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Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
At the top of my "all-time best memories" list stands the moment I brought my firstborn home from the hospital. I carried Erin around the house while spewing baby talk to try to make her smile. I cherish the memory of rocking her to sleep!
But as much as I loved carrying her, she quickly tired of it. As she grew stronger and bolder she wanted to crawl. Crawling quickly turned into pulling up on a chair leg, and pulling up turned into climbing. She started by climbing up and down the stairs, followed soon after by climbing up and down the furniture in the house, the car in the garage, and the trees in the yard. She climbed as if she had an internal climbing gear. My wife called me home one day because our sweet, precious, dainty baby girl had climbed up a chest of drawers so high that the thing toppled over.
For her own good and our peace of mind, we forbade her to climb. She climbed anyway. We threatened to punish her. Her climbing continued. One day I brought home a little trike called an "Olle," a yellow plastic thing with four wheels low to the ground. I hoped she might take to coasting along on her Olle, but this proved only a momentary distraction from her real passion, climbing.
In the end we could come up with only one safe solution. We put in a swing set so she could at least have a safe place to climb. She loved it. It gave her many more creative ways to climb. She found ways to hang off the high bar by her hands and feet, ways that sometimes took my breath away. I took comfort in the thought that maybe, as the firstborn, she just felt bored. But when little sisters one and two arrived, they all climbed! My wife and I faithfully delivered our warnings, but our daughters heedlessly continued their fanatical climbing.
I have since concluded that all kids are born with an internal climbing gear. Could it be that we humans will always feel dissatisfied with crawling or coasting so long as we have something close by to climb?
TWO OF GOD'S BEST GIFTS
My daughters taught me what I have since then seen reinforced: God created us to climb. He has given each of us a climbing gear and an ascending spirit.
To a child, climbing seems as natural as breathing. Despite our anxieties, we adults tend to accept that reality. But if we see climbing as merely a childish habit to overcome, we may miss the genius of our wiring.
In my younger days, the adults in my life urged me to trade in childish things to become a man. People even quoted the Bible to prove their point. Innumerable times I've heard the apostle Paul's instruction: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (1 Cor. 13:11 NIV). Well-meaning folks used this verse to "prove" that nothing of childhood should be taken into adulthood. But over time I've come to understand that Paul never intended for us to jettison the best of what it means to be a born climber.
God gave us a climbing gear and an ascending spirit in order to prepare us to prevail over adversity. He dropped us into this competitive, sometimes dark, always dangerous world equipped to live as victors, not victims. We find the difference between those who turn adversity into an advantage and those who don't, not in their abilities, but in their response-abilities.
An old saying goes, "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill." While I agree with that philosophy, I think the greater danger is that, in the face of adversity, we will settle for staring at a molehill and miss the mountain altogether. But you and I will never feel satisfied with playing in the mud when the summit calls us onward and upward.
Within each human heart beats an incredibly strong drive to prevail. To meet that need we must learn to use our two best gifts: our climbing gear and our ascending spirit. We will never feel satisfied to settle for less than standing, triumphantly, on the summit of a hill worth climbing. Too many submarine their more noble callings for less honorable urges. But why coast or crawl over the molehill of least resistance, when you know your God-given birthright calls you to experience the thrill of standing atop a mountain worth climbing? Why not look out at life from the summit of a great peak rather than up from a mud hole? The ancient Roman poet Propertius said it this way: "Great is the road I climb, but the garland offered by an easier effort is not worth the gathering." In the real world, easy doesn't do it.
FACING LIFE AS IT IS
Healthy individuals strive to discover and define the reality around them. We classify people who refuse to face real life as either psychotic or neurotic.
When you ask a psychotic person, "What is two plus two?" he will answer "five," "seven," or "ten," because he has lost touch with reality. On the other hand, if you ask a neurotic, "What is two plus two?" she can give you the right answer-"four"-but she fusses, "Why does it have to be four? Why can't it be something else?" While psychotics live in a fantasyland of their own making, neurotics see the world as it is and freeze in the face of its hard, sometimes harsh realities. They feel "harassed and helpless," in Jesus' words (Matt. 9:36 NIV). Their ragged nerves keep their hair-trigger tempers barely under control. As Alvin Toffler puts it, "Millions of people are terminally fed up." Such individuals normally slip into lifestyle patterns of either crawling or coasting.
CLIMBERS SEE LIFE DIFFERENTLY
Everyone wants to prevail in life, but not everyone does. I've often asked, "What makes the difference? Why do some people prevail in the midst of adversity while others fold and fail?" The answer usually comes in the choices they make.
Climbers accept that while they cannot control what happens to them, they can control "what happens" to what happens to them. They take control of their lives by taking control of their choices.
On the other hand, crawlers and coasters-even exceptional men and women with all the advantages of success-lack this basic will to choose. In the face of dead ends, detours, or dry holes, they revert to childish habits. Why? Maybe they enjoyed so many advantages along the way that they think they deserve a strain-free, stain-free, pain-free future. Perhaps others have pushed and pulled them along for so long that they get angry and downright indignant every time they face anything bigger than a molehill.
But while anyone can coast right over a molehill, no one coasts up a mountain, any more than they can drift upstream. Coasters cry out for a level (or slightly tilted in their favor) playing field, or else they quit. If they can't coast, they refuse to climb. But cry as they will and complain as they might, life just will not tilt to their favor. Both crawlers and coasters waste their lives looking for favorable winds and perfect circumstances. But as George Bernard Shaw said, "The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."
When you ask mountain climbers why they risk their health, their fortunes, and even their lives to climb a mountain, many answer with the classic "Because it's there." But climbers in the real human race have more substantial reasons for their efforts. It was Pascal, the seventeenth-century French philosopher and mathematician, who said, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." He recognized that God created the heart to be the human control center. No matter how big my brain or strong my hand, my heart controls them both. And if my control center gets damaged or depleted, the rest of my body suffers and eventually atrophies.
Climbers prevail because they never lose heart. When pushed, they push back-not with their hand, but with their heart. They refuse to relent, retreat, or resign themselves to the way things are. They don't lean on their emotions, because they know emotions are fickle and unpredictable. Developing their heart muscle gives them the ability to respond to the changing conditions of the climb. Sooner than later they acknowledge that things are what they are. If they face a steep mountain in threatening or bleak conditions, they simply acknowledge the reality and climb on.
In contrast, crawlers and coasters live out of their emotions. They see adversity as an unfair hardship. They play the victim. Their fluctuating emotions thrive on innuendo and false perceptions. They feel sure that the mountain is impassable and its conditions are unbearable, not because they have ever visited the mountain, but because they listen to others who stopped climbing a long time ago. Crawlers look for someone to blame for the way things are. Stuart Briscoe noted that "discouragement comes when you try to start with what you wish you had but don't have. And it intensifies when you insist on trying to be in a position you are not in and probably never will be in."
By contrast, climbers accept reality, adjust their attitude, and align their energies to begin taking action based on what is-all without losing heart or drowning in self-pity. They don't waste their time blaming God, defaming others, or shaming themselves.
Climbers See Life as a Gift to Be Exploited
Solomon reminds us, "When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-this is a gift of God" (Eccl. 5:19 NIV).
When my children were very young, they seemed as likely to play with the boxes that held their Christmas presents as with the gifts themselves. But as they matured, they tore through the wrapping and ripped open the boxes to get to the treasures inside. And I welcomed the change. I would have felt hurt if, after going to all the trouble and expense to buy them what they said they wanted, they either didn't play with the gift or failed to show gratitude.
How, then, must God feel when we take this great gift called life and refuse to unwrap it and enjoy it?
In the 1989 motion picture Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams plays a teacher in an exclusive eastern prep school. On the first day of school, he takes his class of boys into the hallway to look at pictures of deceased graduates. He motivates them to excel in life with the following words: "We are food for worms, lads! Believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room one day will stop breathing, turn cold, and die. Step forward and see these faces from the past. They were just like you are now. They believe they're destined for great things. Their eyes are full of hope. But, you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. If you listen real close, you will hear them whisper their legacy to you. Lean in. What do you hear?" Then Robin says in an eerie voice, "Carpe Diem!" (Latin for "seize the day"). "Seize the day, boys! Make your lives extraordinary!"
Such is the climbers' mantra: seize the day and climb on!
Today is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God and to the world around you. This very moment, as you read these words, as your heart beats, and as you contemplate why you live at this moment in history, don't forget to enjoy your own private miracle of life. Don't allow adversity to bankrupt your today by paying interest on the regrets of yesterday and borrowing in advance against the troubles of tomorrow. Plan on purpose to live fully and well now.
Today is the day to begin turning your adversities into your advantages. Right now is the best time to decide to enjoy this matchless gift of God called "my life." Remember, yesterday is a canceled check, and tomorrow is a promissory note; but today is cash in your hands, which must be invested or lost forever. As William James said so well, "Where is it, this present? It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming."
Now is the time to place your trust and confidence, as well as your doubts and fears, into God's hands. You will never regret trusting a good God who wants more for you than you've ever dared to want for yourself. The moment you see life as a gift from God and trust his plan for your life, things begin to change. The Bible makes this promise: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7 NIV). Boldly and bravely tear open this gift called life and use it up to its fullest.
Climbers See Life as an Abundance to Be Explored
Climbers have an abundance mentality; crawlers and coasters cling to a scarcity mentality. Climbers look at life through the lens of faith, while others allow fear to make them nearsighted. To see the difference, I invite you to get to know one of my favorite characters in the Bible: Caleb.
As a young man, Caleb and another climber named Joshua received orders to spy out the Promised Land (along with ten other men who proved to be crawlers and coasters). Moses directed them to do a careful cost-benefit analysis for occupying the new territory. He told them to "see what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many" (Num. 13:18 NIV). Twelve men went out and twelve men returned ... with two very different reports.
Everyone agreed that the land was indeed everything God had promised it would be. "We went into the land to which you sent us," they said, "and it does flow with milk and honey!" (Num. 13:27 NIV). But the majority struck fear into the hearts of the people by telling them that the inhabitants looked too big, too strong, too many, and their cities too fortified, for the Israelites ever to hope for victory. They saw only what their coasters' and crawlers' mind-set would allow them to see: problems and impossibilities.
Joshua and Caleb presented the minority report. They, too, saw the abundance of the land and the formidable inhabitants and their well-defended cities. But because they could see with their hearts, not just their heads, they came to vastly different conclusions. Caleb had the courage to step straight into this circus of chaos that the negative report had created and dared pose another possibility: "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it" (Num. 13:30 NIV). He knew how hard it would be to go forward, but he had no intention of retreating into the desert. Caleb knew then what we know now-anything worth having requires a fight. He revealed his faith and fighting spirit when he said, "Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them" (Num. 14:9 NIV).
Excerpted from The Power to Prevail by David Foster Copyright © 2003 by David Foster
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|Introduction: Adversity Is Not Optional||vii|
|1.||Turning Crawling into Climbing||1|
|2.||Turning Grief into Gladness||17|
|3.||Turning Rejection into Right Directions||33|
|4.||Turning Jealousy into Joy||47|
|5.||Turning Fear into Faith||61|
|6.||Turning Dreads into Dreams||77|
|7.||Turning Can't into Can||93|
|8.||Turning Anxiety into Action||107|
|9.||Turning Stress into Strength||121|
|10.||Turning Risk into Reward||135|
|11.||Turning Pain into Gain||149|
|12.||Turning Failure into Fertilizer||165|
|13.||Turning Burnout into Burn On||177|
|14.||Turning Regret into Resolve||193|
Posted June 4, 2007
Within the first ten pages I also found answers to some life long questions, like why some people can get through tough times so much better than others, still reading and enjoyingWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 18, 2003
After reading just the first 5 to 10 pages, I was overwhelmed at how awesome Dr. Foster's words seem to apply to anyone. It is as if he is talking directly to you about your very own life! Wonderful, incredible book. Do yourself the best favor you can do for yourself--buy the book and read it. It's absolutely awesome!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.