In 1974, tennis great Bjorn Borg, barely 18 years old, became the youngest man to win the French Open title. As a very young man he won both the French Open and Wimbledon in three consecutive years and three Grand Slams without losing one set.
“I feel sad for Bjorn Borg,” I said at the time.
“Why? He just won a tremendous victory?” a friend asked. “Have you lost your mind?”
“Because he’s just a kid. If he’s at the top of his game now, what does he have to work for, or look forward to? The only direction from the top of the mountain is down.”
Failure – Plummeting from the Top of the Mountain
Borg retired from burnout at the ripe old age of 26. Facing bankruptcy twenty years later, his Wimbledon trophies and winning racquets were scheduled for auction at Bonhams’ in London. Obstacles and trials are beneficial. After early victory, what comes next?
Do you hate problems? What about mistakes? Failures? Obstacles and trials can be painful, costly, humiliating – and beneficial.
On June 30th, after six frustrating months of intensive education, effort, and investment, I finally reached the goal I set at the beginning of the year. It took longer than expected, (doesn’t it always) but I was happy with the progress and result. I reached a place I never dreamed of until recently.
I was over the top when I closed my computer that Friday night, no longer chained to my desk by “need to.” The pace of my days changed. The pressure was gone. There were still items on my list so I put in a very productive Saturday. Now I was ahead of schedule.
Monday came. Something was different. I was different. There was no driving purpose, no to-do list longer than the encyclopedia. My email inbox didn’t deliver any juicy new issues, challenges, or problems. I felt deflated.
The Down-Side of Success
No fires to put out and no terrifying error messages. Nothing on my desk screamed for immediate attention. I worked with the horses and balanced some hooves. I mowed the pasture and bought ingredients to make low carb cookies. (Still on my to-do list.)
This was a pretty blah week. There were still some less-than-exciting things on my list I could do. All technology and no interaction with horse or human. But, they needed to be done sometime.
Yesterday ended on a high note. I dreaded sending out the first newsletter to old subscribers because it was new technology. But I got it done. With new editions and Amazon updates (finally) complete I sent in a couple of promotions for review, expecting notice that they were up and working when I got to my office this morning.
What makes today special?
My late-afternoon visit to the AT&T store was delightful (except for the customer who’d just been sprayed by a skunk). I now have a better iphone and unlimited data. The day ended with a sense of accomplishment – my first in a few days.
This morning I opened my email. Discovering that the newsletter subscription and free book link didn’t work, and getting rejections on both AMS sponsored ad campaigns was a bummer. Two things happened; my first dose of humility arrived and my adrenalin started pumping.
I addressed the link issue first (I’m really sorry for messing that up) and then edited the Amazon campaign details.
Then I noticed how enthused I felt. How curious. How delightful.
Delighted by Challenges
If we get everything right the first time, what would we have to look forward to? Obstacles and trials are beneficial. They shift us into higher gears with renewed conviction. The require us to stretch, grow, and sometimes achieve things we never dreamed of.
The last thing I wanted for my horse customers was winning their first significant competition. First, they thought they knew it all. That never lasted long. Second, there was no place to go but down. Going from first to worst is a huge blow to confidence, self-esteem, and conviction. The ones who sucked it up by going back to work enjoyed the effort, rewards, dirt, and friendships. The one or two who didn’t, spent years trading horses and trainers, but never tasted glory again.
I love my work with God, horses, and you all. No one will ever master all that’s possible with God or horses. And tell me, have you ever had a significant relationship that purred smoothly from beginning to end?
Bjorn Borg burned out. Friends had to bully him into redeeming his trophies and racquets before the auction. Borg eventually started a wildly successful sports fashion business in Europe. He found new purpose and challenge. It took years, but he started facing the obstacles and taking them apart, piece by piece.
That pretty much sums up the Christian walk. Christianity is never as strong in ease as under persecution. The power of God is rarely seen in rose gardens. But it powerfully lifts us up when thorns and varmints threaten. Faith only strengthens when tested.
To have overcoming faith we must first experience overcoming. Passion, confidence, security, and total faith that God is able in every circumstance, and faithfully delivers on every promise is powerful stuff.
If you’re concerned about the direction the world is going, I get it. Truth is relative. Humanism is the religion of the day. The only acceptable absolute is the denial of absolutes.
In coming days, Christ-followers will get squeezed into tighter spaces. Expect it. Prepare for it. When easy days become ones of failure, rejection, humility, and division – remember what’s ahead. Jesus doesn’t waver. He made it perfectly clear that we would face tribulation in the world, but –
“Fear not, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It’s an exciting time to walk with the Lord. We’re watching prophecy play out before our eyes. The boundaries of faith are being pressed and expanded. Remember that every spasm strengthens what exists, and many battles are lost by apathy. Don’t despair, get pumped up. We’ll soon be going home.
It’s a joy sharing the journey with you.