After a few days of sweating details, shedding some tears, attending back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings, hearing about how "this" and "that" simply won't work, I woke up this morning feeling at peace. Happy summer vacation.
There's a small sign taped to my fridge that says: "What would you attempt if you knew you couldn't fail?" On my pilgrimage for food several times a day I get reminded of a couple simple ideas wrapped into this one little saying.
1) People often don't try things because they think they might fail.
2) People often don't try things because they are afraid of losing something -- reputation, money, respect, love
3) People won't accomplish the things they could accomplish because they didn't try something they could not accomplish. (Read that again) I honestly don't think I can cause world peace, but maybe in my attempts for world peace I will obtain something that is truly beautiful and miraculous and that wouldn't be possible if I weren't aiming for something so big.
4) People would probably try more if they thought they wouldn't get the blame if an idea crashed. If it doesn't matter who gets the blame or the credit, we can usually accomplish much more.
I'm more driven by the opportunity to gain something that we could possess than I am driven by the fear of losing something that we do already possess.
WHAT WOULD YOU ATTEMPT IF YOU KNEW YOU COULDN'T FAIL?
What if I just worked hard and assumed the best? Even if the project did not succeed, often the worst thing that could happen is that I'm optimistic and fulfilled and productive and we have built stronger relationships with people. There is nothing I can do that can make God or my family love me any more than they do today. There might be more joy and affirmation...but their love isn't tied to my performance. Likewise there is nothing I can do that will make God or my family love me any less than they do today. There might be things that could cause more strain and pain and discord...but their love isn't tied to my performance. So what is the harm in trying something big? I've got nothing really valuable to lose anyway. So I continue aiming for what we all can gain.
I've recognized that people who do not support my ideas are not really attacking me-- they are attacking my ideas. My identity, value, dignity are not tied to a success of a project. It's so fun and rewarding to see one of my ideas come together and bless others...it makes my heart sing. Sometimes it's a quiet, sweet song as I ponder something wonderful. Sometimes it's more like a Broadway show tune I'd watch at the MUNY opera growing up in Saint Louis. But I personally think that not trying something is more of a failure than trying something that didn't work. So I keep plugging ahead and aiming for big things. Huge things.
The sign on my fridge also reminds me that people are not obstacles. People may create obstacles but they are not the obstacles themselves. If I desire for people to acknowledge my dignity and worth and value independent of my ideas and projects, then I need to afford that same dignity and worth and value to a person who chooses to disagree with me and exerts their influence to stop my project/idea. Even if their idea seems completely evil, I choose to see the person and ask God to let me see them how He sees them.
I am not defined by a cause or a belief. So I shouldn't be labeling "those people" by what they do or believe either. We may disagree, but they are not enemies any more than I wish to be perceived as an enemy simply because we're on different sides of the table on an issue. We are often not at war but we use words and labels and carry attitudes like we are at war. Why would we think that this view will not lead to an actual conflict and to war?! I see images of armed conflict and have tasted the emotions spewed by some who were planning militant action...this stems from not seeing people anymore and then it ramps up and ramps up on both sides until something tips and battle erupts. At that point it doesn't matter who started it.
But I'm writing more about the conflict over ideas and programs and our normal day to day interaction with people who are not at war. Frankly, I think that many of the obstacles that others create that get in the way of my way of doing things are truly blessings in disguise. I could show you journal after journal entry since I was in junior high school when someone stepped up and created an obstacle to one of my "great ideas." I call them joy robbers. But they often ushered in something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Granted I'm not going to send them all thank you notes for causing so much frustration...but because I have offered my life to God and that includes all the "great ideas" that pop into my head, then they aren't my ideas any more. If He chooses to bless them, then I'm grateful to be part of their success by birthing them. However if a door gets closed, then why should I view this as a personal attack? Maybe God shut the door? No, they are against an idea even if it sounds like they are againt ME.
So I say, "you don't like this?" Then let's create a better idea together. And many times the end result is exponentially better than my first idea anyway. And I've seen this exchange happen time after time working on World Peace and Prayer Day. Maybe I will send a few thank you notes for the obstacles this time though because the end result is absolutely beautiful and my initial idea wasn't nearly as good. So thanks to all of you who have dashed my idea, ran over it, threw it out, told me there is "no way in hell" --- because you have brought blessings in disguise. You have rallied people. You woke sleeping giants. You brought your expertise to the table. You drove me to my knees in prayer. And that is the biggest blessing of all.