Monday, August 04, 2008

How Do You Spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S?

Saturday my Dad threw a party. My brother Mark and my two sisters and all the grandchildren gathered over at my parents' house to eat lobster and sweet corn from my brother's organic garden. Only my brother Joe and his family were not there (because they live in Pennsylvania). But we added in Laurenzo, my cousin, from my Dad's side of the family, and his daughter. When I introduced my daughter to his daughter, I tried to explain that she was a second (or was it third?) cousin, but Laurenzo gently rebuked me and said, "In South America, there are no second or third cousins. It is simply primo, cousin; you are family, and there are no second or thirds."

So we feasted and of course, we danced. Or I should say, they danced. I'm not into the salsa and tango and mambo or anything else that requires me to whirl around the dance floor shaking my hips. I must have missed out on that gene when it was passed out. Instead, I wound up out in the screened in porch overlooking the garden, discussing choice of majors, colleges, and careers with my nephews and one of my brothers-in law. I started to recall the days when I did recruiting and personnel placement. I wanted to help my nephew zero in on his heart's desire rather than choose a college major and a career based on what pays, who is hiring, and where the majority go.

Later, after we got home, I felt restless. And the restlessness didn't go away. What kept surfacing in my mind was the whole issue of how we navigate the major crossroads of our lives, the turning points when you have to make a choice, or by not making a choice to do something, you have inadvertently chosen something by default. The whole issue of success- or what is success- has been on the back burner of my mind, constantly simmering, never coming to full boil, but not cooling down either.

How we define success will influence our level of peace and contentment. And what, exactly, is success? Should the Christian have a different definition of success than the world does? According to wordnet, success is:
  • an event that accomplishes its intended purpose;
  • an attainment that is successful;
  • a state of prosperity or fame;
  • achiever: a person with a record of successes; (wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

  • Now that last one-"a person with a record of successes"- can be a real doozy. If I choose the Lord Jesus Christ as my role model, and I look at His life, I find that He has successes and yet He has what looks like... failures. After all, in one town, "He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them" (Mark 6:5). For Jesus, doing a "few" miracles is an apparent failure compared to the great success He had in other towns. And we could go on and on about the many times Christ looked like a failure, when Jesus withdrew from the crowds (Conquerors never withdraw), when Jesus looked like a bloody, broken mess dying on the cross (Successful people avoid looking bad at all costs, don't they?).

    "God called Jesus to what seemed absolute disaster...His life was an absolute failure from every standpoint except God's" writes Oswald Chambers. And that's the word we have to remember: standpoint. It's not a common word. It has to do with viewpoint, stance, mental attitude. It's a position you take from which you make your decision: is this the right thing to do? Is this what it means to succeed?

    To succeed means to prevail and to win the victory. That's how I define success. "And this is the victory that overcomes the world-- even our faith" (1 John 5:4). Our faith in Him leads us to obey Him. Successful is the one who obeys. Successful is the one who trusts Him even though it looks like your ship is sinking. Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" and He was talking about what it felt like, what it looked like, when his world was falling apart. It can look like you are a failure- from the standpoint of one who trusts in attainment and fame. Or it can look like your world is shaky, your trophies have fallen, and yet your faith is still in the One who defines what success is for us.

    Each time I trust when I want to fear, I am successful. Each time I reach out when it would be easier to pull back, I am successful. Each time I say, "Yes, Lord- even though I don't understand what You're doing", I have won the victory.

    3 comments:

    Mike said...

    For me, I am successful if I am walking in the Spirit. I guess the Day of Judgement will reveal what real success is. Thank you Lauren, very thought provoking.

    LAUREN at Faith Fuel said...

    When all things are revealed...oh, that is a Day that we should keep in mind always. It will help us to evaluate what success is...in God's eyes.

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