I had an interesting conversation with my sisters yesterday. All three of us have a common trait--we simply do not know how to accept failure. It's not in our genetic makeup. There are three of us--all girls--trained by an woman of virtue and true femininity. She is graceful and postured and careful. To put it simply, she is our hero. And we try to emulate her--sincerely, we do. Sometimes we succeed.
But innately, in all three of us, an instinct to chase the sunset--to pursue excellence--takes supremacy. We simply do not tolerate well the frustrating ambiguity of mediocrity. It itches us like a wool sweater. And we squirm--sometimes in a very unladylike aggression--to be free of those chains. We prefer to struggle, to push, to entice failure, than to ensure safety. We are like Guinevere, headed off to war. Eowyn, a lady of Rohan, disguising herself as a man simply to be part of the battle. Joan of Arc. We find ourselves consistently placed as key players in an all-male cast. And when we face certain failure, as we often do, we accelerate, strategize, and step it up. Swords, once crossed, must sink deep. If we're going to fail, we're going to fail big. Go big or don't go.
Along with this appetite for the battle comes a sometimes unmeasured intolerance for wasted ability. We see potential in nearly everything, especially in others. People, to us, are like raw ore--unrefined treasure. Almost everywhere we look, almost anyone we meet...when we look into your eyes, we see almost unlimited potential. But to tell someone they have potential is not a compliment. It means their God-breathed destiny has yet to be fully tapped. It means time, the "stuff of life" as Ben Franklin so eloquently put it, is being spent without investment. And while we too have days where we want nothing more than to disappear from the front lines, inevitably we feel the burn to re-engage. It is our very fundamental design.
To that end, we struggle with empathy for those who would sit and let life find them. We find that when our paths cross with our nemesis, those who prefer a delightfully oblivious existence to the adventure of the passionate pursuit, we are ill-prepared for a graceful encounter. We want to sweep the dust from their potential and propel them along with us, to catch them up in an obsessive vision and to put their raw ability to good use. Perhaps it is arrogance or social ineptitude that finds us sincerely surprised when the daydreaming optimist, or the determined pessimist, declines our invitation. We wonder, are we simply allergic to those who are so negligent with their lives?
It is my concession, without shame, that part of this obsession for excellence is borne on the wings of a strong ego. To those who would call for false humility, I must decline. There is indeed a need for humility--but such a position comes solely from knowing one's foundation. I believe true confidence, and true humility are grounded when both the journey and the result are thrown at the foot of the Throne in praise and sacrifice. It is not profitable for God's best creation, mankind formed in His image, to walk upon the Earth as a conquered organism. I think of C.S. Lewis' character Aslan... you ask, "is He safe?" The response: "Safe? 'Course He isn't safe. But he's good."
To emulate Papa, this is a perfect picture of the fire that should be rising up in the spirits of God's sons and daughters...we're not safe, we're not conquered, we're not ambivalent or oblivious. We are a focused, determined, passionate people who have little need for external breakthrough. We look within, to the Spirit alive in us, and drive forward with strain and sweat and great risk, confident that He who started a good work will complete it. Unafraid of failure, because we understand each step, forward or backwards, to be of elemental training and foundational preparation for a greater work.
I believe that we are thinking too small. The first morning instinct of the liberated soul should be to seek out the big picture, the greatest potential, the God-sized goal. And then to pursue it. The mind that is focused on the great work, on paying the great price, has little time to be consumed by the average, the mundane, or the corrupt. There is great fulfillment, true joy, in the pursuit of something great.
So it was the three of us, these thoughts the product of a long car ride and a mutual consensus that we recognize a sense of urgency. We ended our journey in a prayer crying out for God's best. It is not the first time, and not the last, that we will pray this prayer. We feel like Jacob, sleeping with a rock for his pillow, wrestling for the blessing. Perhaps we are foolish or naive, but we have stopped praying for easy or convenient and have instead conceded that all great destinies are equally balanced by lives of great sacrifice and difficulty. Instead of requesting easy, we have asked for great. Some of the challenges have already been identified and we spent some time praying over those, embracing anything that is a prerequisite for God's complete work, rejecting anything that is unnecessary delay.
A strong sense of urgency has gripped us. There is a sickening nausea in the thought that we might approach our grave with music left inside. We believe that our generation, particularly in our family, but also corporately, must do what has been laid out to do. Procrastination and incompletion are sown on the plains of good intentions. We cannot leave this territory for our children. We must spend ourselves upon this one endeavor: that the Kingdom of God be birthed upon the earth.
There is no time to think small or to repeatedly fight small distractive battles. Perhaps that is why we cannot stop to relate to those who are not in motion. Action will produce inspiration, which will produce action. We must guard our thoughts, which become actions, which product habits, which defines character, which births destiny.