My school experience was not the best. I was not particularly academic, and I didn’t show any real promise with sports. So I was less than enthusiastic about school life, and in fact ended up leaving high school when I was just 16 years old.
But even at that very young age I knew that I had more in me. I just couldn’t find the key to unlock my potential at the time. I can’t really pin down what it was about my school life that held me back. Maybe the school system, maybe a lack of opportunity, or maybe it was just my indifference to the expectations that everyone placed on me. Aside from all this, I still remember thinking to myself when I stepped out of the classroom for the last time at 16, “I will come back to this one day, I know I can do it, I’m just not ready for it now”.
It was to be another 4 years before the dimmer switch began to turn on inside my head, and I was able to return to the classroom to complete my high school studies. It was there I discovered that I actually did have academic ability, and I had been selling myself short for far too long. At that point I really felt like I had won a personal race in my life. It might have only been the 100 meters breaststroke (swimming was the only sport I ever showed any promise in), but it was a start…
It would be another 30 years before I really discovered what I had in me. As I come to the close of 6 years of working and studying for a university degree, I am now able to reflect on just how important it is for each of us to work to find the key that can unlock our potential in life – whatever that potential is.
The World Stage
Over the last week I have sat and watched much of the wonderful sporting feats of our world Olympians. While it excites me to see the amazing results of those who stand on the dais to receive their medals, I also wonder about what it took for them to get there. We rarely hear the real stories of struggle and sacrifice that it takes.
While I am pretty sure that just about every athlete who participates in the Olympics has had their struggle to get to where they are, my mind reflects back to my school years and how the system always (and still does) rewarded those who came 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. At school heroes where built around these numbers. But I am not sure that this is a very healthy way to celebrate it.
Now that I look back on the growth that I have experienced over the last 40 years, I am pretty sure we have it all wrong. I am questioning here the way in which we build the profile of a hero. Do we take it on face value that these ‘winners’ have struggled any more than those who didn’t make it on to the dais? Are we over-inflating their success at the expense of all those others out there who have put in as much, if not more, effort to make it to where they are?
This morning I sat and watched an Olympic semi-final for the men’s 400 meters race. I watched the man they call ‘The Blade Runner” run an Olympic race devoid of two legs. No, I am not talking about the Paralympics; I am talking about the Olympics.
Oscar Pistorius, from South Africa, was born with a condition that required both his legs to be amputated at a very young age. Where did he come in this semi-final?
But there in front of me was a hero. No story needed to be told to explain what this man had achieved in his life to get where he was. No medal was needed to define him as a world hero. Right there in front of me was someone who had found the key that had unlocked his potential. For me this will be one of the highlights of the Olympic games. For me he was the winner. This was the measure of a true hero.
What Manner of Men Ought Ye To Be?
So, you may be wondering what all this has to do with missionary work…
Well, maybe not much. But I am sure that each of us could apply this measure as we consider the lengths we have gone to become the best we could at whatever it is in our life.
As a missionary mum, I can measure myself as a hero as I prepare my children to be the best they can be. I can also measure myself as a hero as I honour the role of my missionary daughter and support her in her efforts.
My daughter, as a missionary, can be measured as a hero as she works daily to dedicate her life to serving the Lord in the best way she knows. It has nothing to do with numbers, but everything to do with the process of her becoming.
In a recent talk by Brad Wilcox (Time Out For Women, Auckland) he reminded me that this life is not about earning heaven, but more about learning heaven. He also stated that, “We are not called human ‘doings’, but we are called human ‘beings’”. Our outward actions are not what the Lord is measuring us by, but he is far more concerned about what we are becoming on the inside.
So when we consider the measure of a hero, lets go beyond what the world would have us consider it. It is not about earning a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Neither is it about earning a gold, silver, or bronze. But it is more about the journey taken and the way in which we have been changed and transformed through it.
The Lord asked this simple question of his disciples, “…what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” 3 Nephi 27:27