Option B

 In Culture, Duty, Fred's Blog, Fred's Blog, Gratitude, Teaching, Theology

If you read biographies, you notice a pattern that is frequent 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. Child stars and prodigies often experience the same. Writers and artists may show promise 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. Sometimes circumstances change beyond their control. Silent movie star Rudolph Valentino’s voice was not suitable for movies with sound. Yasha Heifitz was brilliant as an untaught prodigy but being taught how to read music ruined him for years. Marlon Brando had been in a 10-year box office slump before The Godfather revived his career. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple when the company decided to move to professional management.

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

They fail where they used to win. They face rejection instead of applause. They go into slumps and dry periods. You remember what Tom Hanks says to Gina Davis in the movie A League of Their Own when she wants to quit because it is too hard? “Of course it’s hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Albert Einstein said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

It was just so with David when he faced the deadly paranoia of Saul. Up to a certain point he had led a charmed life surrounded by acclaim, success and the measured love of Saul himself. But then the story turns and David is on the run for his life. Saul even kills the priests and destroys a whole city of his own relatives in retribution for his imagined belief that David is against him.

But, it is such adversity which often proves to be the necessary transition from the charmed life of early success and admiration to the truly courageous life.

One man alone escapes from the slaughter to tell David what has happened and this is, for me, the turning point of the story and David’s life.

“He told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”

David’s life took an unexpected and undeserved change that defined him for the rest of his life. “My life has changed. I didn’t choose it. It was forced on me but God has a purpose for my life.”

It is what Sheryl Sandberg writes about in her latest book,  Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. “You can give into the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe.  Or you can try to find meaning.”

How does David respond to adversity and the realization that he is no longer the fair-haired boy in the favor of the court? What do you do when you are an exile from what you once enjoyed?

Without overwhelming guilt he shoulders the responsibility of their deaths. He refuses to allow fear to rule his life. Unlike Saul who chose to live and die in fear and anger David chose trust in the goodness of God. He accepts that there is no more complete freedom for him because he is now responsible for people. He has commitments and obligations that will tie him down for the rest of his life. He has set the pattern of his own leadership – his commitment to take care of people for generations, especially the weak. Look at his treatment of Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Saul. He was committed to those who disappointed him and disagreed with him and stayed true even to those who betrayed him.

It’s the hinge point in his life – and often the hinge point in ours. There are things we don’t choose and while that may be the end of a charmed life it is the beginning of true courage.

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Showing 16 comments
  • Avatar
    Walter Hansen
    Reply

    Thanks Fred. This one fits my life as I enter my 70s and seek for ways to serve. (Psalm 71:5-6,9)

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Thank you, Walter. This would make for a great conversation, wouldn’t it?

      • Avatar
        Steve French
        Reply

        I agree with you Walter- describes mine as I enter my 60’s. And with you Fred, it would make for outstanding conversation.

        • Fred
          Fred
          Reply

          Steve – You have at least a decade before thinking about these things!

  • Avatar
    Megan Willome
    Reply

    The book is next on my list! There’s a great interview with Sheryl and Adam Grant at “On Being.” Love how you tied this in with David and Saul.

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Thank you, Megan. I watched an interview with Adam Grant this week. They really connect with people, don’t they?

  • Avatar
    Debbie Farrar Glass
    Reply

    Thank you, Fred.

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      My pleasure, Debbie. Thank you for reading!

  • Avatar
    mark neuenschwnader
    Reply

    “What do you do when you are an exile from what you once enjoyed?” So true.

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Mark – I confess I did think about you when I wrote this.

  • Avatar
    Scott Hillstrom
    Reply

    Fred, you wonderfully well. Your finishing point about accepting the sacrifice necessary to be a servant for life is hard and true. I learned this in a car wreck in 1995. I’d sold a business and was house-hunting in New Zealand planning to semi-retire in a beautiful country with the world’s finest fly fishing. My kids were raised in a good church, I gave heavily to ministries and had spent ten years as the volunteer president of an evangelism ministry I had co-founded. But as I laid there on a remote mountain road contemplating that death might be imminent I discovered that I had wasted my life. Everything I ever did was chosen by me, fitting God into my world where and how I wanted Him rather than simply obeying Him. So I began to obey that voice I’d hear behind me saying “this is the way, walk in it” and God has since worked wonders for many people in Africa because of it. As age comes on and takes its toll it is more clear than ever what Jesus meant when He said we cannot have both Heaven and The World. We must choose. And if we choose Heaven it will demand of us everything we have–we cannot have it both ways. And that is as it should be since everything we have, including our bodies, minds and souls was made by God, is sustained in being by God, and belongs to Him. When we hold back we are keeping from Him what is His. It never was our own.

    Many thanks for your messages.

  • Avatar
    Marv Knox
    Reply

    Great insight, Fred. I wonder if Paul thought of David when he wrote what we call Romans 7:28. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Avatar
    Sasha vukelja
    Reply

    Ok so this is the first time I commented on a comment! The comment by Scott Hilstom really touch me deeply. I get it! As they say: i know what you mean! I get you. I do not know in how many ways I can say that clearly feels the same. Gone through difficult time in last 1.5 year!! Longest year ever I realized that joy only comes from him. I am back in that intimate relationship with Him who has alway being there for me! I am back I got my joy back. I have bing in exile over my life journey and some were harder that others but Fred in your writing I had goosebumps when I read:”what do you do when you are in an exile from what you once enjoy”? That was the worse exile ever for me!! But just as you pointed what Albert Einstein said:”adversity introduced a man to himself” and now “i refuse to allow fear to rule my life and i chose trust in the Hines’s of God. I am glad you are my friend

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Dear Sasha – I can think of no greater privilege than being your friend! You are an inspiration and comfort. Travel safely home and we’ll see you soon.

  • Avatar
    Jon Rowan
    Reply

    Great post, Fred! I guess that it all begins with defining what “success” means. Too often the popularity of culture is the lodestar of a “success” definitiion (falsely, i might add). Properly defined success could help eliminate the roller coaster of emotion; reducing fear, anxiety and disappointment and setting up for, possibly, a more fulfilled and peaceful life. But, I am just a caveman.

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Thank you, Jon. It has helped me to know I could never hope to be successful in the way the culture defines it. That doesn’t mean I would not have liked it! I just don’t have those skills and abilities. I had to find my own measures and I am so glad I did. I still think about it but not much.

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