Monday, December 17, 2012

The Spirit of a Warrior

My son is a runner, actually he is a very talented runner.

The other night he came to me with a very serious question, I could tell that he’d been thinking about it for some time.  He said; “Dad, why is it that here I am, tall, lean and running hard, exercising, eating right and really trying, and yet I’m struggling to achieve my goal times…I’m only going so fast…but yet,  I know that somewhere in Ethiopia or Kenya, there is a kid, the same age as me, same build, etc. but with less advantages…and he can probably run faster than me?  What is the difference?”

WOW…what a thought provoking question.  It was one that I really had to think about.  You see on the surface it doesn’t make any sense.  In the USA we have more money, state of the art science, excellent coaches and training facilities…but yet we still can’t seem to churn out world class distance runners very effectively…why is that?

To understand, you have to turn what makes sense on its head.

Here is what I told him:

You have to really take a step back and ask yourself, why does that kid in Africa run as opposed to why you run?  In Africa, he probably has no car, no bicycle, no other mode of transportation other than his feet.  If he is wanting to get somewhere quickly, he runs.  From the day he is old enough to walk, he is running.  Not only that, but he also probably has no TV, no video games, no toys etc…to distract him. If he is not running to school, or to a job, or home, or what-ever-else he needs to do, he is running for fun.  Running for him is not exercise, it’s life.  He probably has no comforts  like we do.  His bed is likely the floor, his chair (if he has one) is a wooden stool, and I promise he isn’t wearing motion control running shoes.  His life is one of hardship, so the difficultly of running isn’t any harder than everything else in his life.

In short, that boy in Africa lives life like a warrior.  Fighting for an existence.  For him running is life. He doesn’t waste his existence on things that will not advance him toward being a truly great runner, because there is nothing to distract him from that.

Here in America it’s a different story.

I once saw a great T-shirt for Cross Country runners that said “My sport is your sports punishment”.  That pretty much sums up our attitudes toward things that are hard or difficult.  All too often you will hear people say, “That’s too hard” or “I don’t feel like doing it” or “You are crazy for doing that”.  Even athletes, who want to achieve great things view practice and hard work with a level of ‘it’s something that I hate, but I have to do it’.  Therein lies our greatest weakness as an affluent people…our poor attitudes.

For the boy in Africa running just is.  It is a part of what he does every day.  For us, it’s torture.  We don’t have to do it and many would question the sanity of doing it when you apparently don’t need too.  When my son runs 5-8 miles for practice people act like it’s a big deal, when that kid in Africa probably runs that much daily just to get around.

For too many of us ease, laziness and recreation have become the sought after lifestyle, a prize to be won, a virtue worthy of achievement.  We work so that we can lounge around.  We make money so we can buy comforts and spend our time idling and doing less with that  time.  That is the ultimate goal…to do nothing.  We pine for the day when we can do less with our lives, when we will be surrounded by comforts but no longer have to exert ourselves to enjoy them.

In the process of this quest for idleness, we’ve become slaves to it.

Anyone who goes out of their way to do something hard is seen as odd and un-natural…and I’d say they are right…because the NATURAL man, is the enemy of God.  Our nature is to seek laziness.  The Natural man strives for mediocrity, he doesn’t want to stand out or go the extra mile. The Natural man seeks his own pleasure and could care less about others…as long as it doesn’t hurt him.

So how do you reverse this trend?  How do you change paradigms and begin to think like a warrior and to embrace the hard stuff?

How do we go from WIMPS to WARRIORS?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a “Word-Nerd”.  I like to see where words come from, what they really mean and how it might or might not change the meaning of their context. (see my notes on the word “VIRTUE” for an example).  With that in mind, I’d like to say a few things about “Enduring”.

Often, this word is understood to mean “putting up with” something or “tolerating it until it is over”.  Indeed, in LDS culture, we believe that if we ‘endure to the end’ we’ll be rewarded with eternal peace and RELAXATION…

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The word endure stems from the Latin “indurare” which means to harden or make lasting. To endure not only means to tolerate difficulty but there is also the implication that we are to be strengthened by our endurance.  My distance running son seeks to build endurance through exercise, to be stronger and faster.  In like fashion, our enduring of tests and trials should shed light on our character and reveal to us ways we can get stronger.

Enduring, should be teaching us lessons, not just biding our time until the end.  It should make us stronger individuals, not just patient by-standers. Building that spiritual endurance should bring us closer to God by refining us.

It should also be teaching us the eternal nature of work because that is what we will be doing for eternity…is work.  Our service for the Lord is just getting rolling here on Earth, there is going to be a LOT more to do in the life to come.  That is part of our test here…to learn to love work…because if we don’t like it here, it gets even harder there.  Heaven is not lazy-boy chairs made from puffy clouds, it’s calloused hands, tired muscles and an honest day’s work in the service of the Lord.

So this then is my suggestion, that we start by adopting the warrior’s attitude of dedication, devotion and endurance.  Like that runner in Africa that I introduced at the start of this article, let’s adopt the attitude that this is life, life is hard, but learning to endure will make us stronger.  This is our test.  To become hardened in doing righteous things…and to actually learn to LIKE IT.

To be warrior-like in our devotion to serving the Lord.  WE don’t allow things to distract us, or make us unworthy.  We are Priesthood MEN. When things get hard, we get rolling.  We are the Lord’s warriors, who never give up and we RISE UP every time we are knocked down.  EVERY TIME!

It’s a process…so get going!