Monday, May 27, 2013

The Arena Awaits

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”     –Theodore Roosevelt

I read this quote years ago, and it still hits me somewhere deep inside when I read it. Out of the vast amount of impactful quotes, why this one you might ask?  The first reason this quote has such weight is because of the man that wrote it, he lived it out.  I read a book in 2005 called The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. This book described a man with unbelievable attributes. As a child he was very ill, the doctors didn’t think he would amount to much or even survive very long; but he did. Being a sick child, he would read all of the books in his parent’s library.  He started exercising and became quite the athlete. His love for nature is recorded in many books that he wrote, and of course the launch of the national parks in the United States. He studied law and was very successful at a young age. Teddy as many called him, was constantly learning and going on new adventures all over the world. I remember reading a book called The River of Doubt by Candice Miller. Many people on this expedition were angry because large amounts of luggage on this trip were books brought by the “speed reader”, Teddy Roosevelt. The workers at the White House loved him, because he remembered every person’s name. Teddy even came back after his presidency and all of the workers couldn’t wait to greet him. If you read about this man you will find that he was NOT more than human, he failed many times and saw tragedy first hand.  He lost the love of his life and mother within hours! Being the human he was, he moved out west and lived on a ranch to escape his grief and pain. He had to prove his toughness very fast with cowboys that challenged him, with fist fights. Not one man out west knew him, they didn’t know he was a talented wrestler, boxer and rugged outdoorsmen. They just saw his glasses, and abnormal apparel for a tough man. They judged him, but he didn’t hesitate for one second. Something inside of him said, don’t listen to the critic but go out and live life to the fullest. This is my point; I felt he truly lived out what he said in this particular quote. His actions, his accomplishments and his failures. Sometimes I wonder if I could live expeditiously like Teddy? This doesn’t mean I need to read more than 5 books a day, find time for a wrestling match in the White House as he did, go big game hunting all over the world, write volumes of books, start national programs and crush monopolies. This is a man that was shot during a speech, gave a shortened version and then got medical treatment. All I am saying is that he truly followed the saying, “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day.”  If I could contain a fraction of his zealousness, my life would be transformed. If that doesn’t interest you, I would ask you to think about this idea and think about how you are living. I know I can have more fulfillment and zest for life. 

The second reason I admire this quote is because I believe that many people don’t act on things they want to in life, this is for me caused by the unknowns or critics standing outside and looking in. The possibility of failure is in every decision we make. Failure is a normal event in life, but how do we react? Some decisions we make require work or the potential of being in the middle of a messy situation. Sometimes if there is a good chance of failure or error, I will opt out. The occasion will rise where I step out, but most of the time I am held back by my own thoughts. This hesitation I have keeps me from experiencing so many things in my life, and the opportunity to impact others as well. I have had friends tell me I analyze life too much and don’t take the chance to live it! Can you relate? I think about all my regrets, mistakes, future choices and the consequences; then its too late. If someone were to take this one quote and live it, how would their life be revolutionized? Could you imagine the risks, the excitement and fulfillment? The alternative is to live a life while not feeling alive. I know that sounds like a strange concept, but that’s exactly what it is; going through the motions and not feeling like you are truly living. I know life is short, I have lost close friends and family members of all ages. One thing I know is that if I died this very moment, I would have regrets. I’m not sure if its possible to live your entire life and not have some regrets at the end, but I’m willing to give it a try. Please note, I am not talking about living a life without any planning or caution or being reckless; just a life that is full and intentional.

I am in a men’s group through my church, its on Wednesday nights. At first in all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect or to get out of it. What I see in these men is truth.  What is said in our group stays there, and we pretty much share everything. Before this group, I was mainly having surface level conversations with people and keeping everyone at a distance. Currently we are studying Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I tried to read the beginning of this book in the past and stopped twice. I also preferred studying scripture to this book, but its actually happening at the perfect time. It talks about our relationship with God and the wounds from our past and how they effect who we are today. It also talks about guys just becoming nice and losing their masculinity. I am very encouraged by this group of men I get a chance to live life with. They are real and authentic followers of Christ. Everyone has their own issues and problems, this is real life. I am grateful to be in a group like this that is pushing me to grow in my walk. This is a group of men striving to follow God and live intentional lives. Most nights we sit around a fire and might even drink a beer or two and delve into the depths of our heart and pray that it become more alive each day. It is in honor to be in a group with these non-stereotypical men who are as real as it gets. 

This is my journey, to feel alive and not programmed. Society has a tendency to make me numb.  I rarely watch the news because of the unimaginable amount of negativity. This is not an attempt to avoid reality, but rather an attempt to see reality outside of the media.  I still read some news online and know that those companies are getting great reviews with horrible, dramatic and even inappropriate stories. It is easy to create this little world that I am in control of, my small safe world. The only problem with that is after 28 years of life you begin to mature and learn some things. Some of these things are:

1.) The life you plan out when you are 18 years old, will not happen exactly the way you want it to.

2.) If your only goal in life is to get a job/get married and live happily ever after, you probably won’t.

3.) Whether you accept it or not, God will intervene in your life. It is your decision from there to act on it.

4.) If you think being a man encompasses being a great fighter, being able to drink a lot, being dominant over men and women, having lots of money, a fast car/big truck, being a physical specimen and/or having multiple relationships with women at once (stereotypes)…you are mistaken.

These are just a few things off the top of my head that I see and some I have found out myself. This is life right? We go through so many things in our lives and this is what makes us who we are at the end of the day. The most fascinating people to me are the elderly; they have lived through so much and have wisdom to give if we listen! As a kid, I could have listened to my grandparent’s stories for hours about their life. One question I was asked in my men’s group is, “Was there ever a man in your life that really knew who he was and was content?” My answer immediately was my two grandfathers, they were very sure of themselves and content with the extent their life was lived before they passed. Don’t forget the fact that they both also lived over 80 years of age, a lot can happen in that time. Everyone goes through trials in their life, but to say that these events don’t change us is a lie. There is also the possibility of these trials making us better people. One of my favorite bible scriptures is James 1:2-4, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We don’t have to have life figured out from the beginning, we are meant to change as we live it. Change is possible, in yourself and in other people. If I didn’t believe it I would just exist in this world and then die, end of story. There is a life out there for us to experience to the fullest, this is what I seek. Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

The last thing I find hope in is that I believe God wants me to feel alive, not run down or numb by this life. Remember what Jesus said in John 10:10,
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Although there are many translations, I think you will find all of them with the same meaning. God wants us to lead full lives. I hope you join me in my search to be a better follower of Christ, a better brother, son and friend. I’ll do this by finding out more about me and getting out of my comfort zone and maybe even taking risks. At least I won’t be a cold timid soul that never knew victory nor defeat…