“I press on toward the goal to win the prize . . .” Philippians 3:14
When I entered my freshman year of high school I had a dream. That dream was to earn, as a freshman, a varsity letter jacket in a sport, any sport, didn’t matter which one. For a little shrimp of guy like me with only modest athletic ability it was a tall order, or what Jim Collins refers to in his book Good to Great as a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. To compound the challenge I didn’t play football, freshmen were relegated to the junior varsity basketball squad, and our school did not have a baseball team at the time, which left only one sport – track, and I wasn’t very fast. I did have, though, enough endurance to run long distance races, which was my only hope. But despite my hard work and diligent training I still fell short, never so much as even placing in a single race. So, by the end of my freshman year my big dream became a bust, and I was heartbroken.
Then one day during summer break the doorbell rang. I answered the door and there to my surprise stood Coach Higdon, our school’s Athletic Director, holding a package. “What’s this?” I asked as he presented it to me. “It’s your letter jacket,” he replied. “But, but I didn’t . . .” I stammered. “It’s for golf,” he smiled before I could finish my sentence. Golf? I had forgotten all about that, didn’t know anyone paid attention to golf or even considered it a varsity sport. “You guys won the district championship in golf, remember? That earned you a letter jacket.” I was speechless! But it was true, we were the first golf team our school ever had and by some miraculous stroke of fate, for which my golf teammates deserve most of the credit, we had won the district championship – and my dream, my BHAG, had come true after all. After the coach left I carried my new letter jacket into my room where, all alone, I buried my face in it and wept.
Dreams and BHAGs are sometimes fulfilled in unexpected ways. As Julia Cameron explains in her book The Artist’s Way, “We shake the apple tree, but sometimes the universe delivers oranges.” More plain spoken about the shaking of the apple tree, the Apostle Paul simply says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize.” But the prize is sometimes a surprise, a bushel of oranges instead of apples, and often a more meaningful award than we ever dreamed, like my high school letter jacket. Even more reason to keep pressing on; for God’s BHAG’s are always bigger and more expansive than our own.
Modest athletic ability, yes. But Heart and courage, too. Those matter more, I think.