            Wendy’s story is evidence that God is the one who both opens and closes doors. And in doing so, He loves to do things that really shouldn’t happen.

            As everybody probably knows – and writers certainly know – it’s not easy to get a literary agent or a publisher. Some folks work on that longer than on writing their books. However, Wendy walked right into hers – almost literally (which proves God has a sense of humor, too).

            A couple of years ago, Wendy attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers’ Conference (GPCWC) – the kinds of conferences writers go to in order to meet agents, publishers, other authors and workshop instructors. Now usually at these conferences, aHope-Girl-cover writer can choose who they’d like to meet with and set up appointments with those people. And that’s what Wendy attempted to do – except that she wasn’t able to get in to see one agent whom she really wanted to meet.

            Fast forward to lunchtime a day or two into the conference. Wendy was waiting in the lunch line and happened to be standing next to a woman who commented that she liked Wendy’s water bottle. Apparently the feeling was mutual – Wendy admired hers as well – and so the two got into a conversation. It turns out that the woman was the agent Wendy had wanted to meet.

            Coincidence?

            But it gets better. So the agent invited Wendy to sit with her at lunch, at which time she asked Wendy what kind of writing she does. Wendy explained that she writes children’s novels and described the book, My Name Is River. The agent then commented that although she doesn’t represent children’s books, she’d like to see Wendy’s work anyway and invited her to send along her manuscript. Wendy did. River-book-cover

            Fast forward again: the agent liked Wendy’s book so much that she began to shop it for a publisher. Long story short: Wendy was published by Harvest House. Now that’s a very reputable publisher – which is a big deal because big publishing houses rarely sign first-time authors.

            Coincidence?

            For the impossible to happen, God has to coordinate the opportunity – which, by the way, He’s very good at doing. The Word tells us that Jesus “opens doors, and no one can shut them; he shuts doors, and no one can open them” (Rev. 3:7).

            The point: don’t stress, sweat or fret over your destiny; God is in control – even when the circumstances look impossible. As God asks Abraham after revealing to him that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age: “’Is anything too hard for God?’”          

            It was impossible for Wendy to get an appointment with a woman who was booked or to sign an agent who doesn’t normally represent her type of book or to get a publishing contract with a major player in the publishing world. But, as Jesus assured His disciples, “’What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27).

            What impossible roadblocks are in the way of your dream? Ask the Lord to remove them and to open doors for you that only He can open. And then watch what happens.

            It’s no coincidence.

 

Let the Race Begin.

horse-herd-fog-nature-52500Would it make any sense to give a six-year old an algebra problem? Perhaps not. Learning to count would probably be a prerequisite. How about scheduling a med student to do brain surgery? What if it were just a small brain op? Or what if couples skipped all the long years it takes to have kids and just went and picked out a whole litter at once? Say, maybe a baby, a couple of two-years old – oh, and they wouldn’t want to miss the whole teenage experience – maybe a fourteen-year old? (Fourteen is such a wonderfully expressive age.)

The point is, we can’t just be thrown into the middle of challenges – especially big ones.

Consider the prophet Jeremiah, aka “the weeping prophet” (because he was always weeping for the people): the day came when Jeremiah had just had enough. He was tired of people sinning against God and refusing to repent; he was fed up with the unrighteousness and idol worship that had so completely polluted the nation; and he was done with people plotting to kill him. (Who wouldn’t be?) So he went to the Lord with a complaint:

“’Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but in their hearts they give you no credit at all. But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like helpless sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered! How long must this land weep [from sin]? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. Yet the people say, “The Lord won’t do anything!”’” (Jer. 12:1-4)

Now Jeremiah had a point: the people were evil – and they were good at being evil. In addition, they were mocking God and saying, essentially, “We can sin as much as we want and God won’t do a thing about it!” Jeremiah didn’t like that. One bit.

God’s response? “’If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?’” (Jer. 12:5)

Point? If the job training is more than you can handle, then how will you handle the job?

But – here’s what we say: “Lord, when is my destiny going to happen? Why is everyone else living the dream and I’m still struggling? You know my heart! You see how sincere I am! Why do they get to be happy and prosperous and not me?? They don’t even give You the credit for their success!”

Now, here’s what the Lord might say: “If you can’t balance a checkbook or stick to a budget, how will you manage great wealth? If you can’t give when you have a little, how will you give proportionately when you have much? If you can’t discipline yourself at your job when you aren’t solely responsible for everything that happens, how do you expect to be able to discipline yourself when you’re the boss or self-employed? If you can’t honor your mother and father now, how do you expect to honor a husband or wife later? If you can’t handle the ordinary spiritual warfare and attacks of the enemy in your own life, how do you expect to fend off the enemy if your destiny makes you visible to the community or to the nation or to the world?”

Here’s what the Lord has said: “’Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given’” (Luke 12:48).

This means that the greater your destiny, the more that will be required of you. Pick any Bible character who ever did anything worth mentioning and that will be their story. However, that’s always a choice; never does God force the “more required” part on anyone.

Remember: if you don’t cave in the prep “racing against mere men”, then you’ll win in the battle “racing against horses”.

So then – let the race begin.

Thriller Anyone…?

Dead Forest 2

Black smoke from the forest filtered out the first rays of pink light creeping up from the eastern horizon, and one by one, as the light grew brighter, trees and stumps of trees emerged from their hiding places in the black of night. The trees glimmered like spirits, slowly materializing from an unseen world.

Once up, the sun revealed, not a forest, but the remains of a forest. For fifty yards in any direction, splintered tree trunks, amputated branches, and masses of twigs and leaves littered the crater that had been the forest floor. When the smoke finally cleared, whole trees had been obliterated while tiny bits of debris, pieces of bark and clumps of dirt continued to rain down from the sky. Snowflakes of ash floated from nowhere, lightly coating the forest ruins and the dead birds lying in the dirt.

From seventy-five yards away, a man held a remote. The devastation was, actually, much more extensive than he’d hoped. That meant one of two things: either he could use less dynamite or – he could blow a bigger hole.

He smiled.

 

Communication: The Lost Art. And Maybe the Lost Job.

InterviewingRecently, I was talking with someone who does a lot of hiring at Duke University hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. We ended up getting into a conversation about the skills that many of today’s job seekers have – or don’t have – which is the sad point. We noticed that many necessary communication skills seem to be sorely lacking in some in the millennial generation. Granted, millennials are fabulous techies but that expertise seems to have led to a deficit in interpersonal communication skills. This lack is, from her perspective, a deal-breaker in terms of getting a job. And, may I add, an absence of interpersonal communication skills is a problem in any situation which requires dealing with people – which, when lacking, could be a dream-breaker in general.       

     Here are some of her tips.

     Number 1:  When you’re talking with people, look at them. This seemed, as we talked, to be her number one complaint. And while this skill should be self-evident, it’s apparently not. She reports that when interviewing, many people – especially young folks – simply don’t know how to look her in the eye. We’re guessing that that’s because much of the interaction millennials have is with their own peers and the majority of those interactions are electronic; therefore, they simply have not had much practice interfacing directly with others so they feel uncomfortable when someone else is looking (or attempting to look) them in the eye.

     I’ve noticed a couple of things with millennials as well. First of all, I’ve often marveled at how, when they’re with one friend, they’re texting or messaging another. And guess what? When they’re with that friend, they’re messaging the first one. Or I’ll see them chatting with each other while they’re playing video games or texting and neither is, of course, looking at the other. Sometimes I hear them chatting with someone in who knows what state or nation while playing a video game, meaning they haven’t ever seen the other’s face. And many times in the classroom when I’m speaking directly to a student, I’ll have to stop and ask him (or her) to look at me so I know I have his attention.

     Which is the point: when you’re talking with someone and they’re looking down or anywhere but at you, the message is that they’re not paying attention. And that can be inferred to mean that what you’re saying is not that important.

     Is that the message you want to send to a prospective employer? Or to anyone else?

     Number 2:  When you’re talking with someone, slow down and speak up.  Evidently, mumbling is an issue. Granted, it can be unnerving to have to talk with someone you don’t know, but as I tell students when they’re public speaking, if people can’t hear you, then their focus is off your message and on you. And that’s bad. The same thing applies to the speed of your speech; the faster you talk, the more nervous you’ll appear. People who speak slowly are perceived as more confident plus, it’s easier for a listener to process what they’re saying. So, again, if you’re speaking too quickly, people are off message and on you. As I tell students, we don’t pay any attention to the radio unless it’s not working and it’s the same with a speaker.

     The irony is that people get nervous speaking with or to folks they don’t know because they’re afraid of looking foolish and yet it’s that nervousness that causes them to do (or not do) the things that do make them look foolish.

     Which leads me to the next point . . .

     Number 3: Prepare. And then practice. You know what situation you’re going into, whether it’s a job interview, a meeting with a client, or simply a social meeting with a new person. It’s not like you’re going to be beamed over somewhere with no notice and you’re standing there in your underwear. So practice what you’re going to say.    

     Sometimes when a friend is going to a job interview, I’ll offer to let them rehearse the worst case scenario – a really mean interviewer. I’ll ask them hard questions and do my best to put them on the spot. I’ll say things like, “What’s your greatest weakness – and don’t tell me it’s that you work too hard!” (Don’t ever say that!!) Research interview questions, Google the best and worst answers, and get someone to practice with.

     Number 4: Pay attention to what you look like. Now you might be thinking that a job interview is not a beauty contest – and you’d be correct. However, it is a contest of how professional you are, whether you know how to dress for a work environment and, believe it or not, whether you’re a clean, neat person. My Duke friend entertained me with stories about how some people dress coming to job interviews – and some are not pretty. For example, one woman came dressed in scrubs. Now granted, she was looking for a job in the medical profession, but one doesn’t dress down for an interview; one dresses up. That means, as a general rule, always dress one step higher than the job requires. For instance, if you’re meeting the manager at a fast-food restaurant where you’ll be wearing a company uniform, nice slacks and a shirt or blouse are all that’s necessary. (And decent shoes – don’t wear sneakers!) If you’re applying for a professional job, a sales job, or an “out front” position like a receptionist, dress up. A suit for men and a suit or nice dress for women. And ladies, be modest: watch how short the skirt is or how low-cut the dress. (Sadly that has to be pointed out . . .)

     Number 5: And for crying out loud, smile!!  It’s not that difficult. Enough said?

     If you’re a person for whom any or all of these things do not come naturally, prepare!  Your competition will.

     Now – don’t be nervous. You got this!

“The Wait” or the Counterfeit? Your Call.

Hold Button GoldSeveral years ago, I needed a teaching job. I had switched careers and already had kids, meaning I needed a full-time job, not part-time, and I needed permanent, not temporary. So – I searched and searched, but without experience, it was slow going.

     Nevertheless, one day I got a call from a principal to interview for a high school  English position. I was, of course, all in and set up the interview but then, as we were ending the phone conversation, he said, “By the way, the position is full-time but it’s a temporary maternity leave for the fall semester. Are you still interested?”

     What was I supposed to say? No?  “Of course. Thank you.”

     Well, I have to tell you that for the next two days, the left side of my brain and the right side of my brain did nothing but fight.

     RIGHT SIDE: “Of course we have to try for the job. We have two children to feed!”

     LEFT SIDE: “But we need a full-time, permanent job and this isn’t it.”

     RIGHT: “Yes, but we’re running out of time! They only hire for teachers once a year. They won’t be hiring again till next year!”

     LEFT: “Right, but if we took this job, we’d have to start this whole job-hunting thing all over again in January. And there’s never anything then.”

     RIGHT: “I know but in the meantime, it’s a paycheck.”

     LEFT: “True, but we could miss the job we’re really supposed to have.”

     It was at this point that I finally stepped in and shut them up. But, I had to admit, Lefty had a point: I could miss the job I was supposed to have. I’d been praying for a full-time, permanent job and this job wasn’t that. Where was my faith? Was I going to trust God or was I going to “settle”?

     I picked up the phone, called the principal and thanked him for the interview opportunity but explained that since I really needed a permanent job, I didn’t want to take up his time interviewing for a job I knew I couldn’t take. He thanked me for calling – and that, as they say, was that.

     I was nervous. All I could hear was Righty saying, “That was dumb.”

     Until the phone rang again. I was offered an interview for a full-time, permanent job which, I’m happy to report, I got and have had for sixteen years.

     Truth: if it’s an important decision in your life, the enemy will often fix you up with a counterfeit thing before God offers you the real thing.

     A “counterfeit” is, by definition, a fake or phony something or other intended to deceive and/or derail. In this case, it was a counterfeit job. Think about it: not only would I have had to begin the whole long, arduous job-hunting process all over again in January, but the job God had intended for me would have been taken by someone else. 

     Fast forward to 2012: I wanted a pre-owned Camry Hybrid with no rust and at an affordable price. I know – tall order. And I learned one thing: there aren’t too many Camry Hybrids out there – rust or no rust.

     So I shopped around, found one and it looked good (even though it was gray) so I got set to make an offer. But before I did, I took it to my mechanic to get it checked out. (Can’t buy a car not checked out.) Turns out there was some rust on the undercarriage. It wasn’t much but there weren’t any other Camry Hybrids around so I had a decision to make: take this car or take a chance and keep looking? (Did I mention that I had promised my son who needed a car for college that he could have mine when I got my new one? All I heard for three months was, “When are you going to get a new car??)

     And then I remembered the job and so I prayed, “Lord, I’ve been believing you for a car with no rust, I know that’s not too hard for You, and so that’s what I’m going to wait for.” (Son wasn’t happy about that.)

     Long story short, shortly afterward, I bought a beautiful, rust-free, red Camry Hybrid from a dealer in Pennsylvania (where they don’t use road salt). And I picked it up one week before son left for college.

     Lesson? The enemy will often offer the counterfeit thing before God reveals the real thing. Why doesn’t God come through sooner? I asked Him once while in the middle of “The Wait,” and He assured me that things were “in the works” but that the other people involved weren’t yet ready. In the job situation, I found out later that the opening didn’t happen until nearly August when another teacher waited longer than usual to announce her retirement. I got the job right before school started. Listen – the Lord will often test our faith and allow the waiting to go right up until the last minute. But, as they say, “He’s rarely early, but He’s never late.”

     So – if you’re sick of waiting to see your dream realized, your vision fulfilled, your destiny unfold, understand that God has the perfect thing (or person); he/she/it simply may not have their circumstances aligned yet.

     In the meantime, remember Abraham who got tired of waiting and took matters into his own hands. Now we have war in the Middle East.

     Do not fall for the counterfeit. Your destiny is well worth “The Wait.”

What are you waiting for? Let me know here.

Pick Your Pain.

Girl's Eye In WindowWe increasingly live in a world where people are separated into two camps: there are those who understand that for that “dream come true” scenario to happen, you have to work – and there are those who either don’t know that or don’t care to know that. Their dreams are just “supposed” to happen.  

     The fact is, you are your own fairy godmother; you’re the one with the wand. If you choose not to use it, then the dream won’t happen. Period.

     Why do people not want to work? Because work is, well, work. It requires sacrifice: it requires doing things we often don’t like, it requires long hours, it requires inconvenience, it requires putting up with unpleasant circumstances or (dare I say it?) people, it requires going without. It isn’t always fun. And it’s sad how “fun” seems to be the new standard in terms of which activities are of value and which are not.

In short, work is painful. We give up something now in order to get something later. That’s how it works.

     Or it doesn’t.

     We can play now – and then have to work twice as hard later. That’s painful – especially when everyone else we know is reaping success now because they didn’t play when it was time to work. Working to save money comes to mind – or at least not spending gobs of it when you don’t have it to spend or you’ll need it later in life. We may not have enough to save early on but then we shouldn’t be spending what we don’t have. Want a reason? Because “later” always comes.

     Pick your pain.

     We can play now – and then regret a missed opportunity later. I’ve said it before and I’ll hammer on it again and again: there’s no pain greater than regret. Skipping that job opportunity or business op because it would require too much work. Or missing that opportunity to go to school when you had the chance – or (here’s a thought) to learn something while you’re there. (I always tell kids that if you’re going to college to party, stay home; it’s stupid to take out loans to party.)   Opportunities take work!

     Pick your pain.

     The ridiculous idea that we can go through life without pain is more than just a stupid concept; it’s destructive. More and more people are becoming angry at the concept that they must work to achieve. When people can’t handle the voluntary pain and sacrifice of hard work, then they end up with the inevitable pain and heartache of having declined the opportunity to work.

     Here’s the bottom line: you can endure good pain and reap the satisfaction and profits of it or you can suffer bad pain and reap the sorrow and tragedy of it. There aren’t any other choices.

     Pick your pain. And choose wisely.

Myth #33: “Fear of Success”

No Fear 2Have you ever heard someone say that they just can’t do “it” (whatever “it” is) because they’re being held back by “fear of success”?

Let’s face it – fear of failure is a thing; fear of proving you can’t do something is a thing; even fear of becoming successful and then losing it is a thing. But “fear of success”? Can I just be perfectly blunt about that?  There ain’t no such puppy.

Who’s afraid of success, really? Think about it. If you’re truly afraid of succeeding, then what’s the point of even trying? You might succeed. And that would scare you.

No, the fact is that people might be afraid of a couple of things connected with success – but not success itself.

Thing #1: Some people are afraid to try that thing they’d really love to try because – what if they can’t? That would be the end of the fantasy that “I could if I really wanted to – I just don’t want to. But I could . . .” We’ve all had those fantasies. And so we don’t try that thing because we don’t want to prove to ourselves (and everybody else) that we really are not capable of doing it.  Entering that contest, starting that diet, trying out for that team . .

Actually, I see this type of thing with students all the time. “I can’t write,” “I can’t do math,” and – everybody’s favorite – “I can’t give that speech!” (meaning “if you make me, I won’t just fail, I’ll die”).  So because they believe they can’t, they simply won’t – and they’ll fight you not to have to try.

Is it okay to mention that trying won’t kill you?

Sure, you might be embarrassed – who hasn’t been? But what will kill you in the end is regret – regret that you never did try.

Thing #2: Some people are afraid of achieving success – and then losing it.

“What if I’m successful and then I’m not good enough? Or I can’t maintain it? Or . . .”

You start that business and it’s going well. Success! But then, well, not so well. Or you apply to that college and get accepted. Success! But then you fail some courses, or run out of money, or even flunk out entirely. Or you actually start a relationship with that cute girl or guy. Success! But then it crashes and burns . . .

That’s not fear of success, that’s fear of losing success. But it’s truly true what they say: “You win some and you lose some.” And sometimes you win some and then lose. It happens. Don’t let the fear of it hold you back.

Thing #3: Fear of imperfection. That’s right. What if you can’t do “it” perfectly the first time you try?? OMG!

Seriously, some people get stuck on this. Again – I have students who will try once (if they try at all) and if it doesn’t work perfectly, game over. Period.

I used to have this problem and sometimes still do. But I didn’t realize it for the longest time until I had a student who would pitch a royal fit, swearing and throwing things, if he couldn’t do something flawlessly the very first time he tried it. And in the middle of his rant, he would yell, “I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid!!!” 

That’s the day I realized why I got so upset when I couldn’t do something perfectly the first time: I felt really stupid; I felt as though there was something actually wrong with me.  I personalized my failure instead of simply chalking it up to “just not my thing; I guess I’ll have to work at this one.”

Frequently, I have students who hate to write because they find it hard and so they have this mistaken idea that if they were any good at it, it would be easy. So I get out my notebooks and show them how much writing and re­-writing I have to do before I get a story or an article right. It’s true. Writers write – and re-write. Musicians practice and then practice some more (except for Beethoven – he never practiced). Athletes work up to that 500lb weight or that four-minute mile or that 200th pull-up. No one ever starts out doing “it” perfectly. And that’s okay.

The bottom line is this: before you can achieve your dreams and fulfill your destiny, you have to face your fears. And before you can face those fears, you have to identify what they really are. If nothing else, remember this: your failures are not a reflection of who you are. They’re simply an indication of what you need to work harder at doing. That’s all. And if anyone ever tells you anything different, just tell them they need more work on their social skills.

The only real failure is never trying.

Let’s Ride.

 

Arthur and KnightsYou’ve probably not given it much thought lately, but a warhorse is an amazing thing. They’re not just what the warrior rides on – they are the warrior. They have, of course, strength, they have incredible instincts, and they are fearless. Why am I rambling on about warhorses? Because they weren’t born that way.

Warhorses are made.

I’m reminded of a scene in the best rendition of the King Arthur legend that I’ve ever seen called, not surprisingly, King Arthur (starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley). In a nutshell, Arthur is a Roman commander and all of his knights, before they were knights, were Sarmation boys who were forced into 15 years of brutal servitude in the Roman army. Essentially, because the Sarmations were known to be valiant warriors, the boys are taken from their homes and become slaves.

Nevertheless, they come to love Arthur because, unlike other Romans, he believes all men were born free “from their first breath”. These men fight alongside Arthur for 15 years until the day comes when they’ve all earned their freedom; they have the papers and everything. The problem is that the Saxons are invading Britain from the north and the Saxons are evil. Everything and everyone they don’t murder, they burn. However, now that his knights are free, Arthur will not order them to fight the Saxons. They ride off to return to their homes, taking the townspeople to escape with them, and Arthur rides off to face the Saxons alone (with a little help from Merlin’s druids but how much good will that do?). But as the knights are riding merrily away from the battle, the sound of the Saxons’ war drums can be heard in the far distance. The Saxons are coming closer. Nevertheless, the knights ignore them and keep riding south.

Except that their warhorses don’t.

Their warhorses hear the sound of the drums in the distance and begin to fight their riders to turn around. The knights have a hard time reining them in as the horses are pawing and snorting and trying to gallop away. The horses are fearless.

They hear the sound of the battle and they want to run to it.

Horses don’t become warhorses the moment some warrior throws a saddle on them and rides off into battle; warhorses, like the warriors themselves, are trained. They’re taught to run to the battle and through the thick of it, never slowing down. They’re taught commands, battle maneuvers, and defensive strategies. They’re trained in battle skirmishes so that they get used to the sounds, sights and smells of the battle. And they’re taught to keep on fighting – even when they’re wounded.

Warhorses begin as wild horses – whether they’re captured in the wild or born in a stall. And yet it’s that wild spirit that’s not broken but honed, trained and refined. The warhorse learns who its master is and, when submitted to the master, then becomes a partner with him and the two accomplish more together than either one could ever do alone. Submission to the training of its master does not beat the horse into a wimpy little nag; rather it makes the horse into a warhorse – more fearless, powerful and magnificent than it could ever hope to be in the wild.

You and I are like those wild horses. We may have some skills on our own, but submitted to the Master, we can become more than we’d ever have dreamed – fearless, powerful and valuable resources in the war for the Kingdom on earth.

There’s a reason Jesus will ride to victory in the final battle on a warhorse instead of in an F-22 fighter jet or an Apache helicopter. A warhorse is His partner, it fights with Him and for Him. And a warhorse never runs.

If we listen, we can hear the sound of the war drums. Are you ready?

DRIVE YOUR VISION.