“Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
Like many young people I headed off to college after high school filled with high ideals and illusions of setting the world on fire. That all went fine until around the middle of my junior year when I suddenly lost my sense of purpose and realized I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My grades slipped, as did my self-image and self-confidence, and I fell into a deep funk. Then one day a letter arrived – actually it was only a brief note – that eventually became my salvation. The letter was from John, a close family friend and father figure. The shock came in that he was not one to write letters. But somehow he had sensed I was off track and needed some correction and encouragement. And while I don’t recall his exact words, the message was essentially this: I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I do know you’re better than this.
For years the Army had a great little jingle used in its recruiting ads. “Be all that you can be,” it said. It’s one of those catchy slogans that carries a powerful message we all need to hear, and hear often, lest we fall short of our potential; when instead, as the Apostle Paul says, we should “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” And that’s exactly what John was trying to get across to me, “you’re better than this; now go be all that you can be.”
It was Soren Kierkegaard who once said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” And after considering that little note from all those years ago it has become more and more clear the impact it has had on my life. The first thing it did was point me in a direction to slowly find my way out of that dark valley I had allowed myself to wander into. But even more so, in the long run it has influenced me in the executive coaching profession I’m in today, to help others be all they can be.
There is one other point about that letter, though – as I have grown to understand my life backwards. I’m now convinced that that message actually came from God, and it was John, a Godly man, who had faithfully delivered it. For I believe it is God’s desire that each of us “Run in such a way as to get the prize,” that we may “be all that we can be.”