Before You Die,
Live the Life
You Were Born
When you come to the end of your days, you will not measure your life based on success and failures. All of those will eventually blur together into a single memory called “life.”
What will give you solace is a life with nothing left undone. One that’s been lived with relentless ambition, a heart on fire, and with no regrets.
On the other hand, what will haunt you until your final breath is who you could have been but never became and what you could have done but never did.
The Last Arrow is your roadmap to a life that defies odds and alters destinies. Discover the attributes of those who break the gravitational pull of mediocrity as cultural pioneer and thought leader Erwin McManus examines the characteristics of individuals who risked everything for a life they could only imagine. Imagine living the life you were convinced was only a dream.
We all begin this life with a quiver full of arrows.
Now the choice is yours. Will you cling to your arrows or risk them all, opting to live until you have nothing left to give?
Time is short. Pick up this new paperback edition of The Last Arrow and begin the greatest quest of your life. Now with questions for reflection and discussion.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Erwin Raphael McManus is an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is the founder of MOSAIC, a church movement started in the heart of Hollywood with campuses across Los Angeles, Orange County, and Mexico City and a global community that spans around the world. Erwin is the acclaimed author of The Way of the Warrior, The Artisan Soul, Chasing Daylight, and The Barbarian Way. His books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Kim McManus.
Read an Excerpt
The Point of No Return
William Osborne McManus married my mom when I was around six years old. He wasn’t my birth father, and he never legally adopted me or my brother, but for all intents and purposes, he was the only father I ever knew. We became close, and I imagine that in my childhood, I loved him as much as any son could love a father. When I was young I called him dad. Later in life I simply called him Bill.
This man was a contradiction in every way. He was warm and engaging, charismatic and winsome. At the same time, he was a con man for whom truth was simply material woven into whatever lies he needed to tell. I remember when the movie Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, came out. My brother, Alex, called me up and said, “Have you seen the movie? It’s Dad.” I had the exact same thought when I sat in the theater watching the movie. If you want to understand my childhood, it’s summarized for you in two hours.
Over the years, Bill caused my family deep pain, callously disregarding my mom and my two little sisters, the daughters he had fathered. By the time he left us, when I was seventeen years old, all the love I had felt for him had turned to disdain. That day, he must have seen what I was feeling and thinking when he looked into my eyes, because he moved toward me aggressively. And while my instincts made me want to step back in fear, my anger made me hold my ground. Standing face to face with me, he said, “Hit me. I know you want to. See if you are man enough.”
I looked at him and said, “You’re not worth the effort.”
He got in his car as my little sisters begged me to find a way to reconcile. I went outside to plead with him not to leave. My last memory of him from that day was seeing his face on the other side of the windshield when he clipped me with the front of the car as he drove away.
Even after that fateful day, we did find a way to reconcile and stay in touch by phone, although our contact was minimal. But there is truth to the adage that what has been torn cannot be mended. Eventually Bill remarried, and around that same time, I married as well. As if it were a script, his new wife and my wife, Kim, were pregnant at the same time. But for more reasons than I can explain, I made the hard decision of leaving my stepdad in the past and focusing on building a future for my family without Bill as part of our lives.
Before I knew it, fifteen years had passed—years in which Bill and my son, Aaron, never met. Aaron was the first true McManus in our family. I had taken the name McManus from Bill without his ever legally becoming my father. And ironically, McManus wasn’t even his name—it was an alias he assumed. He was the kind of person who was always running from his past, and his false identity was a part of that. Finally Aaron came by the name legitimately.
When Aaron was fifteen, he wanted to meet the man who gave me that name in the first place—the man I called my father. I felt I owed him that. So even though I hadn’t spoken to my dad in fifteen years, I tracked him down as if he were a stranger I was trying to meet for the first time. We found him in a small town outside Charlotte, North Carolina, called Matthews. He was more than happy to see me and more than happy to meet my son. I think I had caused him great sadness by extricating myself from his life for the past fifteen years.
I didn’t know what to expect, but the reunion went well enough—for a while. Then there were the last words I heard him say as we were leaving (not just the last words that day but forever, as he died not too long afterward). He said to my son in my presence, “I don’t know what your dad has told you, but he was average. He was just average. His brother was exceptional, but your dad, he was just average.”
Those words cut me like a knife. Please don’t misunderstand me. What hurt most was not that those were the last words my father chose to say about me. Nor was I most hurt because my son heard this judgment. What cut me deepest was a terrifying sense that Bill McManus was right, that I was just average.
Frankly, if you look back at my early life, those words would have to be categorized as an exaggeration toward the positive. I was, in fact, always below average. I wasn’t the C student; I was a D student. I wasn’t second string; I was, at best, third string. The painful truth is that “average” had always eluded me. I seemed to always be diving toward the bottom. I was never picked first, nor second, nor anywhere in the middle. I was always literally the last player picked.
And while I always hoped that one day there would be something special about me, the truth is, I made my home in the average, if not the below average. I found a strange solace and safety in my power of invisibility and made obscurity my residence.
I am in no small part indebted to that conversation with Bill for all the thoughts that follow in this book. I do not believe anyone is born average, but I do believe that many of us choose to live a life of mediocrity. I think there are more of us than not who are in danger of disappearing into the abyss of the ordinary. The great tragedy in this, of course, is that there is nothing really ordinary about us. We might not be convinced of this, but our souls already know it’s true, which is why we find ourselves tormented when we choose lives beneath our capacities and callings.
There are two ways of hearing the indictment “You are just average.” One way of hearing this is as a statement of essence, that you’re cut from an average cloth. The second is subtly, but significantly, different. The statement can be about character—that you have chosen a path of least resistance, that you have not aspired to the greatness that is within your grasp. Here is the painful reality: we will find ourselves defined by the average if we do not choose to defy the odds. Odds are that you and I will fall at the average. That’s why it’s called the average. It’s where most of us live. To be above average demands a choice. It requires that we defy the odds. You have no control of whether you have been endowed with above-average talent or intelligence or physical attributes. What you can control is whether you choose to live your life defined and determined by the status quo. Even when the law of averages works against you, you can still defy the odds.
Bill’s was a statement of outcome and actions. I walked away from his house that day with a clear resolve that although I have no control over whatever talent has been placed inside of me—no control over the level of my intelligence or whatever other advantages or disadvantages my genetic composition might have brought me—I will take absolute control over my personal responsibility to develop and maximize whatever potential God has given me for the good of others. The journey of The Last Arrow begins when you raise the bar. We need to raise the bar of our standards of our faith, of our sacrifice, of our expectations of ourselves, of our belief of the goodness and generosity of God.
We can refuse to be average. We must refuse to be average. We must war against the temptation to settle for less. Average is always a safe choice, and it is the most dangerous choice we can make. Average protects us from the risk of failure, and it also separates us from futures of greatness. The Last Arrow is for those who decide they will never settle.
I am not talking about an uncompromising rigidity to your own expectations and standards. In fact, a huge part of the process we are about to enter into is learning how to let go of those things that don’t really matter and even of those things that do not matter most. This book is not about holding others to the standards you have set. This book is about not underestimating how much God intends for your life.
I have never found a way around failure and so I cannot teach you how not to fail, but I can guide you to the place where you will never quit. Even here I feel a need to clarify. You may be doing things today that you needed to quit yesterday. There may not be anything worse than winning a battle you never should have fought. I am convinced, though, that every human being has a unique calling on his or her life—that each of us was created with intention and purpose. And I am equally certain that most of us underestimate how much God actually wants to do in our lives and through our lives. The Last Arrow is about leaving nothing undone that was ours to do. It is squeezing the marrow out of life. This journey is about ensuring that when we come to the end of our lives, we will arrive at our final moments with no regret.
Don’t Stop Until You Are Finished
The concept of The Last Arrow came to me when I was reflecting on a story from the life of the prophet Elisha in the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s an obscure moment and could easily be missed, yet it is both poetic and profound. It is also, I am convinced, a window into how God works in the world and how we either open ourselves to his bigger future or ensure that we make the future smaller than he intends for us.
In this story, Jehoash is the king of Israel when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are divided and at war against one another. His kingdom is being threatened by the armies of Amaziah, king of Judah. The one great advantage Jehoash has is that the prophet Elisha is with them, but now Elisha is suffering from an illness that will lead to his death. Jehoash goes and weeps over him, less because of his sorrow for the loss of the prophet and more because of his fear of the loss of Elisha’s protection.
Jehoash calls out to Elisha, who has been a symbol and source of God’s strength and power, but now is clearly at the end of his life.
Elisha then gives him a somewhat unusual series of instructions. Elisha says, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he does so. Then he tells him, “Take the bow in your hands.” When Elisha commands Jehoash to do this, the king immediately complies. When the king raises the bow and arrow, Elisha puts his hands on the king’s hands.
“Open the east window,” he says, and the king opens it. “Shoot!” Elisha says, and Jehoash shoots. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declares. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”
Then he says, “Take the arrows,” and the king takes them. Elisha tells him, “Strike the ground.” He strikes it three times and stops. Then the Scriptures tell us something that is quite unexpected: “The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’” Right after he says this, the story tells us, “Elisha died and was buried.”1
Much of what happens here doesn’t make any sense to our modern minds. How could the king’s future be so affected by whether he struck an arrow three times or five or six times? Why didn’t Elisha explain to him what was required before holding him to its consequences? How could the king have known that six is the magic number and that three would leave him wanting? Up to that moment, he had done everything Elisha instructed him. But when Elisha told him to strike the ground with the arrows, the prophet left the instruction open ended.
It is not insignificant that the text says, “The man of God was angry with him.” Clearly much more was happening here than meets the eye. This was no small mistake. The king began with the promise of a complete victory and afterward was the recipient of much less. And it all centers around one decision: he struck the ground three times and then stopped. Putting it another way: he quit. The Bible doesn’t tell us why he quit. Maybe he was tired, maybe he felt ridiculous, maybe he thought it was beneath him, or perhaps he sensed it was an act of futility. But it is clear that, for Elisha, the fact that the king stopped striking the arrow was connected to his determination to receive the full measure of God’s intention for him. He quit and the victory was lost. He just didn’t want it badly enough.
I wonder how many victories are lost before the battle has even begun. I wonder how much more good God desires to usher into the world that has been thwarted by our own lack of ambition. I wonder how many times in my own life I thought I failed but actually the only thing that happened was that I quit.
What is it about us that stops before we’re finished, that mistakes quitting for failure, that settles for less? I see too much of myself in this—can identify too many times when I have prayed too little, expected too little, and done too little. Have you become the kind of person who is always looking for the least you can do, trying to do only what is required? Or are you the kind of person who has given up not only on life but also on yourself? When you come to the end of your life, will you be able to say, “I gave everything I had,” or will you have a hollow feeling inside of your soul that you quit too soon, that you expected too little, that you did not strike the last arrow?
I think many of us hear God say, “Take your arrows and shoot,” but, much like the king, we never hear the command, “Stop striking the ground.” We simply stop before we’re finished. We stop before God is finished.
Excerpted from "The Last Arrow"
Copyright © 2019 Erwin Raphael McManus.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have been reading Erwin's books for over 15 years and The Last Arrow ranks right at the top! Erwin always challenges the reader with relatable stories of encouragement supported by scriptural Truth. He is more than willing to share his own fears and shortcomings for the benefit of those readers who need a gentle push or a forceful shove to engage in the life God wants us to live. Thank you Erwin for continuing to write enlightening books! I thought Artisan Soul was your pinnacle, you have surpassed that high water mark!
I was given the great opportunity to be on the launch team for The Last Arrow. From the moment I began reading I could feel the power and the effect the words would have on me. Erwin's book has inspired me to never given I'm and never give up. Before reading his book I was depressed and upset but after reading it I feel so blessed to be alive and have what I have. Get this book, read it, and share it worh everyone.
Title: The Last Arrow Author: Erwin Raphael McManus Publisher: WaterBrook Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: Five Review: "The Last Arrow" by Erwin Raphael McManus My Thoughts.... What a very interesting inspirational read where I enjoyed the stories that came from the Bible of Elisha and Elijah where one will learn how to embrace ones future. From this read I had thoughts of wanting to change my way of thinking about my future and just what I need to be now doing. This read will definitely give one a good understanding of what is asked of 'you and what is God's will not selling yourself short or giving up.' This is definitely a inspiring read for one who wants a change in ones life where you find yourself just existing. One will be inspired and challenged to live a 'bold, purposeful and intentional life' where you can rise up and believe God for much more. In the end "The Last Arrow" will definitely be a challenge and motivated to see you where you are now and what you are doing with your life. All in all 'The Last Arrow' deals with 'leadership, personal grown and most of all Christ like living' where one is given direction in just how one can be active in God's plan for our life's. Would I recommend this read? YES! It is a wonderful good read for ones soul.
Fear causes us to hang back. I know it causes me to hold back when I feel like maybe I could push forward. I have dreams. Goals and ambitions. And yet, something holds me back. McManus asserts that this seems to be normal for us all. We're all in a battle that must be fought so that we can live the life we've been handed. As I read The Last Arrow, I thought a lot about the things in my life that I've started and walked away from when the going gets tough. When I give up before I'm worn out and have given it my all. This is exactly what McManus is warning us against. McManus reminds us of the story of Elisha. As a prophet of God, he was called before a king. The king was given a quiver of arrows and told to strike the ground. But the king stops at three strikes. As a result of that, Elisha informs the king that he would lose the battle he was facing. McManus asserts that the king could have given so much more, but when he failed to do so, he gave up. "For Elisha, the fact that the king stopped striking the arrow was connected to his determination to receive the full measure of God's intention for him." So, when we stop before we've given it our all, McManus asserts we're leaving something behind. "You must not allow fear to steal your future, and every day that you walk this earth you must make sure you save nothing for the next life. You must never allow fear to keep you grounded. The moment you choose to play it safe, you've lost the game. Instead of running from your fears, lean into them, for on the other side of them is the future you long for. These moments form character and forge the future." What kind of a future do you want? Do you want the kind of future that shows you've faced your fears and fought some battles? Or the kind of life that is played safe without chasing after the dreams in your heart? McManus reminds us that: "The last arrow moves you past what God will do for you to what God will do through you." The Last Arrow is McManus' reminder to society today that we need to look past the fear and give life all we've got. When we give in, we don't live out our God-given purpose. I didn't always agree with everything he extrapolated for the story or shared in the pages of the book. But the overarching message is an important one. We can't give up when the going gets tough. We need to open our hearts and minds and ask God, "what are you trying to do through me here?" When we do this, it will benefit not only ourselves but society too. I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books. This review is my own, honest opinion.
First off, I must say this book was provided to me free of charge from the publisher. I have purchased a copy besides that to share with a friend. We can all gain value by spending some time in these pages, searching for an answer to a question that perhaps we didn't even know before reading this! I have felt like I just was missing something to reach my potential in the Lord's will for me, but didn't know what it was! I found my answer here! I realize now that while doing things with all my passion is what I thought I was doing, I really wasn't because I was missing a very important ingredient -- "my people"! The ancient African saying :"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together" has become very important to me. I love the thought "Your best future is waiting in your deepest relationships." Thank you Erwin McManus for bringing this truth to light for all of us! It has made a significant difference in my life! I look forward to finding my people and being everything God has called me to be!
[Please] RUN, don't walk... Run, don't walk, to order this book! The spiritual insight and practical wisdom makes this book a real find. Learning lessons from a spiritual pro, it was inspirational to glean so much from a "Yoda". If you want to go deeper in the life as God wants you to experience it, read from this man who lives it and shares how.
SET YOUR PAST ON FIRE!! I can't think of one person I know who doesn't need to be reminded, nudged and encouraged to SET THE PAST ON FIRE! We are too often trapped by our past, trapped by what others say about us, what even leaders in our churches tell us we should be. This book will guide you on how to listen to what GOD wants for you, the future He has for you and how you can discard the past and move forward. So amazing. Buy it! Read it! Share it! It could be the turning point in your life that you have been searching for.
The Last Arrow is a challenging and thought provoking read that requires us to honestly answer if we are truly giving God our very best in every area He calls us to be a part of his plan. "If one day we are to have a conversation with God about the measure of our lives, I would rather have him ask me why I tried to do too much than have him ask my why I settled for so little." My prayer is that this book will move us all to shoot our arrows as far and as straight as we can and then pick up the ones that didn't go as far as we'd hoped and shoot them again. I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.