If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
Matthew 10:38-39 (context)
How would you feel if one day you received an Olympic gold medal in the mail? You just open up the mail box, find one of those big padded brown envelopes, heft it and note the surprising weight, then pull the zip to open it. Out slides a genuine gold medal from the Olympics in your preferred activity. Would you feel the same way those athletes on TV look when they win in their category? Would you have that exhausted but radiantly happy smile plastered across your face?
Maybe you would. But I have this sense that, if you’re like me, you probably would feel more confused, and maybe slightly disappointed, than anything else. You haven’t earned this honor; it just landed in your lap. The sense of accomplishment that is the real reward of winning in the Olympics (aside, of course, from the the millions of dollars of lucrative sales appearances you’ll make for sports-equipment companies) would be totally missing from your Olympic medal. I know I’ll never be Olympic-quality at any activity in my life, I’ve accepted that reality, and I’m happy with where I am right now. A faux-Olympic win, even if documented with a real medal, would in a way detract from the sense of accomplishment I have now in my everyday life.
This glow of accomplishment isn’t a logical thing. It kicks in when I struggle up a gigantic hill, crest it, and start down the other side. It fills me when I creakily dismount from a 70-mile ride. It makes an appearance, too, when I finish writing a tricky report at work, when I successfully cook bacon without blackening any of it (this is a very rare occurrence indeed), when I finally get my bathroom gleaming clean after lots of elbow grease, and when I manage to finish in Mario Kart not dead last. It gives normal activities a little boost. There is something glorious about overcoming even small difficulties yourself that simply cannot be equaled by all the freebie stuff in the world.
I want to encourage you to push your limits, to stretch yourself, and to achieve your own greatness. Not all honor is in international acclaim, and not all joy comes from monumental successes. The wonder of life is that within ourselves God has placed these abilities we never imagined (me? Ride 70 miles? HA!), but that simply lay dormant until you start pushing yourself. It is then that I know we all will achieve small yet great things. I close with the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson in Ulysses, which I believe sums up my feelings on this topic nicely:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
This embodies the nobility of accomplishment, whatever kind you may have. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Bike stuff: Saturday’?s ride (50 miles to Concord and back); Sunday’?s ride (30 miles home from church). This weekend was scheduled as a rest weekend, one I sorely needed and have greatly appreciated. I have come home not utterly exhausted. Nothing really exciting on these rides; the weather cooperated, thankfully, so I stayed warm and dry the whole time. I stopped at a bike shop on Saturday called Ray & Sons Cycle. They tightened up my brakes for me, but they also charged me $5 for about 5 minutes’ work — what most shops would probably do for free — so I won’t be stopping there again.
Please help me raise money for the MS Bike Tour Cape Cod Getaway. Donate today on my MS Participant page.
PS – Ian blogged! :-O