Staying in the Arena
The first time I read the quote, I was a teenager on one of our family vacations. The quote was written in a biography about the life of Winston Churchill. However, it was Theodore Roosevelt who actually spoke the words in a 1910 speech.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”I remember writing this quote in my journal at the time and thinking that I would never be able to live in the arena. At a young age, I believed my insecurity and fear of other people would keep me from stepping out in the arena. But, God...
In God's way, He placed me in situation after situation where I would be required to step into the arena, often getting a whiff of triumph, but more often smelling the foul odor of spoiled effort, never quite feeling like the gifts He had given me were being used well. More often feeling like, if I had been a bit more vulnerable, putting myself completely out there, maybe the results would have been different.
The small wins and large failures served a great purpose. Each helped to firmly set my feet on God's power at work within the personality and gifts He had placed in me. As I learned more about His love, care and expectations, I began to get in the arena more often... comfortable that the results were really His anyway.
The current arena where I fight is in a remote area of Honduras. However, instead of one big fight, it is the daily series of wins and losses done with great devotion that bring a sense of triumph, even when the defeats loom large. And God, in His sweet way, allows me to see small victories in the midst of heartbreaking defeat.
The voice of the critic and the heart of one who delights when we stumble is God's business. I am incapable of completely explaining the calling or even of trying to bring peace anymore. My trust is in the Lord's ability to do just that while I put on His armor and step back into the fray to do today's work.
In some way, I pray this encourages you to do the hard thing God asks of you, even when it looks futile and even crazy. Maybe instead of craziness, it is really love. And, if by chance it is love, you will experience life in a way you never have before.