Would you rather be lucky or good?
I mean, you can work your whole life to be as good as you can be, better than everyone else, the best in the business, top of your game and then, in an instant, a little bad luck takes the game away from you.
I’m not sure this description holds for Malcolm Butler, rookie corner back for the Patriots, whose terrific defense denied the ball to Seahawk’s Jermaine Kearse, until luck took a turn and the bobble, twice tipped, once kicked, landed deftly in the hands of the Patriot’s wide receiver.
Good is not good enough when luck has the upper hand.
But that’s when great steps up. Great is full-bodied. It rises up even in controversy, even in consequence, even in bad luck. It’s the ability to put behind us what went before, so we can focus clearly and certainly on the moment at hand, even if we have been at fault and even if we have been unfairly judged or tested beyond our abilities. Great wipes the slate clean and lives the next moment, even in the face of despairing teammates or finger-pointing critics, even knowing the camera is focused squarely on us. Great focuses on the job to be done and the preparation supplied, undistracted.
Butler had this moment, and he executed. A pick on the goal line to seal the Super Bowl. No, the Kearse catch would not be the defining image from Super Bowl XLIX. It would not be “the Catch.” That would come on the next play. When the game invited Butler to step up and make the play for the team that had prepared him.
Lucky or good? If I have to choose, I’m going with good. Lucky doesn’t last. And it threatens to swipe my confidence and erase my eloquence. I’d rather be good, because you can build on good to make it better and better. That helps me up, even when the other guy is lucky.
The Lucky life is slippery and it puts my destiny in someone else’s hands. I’d rather take hold of that myself and for the sake of my teammates. Life, after all, is an individual sport played on a team. I’m in it for the win. Why leave that to chance?
“All we can do is pray about it.” Is that something people say to you? Like, we’ve done everything we can, now we’re down to the final straw. One thing left to do…
Well, aside from the obvious – we’re supposed to pray first – I’m a bit leery of the last gasp prayer. Because it supposes that God won’t tell you, in your exasperated listening, to get off your knees and do something. Perhaps He won’t. Maybe He’ll just, with a consoling shake of the Great Head say, “Yes, I am frustrated with that circumstance, too. I am resigned to praying.” Which actually raises a whole other question…when God prays who does He pray to?…but that will have to wait for another day.
Today, I prefer to consider prayer as preparation. Preparing me for the next thing I am meant to do. When I suppose it is the last thing on the list, I’m presuming it’s all that will be asked of me. But what if He shows me something else? I need to leave that door open.
I just spoke to a friend who took a new job after 5 years in another position that was exceedingly difficult. This job, she says, is much harder, but in those 5 years God was teaching her and preparing her with all the tools she would need to succeed in the new job. As if He knew just where she was headed. Hard to believe.
That is what we say though, right? That He “has a plan for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). So why would we settle for sitting in one place? Why would we insist on keeping this job? Why would we dig our feet in where we are? Probably because we know where we are. Where we are headed only He knows. But if we really trust that the way is His, then we need to be headed out. And, count on each faithful step preparing us for the next.
In my morning exercise I pull outward on the handles of my exercise tubing, its anchor in the hinge of the door, and squeeze my shoulder blades together, strengthening my shoulders and back. My body forms a T and I hold it there, a Crucifixion of sorts. Perhaps I am odd to wonder…Would this exercise prepare a body for crucifixion? How was Christ prepared? What could possibly prepare one for such a moment?
If God knew it was coming, if Christ was born to die on a cross, then His life was lived in preparation for exactly that moment, that event, that ending. Not to stand strong against it, but to do God’s will in it. To live it through to the end, until it is finished. There would be no praying it away. No asking for it to be removed – well, asking, but then resigning oneself to the reality – and then agreeing and submitting oneself to live the story as it had already been written.
Perhaps if I lived my life this way, even one day, accepting that everything that came and every hardship I faced, was intended specifically for the purpose of preparing me for the next thing, I would live differently. I would actually give thanks in ALL circumstances, knowing the work behind the scenes was all for the good of the one who loves God and has been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What if God knew I could only fully experience the glories of heaven if my soul on earth was prepared fully? What if He designed each of our lives for exactly that purpose? As if He knew just where we were headed.
What you’re gonna do is written all over your face. Who are you kidding? Other than yourself.
Perhaps it has come from being in the fitness and motivation business for a long time, but I know whether you are going to follow through on your discipline or not. I can tell, just by looking.
Oh, finishers and the also-rans may both have purchased new sneakers or new workout shorts or a new swim suit. They may have both invested in some new gear, perhaps hand weights or a yoga mat or even large scale exercise equipment. But that doesn’t spell success. In fact, often the biggest spenders are the least compliant. They have fulfilled their responsibility (in their own mind) by making the purchase. As if to say, “See, I mean business. Look what I am willing to spend.”
No, people who will follow through come prepared. They may bring a pencil and paper to write down the workout. Or they have scheduled several sessions or cleared their schedule many weeks in advance. They have told others what they are planning. In short, it’s obvious their heart is in this.
I love those people. They are great to work with. The others…well, I feel like I am stealing from them. Perhaps even complicit in a lie they aren’t telling me, but I know. And this doesn’t come from reading their minds. It’s just apparent in how they behave.
How incredibly obvious must this be to God? When our behavior tells the truth while our mouths deceive. We act according to our heart condition even while our speech is conflicting? God knows our hearts. He reads them as He reads our minds.
Jesus said to them,“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. ~ Luke 16:15
His discipline is designed to get us to agree with ourselves. To look at doing, our failures and successes, and see if we aren’t tripping ourselves up. Not because we’re “not trying hard enough” but because our hearts aren’t on board. God knows our hearts. He wants our hearts. So our lives would be complete truth.
I look at the successful people I know and they come prepared. They do the homework and bring their questions. They’re engaged in the process and leave with a plan for the next step. They’re on the success path. It isn’t an accident. They do it on purpose.
And there may be no money involved at all. This counts as much for relationships and family life as it does for Fortune 500 companies. For sports teams and pick up games as much as for small businesses. We come prepared for the things we intend to follow through on. If we don’t, we need to ask ourselves whether our heart is really in this. Because it’s obvious to everyone else.
We may scurry through life hoping to live in a way that “qualifies us” for the heavenly selection. pick me! pick me! But I expect that God, who knows my heart, knows good and well whether I am ready. He has told me to be prepared, in season and out of season. Because I won’t know when the time is coming. He knows that is the only way to live a consistent life. Heart, mind and body together toward one objective.
When we falter, that’s just God getting our attention: Hey, your heart’s not in that! Then we have to choose whether we will prepare our heart or not. The rest will follow.