January 22, 2010

THE STRIVE

Riding into work this morning, I saw a handful of energetic 8-year olds on the train, eyes shining, smiles brimming, and voices several volumes too loud as if each one had just downed a breakfast of gummy bears and Red Bull. I marveled at the freshness of their faces and their carefree natures. I asked myself how I would feel if one of them were mine. How would I arm them to advance into the future? What have I learned on my journey growing up that might help them?

I quickly collected my thoughts and it went something like this:

Human beings live to pursue something. And that something varies by person. Some have a humanitarian agenda, living to make the world a better place. Some operate with a more intimate and personal hunger, yearning to build a legacy for their descendants. And some are more independent, striving to accumulate wealth that they may live free from financial strain to savor pleasures. Regardless of motive, the consistent theme is that human beings pursue. They strive. They struggle to put their existence on a map of their own choosing. Some measure their personal worth by acts of service, by their children, by money, by popularity. But no one is immune from “THE STRIVE”; the act of striving.

Early in life we conjure a life mission worthy of our permanent self-investment, such as one of these initiatives, and we chase it day after day, year after year. Along the journey, we all experience the following:

1) The hurdles to accomplish any life agenda are so numerous and unforeseeable, that a life mission is far more difficult than anyone ever imagines in his youth. A prolonged illness, the unexpected death of a loved one, or bankruptcy are only a few of the challenges that could halt the pursuit of one’s life goal. And none of us is invincible. At the point when one’s life mission is thwarted and appears impossible, then depression, cynicism, or destructive decision-making can onset. After all, when what you are living and working for becomes unattainable, the sense of loss is riveting. It is common to strike out in anger when you are tempted by the thought that you have nothing left to lose.

Those who endure temporary defeat and choose a more constructive remedy to hardship push forward to overcome. Life cycles around again and just when you can almost taste success, another brake-squealing difficulty stops you in your tracks, causing you to pause and reevaluate until you muster the motivation to strive once more. If you’re living, then you are striving; and if you’re striving, then you are climbing; and if you’re climbing, then you are fighting to keep from losing ground. The hurdles never cease.

2) Countless people come to the end of their lives unsatisfied, not knowing if they achieved their desired mission or quite confident that they haven’t even come close. Most of life is spent battling the hurdles, not living the dream which was chased all along. But should we measure the value of our life on such ambiguous and unjust terms? Should we, could we handle it all differently?

I embrace the inevitability of this scenario in order to formulate some wisdom for myself and those coming after me. My best effort would be to train those 8-year olds to think smaller. To lean more towards day missions than life missions, so that they can experience a sense of success more often. I would ask them repeatedly,

Have you blessed someone today?

Have you been blessed today?

When we all meet at the Judgment Seat of Christ, our thoughts and actions will be examined incrementally, not broadly. We would be better off to adopt that mindset now as much as possible.

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

I think this could be the key to defeating the defeatist mentality. Thinking smaller calls the big, scary monster out from the shadows and shines a light on it to reveal that it doesn’t have claws or teeth. It’s big, it’s bulky, it’s a barrier, but it doesn’t have to disable us permanently. It may block our path in one direction, but it can’t block us in every direction. There’s more around the corner and maybe, like Candyland, the good parts are woven in along the winding path.

Personally, I have a lot of reprogramming to do. The life mission mentality that I’ve been chasing and feeling defeated because I haven't attained it yet has got to go. I need to return to being eight years old and seeing the world the way I wish I could enable those children to see it, valuable in small deposits. Even dimes make up millions.

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