We’ve been carrying on with our series on LIFESHAPES and yesterday seemed to connect with a lot of people! That’s evidenced by the many cards we had filled in of people saying they want to commit to following Jesus – many of whom also signed up to be baptised and/or join our church. It was just fantastic this morning to sit and read through hundreds of cards, each one a life, each one a story of a journey with God.
If you want to listen to the teaching about the Square in detail it’ll be online soon to download.
Judging though from the reactions of people’s faces – what resonated a great deal was when I talked about the stage in the Square described as ‘D2.’ It’s part of the learning process you could described as ‘disorientation.’
This is the most important stage in the development or discipleship process. Make or break stuff. It’s where a lot of followers stop following. It’s all about, what do you do when it gets hard?
I read from Jim Collins’ amazing book; Good to Great – about what he terms ‘The Stockdale Paradox.’
He wrote :
The name refers to Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Tortured over 20 times during his eight-year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again.
Collins was intrigued so much by the man – he arranged an interview:
I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say,‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
…He turned to me and said, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” (my emphasis)
To this day, I carry a mental image of Stockdale admonishing the optimists: “We’re not getting out by Christmas; deal with it!”
Sometimes, life is very hard – very tough and uncertain. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off for economic reasons! And it isn’t getting better any time soon. What do you do on days like that?
Jesus coached his followers, over and over – ‘Do not be afraid.’ Why? Because we get scared!
How come Stockdale got through the unimaginable horror – and took so many others through it too?
“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said, when I asked him. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Stockdale reunited with family
We don’t avoid the brutal facts. Sometimes the picture of your life is that it’s bad, and it may get a lot worse! We’re not escapist – how can we be when we follow a Man who died on a blood stained cross on a rubbish dump?
But we don’t let each other lose faith in the end of the story. Or the One who’s writing it…