"I can't do it!" Amy's five-year-old son was getting frustrated as he learned to tie his shoes. Mom directed, "Timmy, first you make the bunny ears, and then the little rabbit runs around the bush and back through the hole..." He tried, and in the process his shoelaces were getting tangled. Despite her best efforts to encourage her little man, mom couldn't keep him going much longer. He wanted to give up. "It's too hard!"
Life is hard.
Have you figured that out yet? Maybe that's obvious, but these days you'd think difficult and challenge were four-letter words. Our culture appears to be on a fast track toward the rigorous pursuit of easy.
We've heard of the "30-day cure for this" and "Ten easy steps to that," and have learned to run far, far away from hard. After all, life isn't supposed to be hard, right?
Inclined to believe that if a door closes, it must have been the wrong way, we wait for doors to open up for us. We think if we're going the right way in life we won't run into closed doors. So when we encounter difficulty, we retreat with the belief that we're off course, because we equate difficulty with "wrong direction."
And many of us have a propensity to seek the path of least resistance. Why? Sometimes we're just lazy, but I'm convinced there's more to it than that. I think we fail to realize that life isn't supposed to be so easy. Could it be on purpose, for a purpose, that life is more difficult than advertised?
But I don't want hard.
I don't know, maybe I'm just a rare example of someone who spent years gravitating toward comfort and safety, and in the process mediocrity, afraid to make a decision or stick with it when times got tough. It may be that I alone have resisted the rough road or turned aside from the battle.
Something tells me I'm not alone, though. I've counseled many people over the past few years that were in the midst of tough times and questioned, "Where did I go wrong? It's not supposed to be like this!" They believed their hardships to be merely a result of poor decisions. But that's not always the case. And I've known many who were facing decisions with fear over the challenges or the uncertainties that lay ahead.
It can be an awfully confusing job trying to balance on one hand the myth that life lived well is supposed to be easy, and on the other the numerous challenges we all face. Many people I've talked with have heard over and over again all of the world's quick-fix solutions and responded with either a yawn or a "Yeah, sure buddy…maybe for someone else, but not for me."
Even those who aren't necessarily going through troubled times are beginning to realize that there is something missing in all the hype of the take-it-easy approach. It may be appealing, but it just doesn't resonate with their experience. It's not how they see life actually happening.
Besides, there's so much more…
You were destined for greatness!
Do you believe that?
Greatness was likely not on the mind of Herb or the other young members of what has become known as the "Greatest Generation." Coming out of arguably the most difficult economic struggle in our country's history, these men and women had no idea of the astounding potential they possessed.
My friend Herb (who my wife calls her "adopted" Grandpa) described for me the horrors he and others with the Army Corps of Engineers faced when, in 1942, three days after "D-Day", they landed on the beach of Normandy, France.
I'd seen the movie Saving Private Ryan and heard it was true to life. He assured me it was. But one comment he made painted a picture amplifying Steven Spielberg's cinematography. And it will stick with me for life.
"You can see the images and hear the sounds," he explained, "but what the movie can't give you is a sense of the smell."
What a graphic. That movie had left a mark on me, but as intense as the film was, it couldn't touch all my senses. I have enough imagination to understand that the events that took place were, well, unimaginable for those of us who haven't been through something like that. Yet I tried to envision the kind of horrors no person should have to endure.
But they endured.
And they prevailed.
Rising to the challenge of their time, these ordinary folks of the middle twentieth century became the heroes of the twenty-first, not because they sought to become so, but because they took up their charge and responded to life as it presented itself.
As with WWII, September 11th, and more recently the aftermath of tsunamis and hurricanes, history is replete with such greatness. Seemingly ordinary people doing the extraordinary.
You too are destined for greatness.
But greatness doesn't come without a price.
A new look.
People long for heroes. And deep inside most of us yearn to be a hero. A young boy might dream of being a fighter pilot or a firefighter. Little ladies may aspire to discover the cure for some rare disease or to feed a starving nation. Each one of us was uniquely created to be a hero to someone. But sadly many of us won't become all we were created to be, and the jobs of some heroes will be left undone.
I've found myself in recent years looking at life differently than I used to. Stories of many famous and even not-so-famous people both from history and from our world today have demonstrated that the path to success, significance, and purpose is almost never easy.
Whether climbing a mountain or a corporate ladder, performing a heart transplant or a classical concerto, feeding thousands in Africa, going to the moon, or maybe just learning to tie a shoe, any endeavor that requires a person to stretch beyond himself or herself will necessarily require a BIG effort.
I firmly believe that there's something at work in your life and in mine that far outweighs the hard times we go through. There is purpose in our striving. There is growth through our challenges. There is something to be gained in this contest. So I've found myself asking this question of myself and of others: "Wait a minute, what's wrong with a challenge?"