Hey 2019, don’t let the door hit ya in the a#@ on the way out! Is anybody else feeling that? My point is, I am so glad to see 2019 leave! It was a rough ride and nothing in me is sad to see it go. For me, there were moments of great despair last year and massive discouragement.
My hope is that when the smoke of 2019 clears, we will all be able to see that it was all an elaborate set up for an inspiring comeback story in 2020. You know, kind of a like the first Rocky movie…the first Creed movie…The Empire Strikes Back…Hunger Games…or one of the five Die Hard movies. We could keep going with this analogy but you get it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I plan to make 2020 a great comeback story. I’d like to take some time to share with you what I’ve been thinking and my hope is, that you could make 2020 your own comeback story. Just think of yourself as Rocky, Adonis Johnson, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or John McClane.
Better yet, think of yourself and the life God wants you to live into. It is easy to see a comeback story in the movies and root for the underdog. For some reason, it isn’t quite as easy to root for yourself in your own underdog story. I would like for you to begin to look at 2020 as the year of the comeback.
To help us with that, I came up with three things that should guide us. I wish I could take credit for these three ideas but I’ve stolen them, as any great artist would, from other people that I greatly admire. In the process, you might also come away with three books that you need to read this year that might change your life. Here are three ways to have a great comeback story according to Jordan Peterson, Erwin McManus and Brene Brown. Here’s number one…
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back– Jordan Peterson in his book “12 Rules for Life: an antidote to chaos.” talks about things that we can learn from a lobster. I know, its pretty weird. You’ll have to read the book for all of the details, which I highly recommend, but a quick summary of it is this, when lobsters are defeated in battle, their posture becomes different toward other lobsters and in particular the lobsters that are winning battles.
Meanwhile, the lobsters that are winning get all of the benefits out of life. We often walk through life like defeated lobsters. We have lost enough battles and we are beginning to think this is our place in the food chain. Things will not get any better and we have historical data to prove it! As a result, we begin to posture ourselves differently toward the world around us and we adjust our expectations accordingly.
Did you know that your posture toward life matters? If your shoulders are slumped and your eyes are cast toward your feet, it communicates what you think about yourself to others. We unintentionally signal to the world around us that we have accepted our position in the food chain. Unhealthy people sometimes pick up these signals and treat us accordingly.
If your shoulders are back and your eyes are to the sky, we are signaling something else entirely. When we have hope in Christ and are unwilling to accept defeat, we should never have slumped shoulders or downcast eyes.
We are never defeated because Christ has already won the battle! Let’s accept that and focus on His victory in our lives. I really don’t think this is “prosperity gospel” thinking. It is simply accepting the truth about what Jesus has accomplished in our lives and on the cross and acting on it!
He has taken the most humiliating defeat known to man, death as a criminal on the cross, and He has turned it into a victory; eternal and abundant life in Him. So let’s embrace that life and begin to manifest that in our attitudes and the way we treat others.
That being said, stand up straight and put your shoulders back. Have confidence in Him and what He is doing in your life. Take the posture of victory until you begin to feel it.
2. Set your past on fire – This is from Erwin McManus and is found in his book “The Last Arrow”. This quote comes from the life of Elisha in 1 Kings 19.
Elisha leaves his home and all that he knows to follow Elijah. Elisha was hard at work and Elijah walks by him and throws his cloak around Elisha’s shoulders and walks away. It was symbolic of his leadership in Elisha’s life.
Elisha responds by leaving his twelve yolk of oxen to follow the prophet. He walks away from everything that he has known to follow someone he doesn’t know very well. He literally destroys his plowing equipment and kills the oxen. I know, this is pretty extreme. Because of this over the top reaction to Elijah’s invitation, he has burned his bridges back to the life he was accustomed to. He now has no choice but to follow his new mentor.
It is a lot like the disciples deciding to leave their lives to follow Jesus. These fishermen left a life that was pretty predictable and lucrative to follow this rabbi that could promise none of those things. They set their past on fire.
In order to head into the future that God wants for you, you need to let go of the past. I’m aren’t talking about people here, we are talking about pain. I am talking about fear. This is not about alienating people, though you made need some distance from highly toxic relationships. However, the life that you’ve been living might be keeping you from the life you need to live.
Sure, your painful past might be keeping you from your future but your prosperous present might be keeping you from it as well. Your comfortable life style and your predictable job may actually be an excuse for not living into your comeback story. Erwin McManus puts it this way:
“The great tragedy that I have witnessed over and over again is that we keep underestimating how much God wants to do in us and through us. Too many of us have believed the lies we have been told: that we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not talented enough, we’re just not enough. One of the facets of God that makes him extraordinary is his ability to do the impossible through ordinary, everyday, common people like you and me.”
So whether you are being held back by a painful past or a prosperous present, set your past on fire. Let go of what has been and look forward to what lies ahead. Press on! (Phil 3:13-14)
Here’s the last way that you can live into your comeback story.
3. Be in the Arena – This encouragement comes to you courtesy of the incomparable Brene Brown from her book “Daring Greatly”. She was inspired by a speech of Theodore Roosevelt’s back in 1910. It encourages us to get into the game and stop criticizing others. Check it out:
“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.”
Being in the arena doesn’t require you to be perfect or to win every single time you step up to the plate. It requires you to get your hands dirty and to give, whatever it is that you are attempting, your greatest effort. If your nose gets bloody, it gets bloody. If people say things like “I told you it wouldn’t work” just acknowledge that they weren’t in the arena with you and that talk is cheap.
If people that were onboard with you suddenly jumped off the ship or worse, they stabbed you in the back…just realize you are not the first one that this has happened to and that it is all a part of the process. That process is what God is doing in your life and it is messy and painful at times.
Being in the arena is dangerous and risky. There are no guarantees that you will come out of the arena unscathed. However, you will learn from your pain and gain valuable experience in the process.
Let me issue a warning to you though, the longer you sit up in the stands and criticize others for the work they are doing, the less you will be in the arena yourself. We live in a world where people love to sit in the cheap seats and criticize the work that other people are doing while remaining safe in the balcony. That is not the arena. The arena doesn’t consist of pointing out the faults of others.
The arena is a place of hard work and sometimes failure. It is the laboratory of success, where you figure out what works and what doesn’t. That can only be achieved through getting your hands dirty and getting your nose bloodied.
You are learning from the pain; the pain that can only be found in the hard work of living out a purpose that is greater than yourself. It cannot be found safely behind your computer or by walking a path that is comfortable and predictable; a path that thousands of people have walked before you. You might have to blaze your own trail or take a path that is unconventional. You will have to follow God into some places that seem scary but it is a good kind of scary. The kind of scary where you will have to trust God like you’ve never trusted Him before.
When it is all said and done, the arena cultivates your trust in God like the cheap seats never could. It is the final destination for those who are ready for a comeback. The people that are tired of life as usual and for those ready to see change in their lives but also their surroundings.
That’s it my people. That’s all I have. When I look back at 2019 and I am glad to see it go, I fully realize that 2019 is just a year. There is so much hope and optimism at the begging of each year isn’t there? We think about all of the things we can do differently and make resolutions to change our habits and environment.
Here’s something to think about though. A year is just a year. It is 365 days and nothing more. Time is inanimate. It has no life to it whatsoever. Time only has meaning when we breathe life into it. In other words, 2020 will be the same as 2019 unless we put our shoulders back, set our past on fire and get into the arena! We have to do something with the time we’ve been given.
What will you do with the 365 days that you now have?