In Get Back in the Game I related a story about breaking my arm during Taekwondo training — I did something I shouldn’t have, and got injured because of it. I managed to finish the session, not discovering the extent of the injury until the next morning, when a X-Ray revealed a bone not exactly where it should be.
When it occurred, the pain was severe, but not intolerable. Pausing for a moment to collect my thoughts, I returned to training. Yet in those few moments, I faced the following choices:
- Go down. Give in. Quit.
- Keep going in spite of the pain.
I tend to be stubborn, so I chose option 2 (not knowing how bad the injury really was) — you can call that stiff-necked and stubborn.
Do you know where the first instance of stiff-necked occurs in the Bible? Exodus 32, with Moses on the mountain and the people complaining to Aaron they don’t know where Moses is. In Moses’ absence they conjure up the bright idea of building a golden calf.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people. (Exodus 32:7–9)
That episode didn’t turn out very well — from that and other events we conclude stubbornness is bad.
Stubbornness is Good … Sometimes
Don’t make the mistake stubbornness is always wrong. Sure, many times it is, but we do have examples where being stubborn was actually a good thing.
Recall Daniel chapter 1, as Daniel is carried off into captivity. He’s just a teenager at the time, but the first chapter reveals Daniel “purposed in his heart not to defile himself.”
That’s stubborn and stiff-necked, but in a good way, as he prepared himself for what lay ahead — he understood life would be different from what he previously knew.
A myth exists for unprepared people that when crises comes, they’ll rise to the occasion. Few things are further from the truth (well, maybe “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you”).
You’ll rarely rise to the occasion, you’ll sink to whatever level of training and forethought you’ve had before; you’ve seen ill-prepared people panic during crisis, have you not?
For Taekwondo, I mentally picture everything which might happen — every kick is a knockout, every evasive action works perfectly, every counter technique to the opponent’s succeeds (of course, sometimes the mind is willing, but the body is weak, but that’s the reason for physical training — to get those two as close together as possible).
So what about the broken arm? The decision was already made — no quitting. When the crisis arrived, the only question became: how to overcome this obstacle? Stubbornness and a refusal to give in.
One bright note to the broken arm: it’s no longer a question of what happens if I’m injured in a crisis. Since I’ve already been down that road, if something similar ever occurs, it’s more like “oh yeah, I’ve been in this position before, and I know I can make it.” As my father once said about his experience in the military: it’s a million-dollar experience I wouldn’t give a nickel to go through again.
Obvious note: I’m not a doctor, and nothing here is meant as medical advice. Every person must consider their own situation and respond in their own manner. What works for me may not for you, and what works for you may not for me. God gave you a brain and the ability to reason. Use it.
You Don’t Plan to Fail, You Fail to Plan
Like Daniel, you must pre-decide how you’ll handle events. Where is the line you won’t cross? What doctrine will you never compromise on? They say every person has their price (not just in money) — do you? Have you thought about it?
- When heresy comes into your church, have you thought about how to counter it?
- When crisis comes to your family, have you considered action plans?
- When your marriage is in trouble, do you think about quitting?
Each person differs, but you must figure out your action plan—just like Daniel did—before the crisis comes, because people generally don’t rise to the occasion, they sink to whatever preparedness came before.
A quote attributed to many golfers says “The more I practice, the luckier I get” — be prepared before you need it.
… because it’s 2:59 AM.
UPDATE: I wrote this post just hours before the nutjob in Colorado shot up a midnight viewing of the new Batman movie, but the lesson remains critical.
If you’re in a movie theater, do you know where the exits are? A primary and a backup in case the primary is blocked? Men, are you ready to protect your family in event of crisis? Do you know some basic self-defense? Do you carry a good multi-tool in case a disaster like an earthquake requires you to cut, pry, or saw your family’s way to safety? And many more issues you must consider … if you want to be prepared.
Sure, it’s a one-in-a-million chance, but it does happen (they’re called “Black Swan Events”).
It doesn’t matter if it’s heresy coming into your church from strange programs abandoning the Bible, or natural disasters, or crazies in movie theaters. If you haven’t prepared before the event occurs, you won’t be in good condition to make it through.
That’s the real reality many people refuse to face — those living in FantasyLand versus those who know it’s 2:59AM.