Monday, July 08, 2013
One of my favorite stories in the bible has to do with the ruler who was leaving his kingdom for an extended period of time. He gathered his three most trusted servants and told them he was dividing his wealth amongst them for safe keeping while he was away. He trusted them and he’d rest easier knowing these three people were keeping watch over his wealth.
A year later the king returned and gathered the three servants before him. The first stepped forward proudly and said “I took what you gave me and I went out and tripled your investment. The second person, equally as proud, said that he’d doubled the king’s investment. The third man stood looking at the ground for a bit. I imagine he was embarrassed or at the very least chagrined. You see, when it was his turn he simply handed the king back his original investment. He thought’ he’d done well by himself. He’d safe guarded and protected something very precious. He’d played not to lose. The king received exactly what he’d left behind from the third servant. I imagine it was an awkward moment for both the servant and the king. We do know that by the end of the day only two servants remained.
I’ve read that story at least 100 times and today as I sat back in my chair, with all due respect, the story was incomplete. I believe there should have been a fourth servant. The fourth servant was the person who returned less than what he was given. Oh, it wasn’t because he’d squandered the king’s money, it was because he had the courage to think and act outside the box. He didn’t follow the tried and true and when he did, well, he failed. He failed more than once, but he didn’t quit trying. He tinkered, he refined and he pushed on harder. While he never quite reached the finish line he got closer with every try and his spirits and his optimism soared. He didn’t check on what the other three servants were doing or how they were doing it, he just knew that what he was doing was best for him, even if it didn’t quite succeed the way he wanted to succeed.
He was down to his last few handfuls of resource when he heard the trumpets blare announcing the king’s return. If he only had one more opportunity he was sure he could succeed. He stood before the king and the king looked down with a quizzical expression. He wasn’t used to losing things.
“I can explain,” he began. With that he launched into a grand vision of how the kingdom would change and prosper and do it more effectively. If he had just a few more resources……
The king stroked his beard and looked at the fourth servant thoughtfully. “How much more do you need?” The servant handed him a slip of paper with the details. The king looked it over and handed it to his scribe “See that he gets what he needs.” Encouraged by the kings support and trust the fourth servant went on to succeed.
You and I are the often the Fourth Servant. We struggle to reach our goals and objectives and fall short. We get discouraged, despondent and feel rejected. Yet, as we lie on the floor we somehow get up and try again, and again until we finally hear that blessed refrain “Well done good and faithful servant.”
I didn’t start running until I was almost 57 years old. I was more than a bit over weight and when I began running everything creaked. One of my daughters told me it looked more like I was shuffling than running. I was determined to run a 5K. I failed more than I succeeded. I had difficulty building my stamina and my muscles ached. I had to keep pushing and pushing. Friends and family told me I should be satisfied with walking. The exercise was almost the same and I wasn’t getting any younger. I had a number of minor, yet frustrating injuries that set me progress back. I thought of quitting at least 10 times daily. A wonderful thing started to happen. I enjoyed running. I looked forward to it and I finally ran a 5K shortly after my 57th birthday. When I saw the finish line ahead of me all the failure, the loss and the setbacks were worth the effort. I did something I wanted to do.
I ran in two more 5k’s until I hurt my back a little over two years ago. On the cusp of 60 I’ve had a long struggle back. For a long time it was an effort to walk without pain but thanks to a defrocked physical therapist and personal trainer who wouldn’t give up on me I am on my way back. I ride my bike, I swim and do water aerobics. I walk and when no one is looking, I’ll take a little jog for maybe a few hundred feet or so. I’m not there yet, but I’ll be there one day. I have no doubt. I’ll run on a treadmill for a bit and my legs and back are getting stronger. Losing all the weight I put on in the interim is my next challenge.
Every morning my king looks at his Fourth Servant with love and asks how much more I need. You and me – we are that Fourth Servant.
Maybe I’ll have a tee shirt made
“Even the best fall down sometimes, even the wrong words seem to rhyme, out of the doubt that fills your mind you finally find you and I collide.” Howie Day