A Sometimes Solitary Life

 In Character, Faith, Fred's Blog, People, Relationships, Scripture, Teaching, Transitions, Uncategorized, Vocation

Listen to “A Sometimes Solitary Life” by Fred Smith

 

If you read biographies you notice a frequent pattern in the lives of many great leaders. Early success and then years of obscurity and hardship – even rejection and exile. Two good examples are Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. Writers and artists may show promise – even brilliance – and then languish for decades before creating anything again. One hit wonders are common in music as are novelists who cannot produce a second best seller.

In other words, early success is no guarantee of longevity or continued success.

These people battle for years with doubt – especially self-doubt.

They wrestle with fear, loss of confidence, loss of direction.

They fail where they used to win.

They face rejection instead of applause.

There is a word for it.  Adversity.  Albert Einstein said it best, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

It is the necessary transition from the charmed life of early success and admiration to the sometimes solitary but courageous life.

The same pattern shows up in David’s running from an enraged and jealous Saul. Once the court favorite and living a charmed life, he is desperate for a weapon to defend himself. A priest hands him an old sword that has been wrapped and hidden for years.  It is the prized and lost sword of Goliath he captured long ago. I cannot help but think of the sword Excalibur in the hands of the rightful king.

That is how I imagine this story of the recovery of the lost sword of Goliath. Here is the true king who has recovered the enchanted blade.

But there is something else in the re-discovery of the sword. There is the power of remembering who you once were even though you are now on the run.

We, like David, when faced with adversity can remember those times we faced enemies that seemed too large and everyone around us was too afraid to act. We can remember those times we were willing to risk for the honor of God with very little concern for our lives or position. We need most of all to remember those times when God was faithful. We don’t need to reminisce – but to remember what God has done and who we really are.

And here, for me, is the essence of the story.

What do you do when the crowds are no longer there and you are betrayed by those who found it convenient to support you when you were the fair-haired boy and in favor with the court? What do you do when you are an exile from what you once enjoyed?

David’s life took a turn that defined him for the rest of his life. He was turned from having a charmed life to a life marked by courage. It’s the hinge point in his life – and often in ours as well. There are circumstances and changes we don’t choose but we face them and that is the beginning of giving up charm for true courage.

 

*Painting is “Solitary Sun” by Mimmo Paladino

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  • Avatar
    Ryan Skoog
    Reply

    So good, Fred. It seems Biblical heroes have a season in the “School of Leadership” in their younger life (Moses under Pharoh, Joseph under Potiphar, David under Saul) and then a season in the “School of the Heart” (wilderness, prison, on the run). In America, I feel the ethos of so much of our leadership teaching is how to achieve greatness without ever having to go to the “School of the heart” – but God does not seem to favor this shortcut. Thanks for reminding us to embrace both schools.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Ryan. Yes, I like that image. How do we pass on what we have learned in the school of the heart?

  • Avatar
    Nancy Crawford
    Reply

    Thanks again, Fred, for “hitting the nail on the head” for me. “…Adversity is the necessary transition from a charmed life of early success and admiration to the sometimes solitary but courageous life.” I am finding that “aging” has been an adversity for me and it is truly introducing me to myself. So, I pray for courage and wisdom as I navigate the coming years. Thanks again for these inspired words.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Nancy! You are ageless, really.

  • Avatar
    ann
    Reply

    So good, Fred.

  • Avatar
    Joe Wu
    Reply

    This Einstein quote is so true: “Adversity introduces a man to himself,” though I believe the quote is incomplete. I recon adversity shakes us to a point (like David) where we are presented with a choice – to simply “give up,” or to “press in” by changing our circumstances or our mindset. When we try to change our circumstances, those darn mountains are often just too difficult to move. Our effort to acquire a new mindset don’t last because it actually requires walking away from persistent, deep-seeded desires that lead us to the point of adversity in the first place. So while adversity introduces us to a form of ourselves – a form that I wonder if we prefer just not knowing about, is the person we finally meet really who we are or, more precisely, who we are meant to be? It is my belief that we are only introduced to who we really are when adversity drives us towards who God is – that it is only when we see ourselves in light of who God is that, like David, our true self is revealed and true courage follows. Appreciate your blog very much, Fred. Thank you.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Joe. Adversity does tear us down to the foundation. Of course, the best case is when we discover that foundation, if it is anything but Jesus, is nothing but sand.

  • Avatar
    Lee Ridenour
    Reply

    I love your blogs Fred and the pictures you select are always amazing!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Lee. In a way, my favorite part is picking the images.

  • Avatar
    David Luckenbach
    Reply

    Thanks, Fred, for sharing your thoughtful reflection. One thought I have often had about David: since his anointing by Samuel as a boy – Jesse’s overlooked young son in the field – Saul perceived him as an existential threat to his power and leadership. ‘Fair haired’ as David was, there was always a tension between him and the king. There are many helpful lessons we can derive from a deep look at the life of David. Thanks for drawing me eye more closely to this ‘hinge point’.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, David. I have always thought Saul wanted David to use his armour so he would get credit for the killing of Goliath. As well, I didn’t have space to mention it but the sword had actually been taken to Nob which was in the territory of Saul’s tribe. I have yet to read the “definitive” piece on the psyche of Saul but I have concluded he was bi-polar. I don’t know what he would have been like had there been medication but, for sure, he would have been different!

  • Fred Smith
    Fred Smith
    Reply

    Thank you, Fred.

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