POSTED ON JANUARY 18, 2012:
The Land of Obscurity
When all the spotlights are off
Nobody dreams of obscurity. Ask a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Rarely will you ever hear them say, "I want to be unknown, unimportant and inconspicuous." Talk to a kid on the high school football team and not too often will he say, "I hope to ride the bench my entire career if at all possible."
Quite the contrary, most people want to do something great, something noteworthy, something that others will look and say, "that person is a success." Whether you have a personal drive to succeed or expectations placed on you by others, most of us would agree that we have a deep inward desire to achieve.
When success is the end result most people will do whatever it takes to get there. They look for the next job opening, internship, degree, business partnership, shortcut, etc. Whatever it takes to catapult them to that next place in life.
Success, however, is an elusive term. It's elusive in that there is no benchmark to adequately define it. It, when it is defined, is usually done by others around you. Not only is success elusive, it's also extremely addictive. When you crave it, it can easily become the center of your entire existence. It becomes an endless, uncelebrated pursuit of something that was elusive and indefinable from the beginning.
Although I'm sure you could find a few examples somewhere out there, the majority of true success stories have a back-story that very few ever know. Why? We rarely celebrate the season of obscurity in people's lives. Nobody wants to recall the period of life when you were unknown, unimportant and inconspicuous. If we do recall those moments it's only briefly and usually in an attempt to make us feel better about our own personal plight. Instead, we focus on the successes.
When we talk about the great inventor Thomas Edison nobody opens with his first few years of futility and thousands upon thousands of failed experiments. When we speak of Steve Jobs very few recall the early and mid '80s when Jobs not only failed but was let go by Apple. Henry Ford went broke five times before successfully starting Ford Motor Company. Walt Disney was fired from one of his first newspaper jobs because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
To every great story of success there is usually a story of obscurity. A back-story that is marred in blunders, failed attempts, and most of all perseverance.
So, you want to be a success? My first question would then be, "What does your back-story look like?" Have you entered into the land of obscurity without ever truly knowing who you are, what you value, or what you're willing to sacrifice for this success?
There's a story in the Bible that most people are familiar with; it's the story of David and Goliath. Although King David achieved more in his lifetime than most could ever dream, King David is most notably recognized for slaying the giant Goliath. It's a classic success story. An overnight rags to riches, Rudy-esque (for all you football fans), against all odds kind of story.
But you guessed it. There is a long backstory. The land of obscurity started way before David walked onto the battlefield and stood before Goliath with stone and slingshot in hand. In fact, when David tells King Saul that he will go out to fight the giant Goliath, Saul immediately points out that David is only a boy. Saul wasn't aware of the back-story, but David was about to enlighten him.
"But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you."' (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
David was doing some incredible things in the land of obscurity. First of all, David spent many days and nights developing a deep, intimate relationship with God. It was a relationship that defined his life and that ultimately defined him as "a man after God's heart." (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22) It was a relationship that dictated his decisions and kept him from selling out to others or shortcutting God's divine plan for his life.
Secondly, David worked his tail off in the land of obscurity. Although known as a lowly shepherd boy, David had developed into a fierce warrior fighting off lions and bears when they came to attack the flock. I can only imagine the multiple thousands of times that David spent in the pasture with his slingshot, perfecting his shot. For David the land of obscurity was not lost time or wasted time, it was character-building time.
The result. Much like many of the success stories that we hear today, David's success was the inevitable result of a long and arduous back-story played out in the land of obscurity. Goliath was simply a formality. While many would say that the battle against Goliath was won in the Valley of Elah that day, David would probably tell you that the battle was won on the backside of a pasture a few miles away in the town of Bethlehem while he was watching the sheep.
It's easy to get focused on success and our life becomes more about what we're doing rather than who we're becoming. We get focused on success thinking that if we achieve enough then eventually it will bring what we're looking for. Spoiler alert, it doesn't.
Take a lesson from one of the greatest kings and men of God who ever lived. Embrace the land of obscurity. Work your tail off when all the spotlights are off. Become a person of character and integrity. Pursue a deep relationship with God first and foremost. Follow David's example and you may just find out that one day when Goliath does stand before you it will be nothing more than a formality.
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