I've always done well in school, particularly on tests, i took top honors when graduating from both highschool and college, I did well primarily because I liked the information and I just test well. As I've progressed through schooling, the academic standards I hold myself to have gone from "max percentage A" in high school, to "minimum effort A" in undergrad and finally to "minimum effort respectable pass" for my MBA. But while the effort I put into these classes decreased, I assumed that I could always "flick the switch" should I ever feel the need to truly excel. Last week, however, i tried to "turn on the magic" for a BA518 midterm and it backfired... or something. I seriously could not think straight. I seriously could not even add low numbers in my head without wasting an inordinate amount of time. It was totally inexplicable to me and I suggested to myself that maybe I was sick. Later while doing homework I was literally horrified to find that I could still not think straight, I was dimly afraid that I had contracted some sort of terminal neurological disorder. What the heck, blame it on cabin fever; I'd been stuck in a hospital bed for four months.
I have always been pretty athletic too, it seems to me that if you were to graph my relative athleticism it would have started near the hundredth percentile in early grade-school and slowly fallen to around the 85th percentile in grade 9ish and then slowly trended upward to around the 97th percentile where it stayed fairly constant from my first years in college up to a few months ago when it fell off a cliff into the single digits after I got frostbite and lost some toes.
I've been trying hard to escape it for the last several years but I've always semi-subconsciously believed that doing well athletically and academically somehow contributed to my value as a person.
The last couple years have been a bit of a grind, it's not like they've been bad or horribly difficult or anything, I've just kinda felt like I'm running uphill in the area's that really matter to me, like a flying business i keep trying to get off the ground. Part of my frustration here is rooted in the fact that i was trying to do this stuff alone which is always demotivating. It's not that i didn't want help, I just only wanted help that was 100% on board philosophically and professionally, which is unlikely to occur. Whatever the case, in early March of 2010 I was a lazy, demotivated bum. One that couldn't think straight about BA518 homework, or use his right foot.
After sitting at a table staring blankly at chapter ten of Managerial Finance for about an hour, I mentally collapsed and decided to go contemplate what my problem was on a couch. So i took my stupid head, and hopped my stupid foot from the kitchen where my textbook sat to a couch in the livingroom, where I sat. There I contemplated my inability to walk, take exams, and bounce out of bed in the morning. Slowly, and then suddenly, it dawned on me that this simultaneous removal of two things I'd built myself on combined with a general lack willpower were there to highlight that these things are not a firm foundation to build yourself on, that my physical and cognitive resources are hopelessly inadequate. Not in the sense that I am incapable of doing things in life. But in the sense that my decision to rely on myself to do them was a declaration of independence. Independence from a God I claimed to have surrendered to. Independence from meaning, from the source of all real value.
But I already knew this, I already knew that I was imperfect and had issues and couldn't save myself. But somehow, something I thought I had figured out, I really didn't have figured out. I knew I was inadequate in the big scheme of things but I didn't know I was inadequate in the small things too. Despite my ability to do this and that, despite the fact that I could have continued without this realization and dragged on in a less-than-inspired state til I died a normal death. It would have been a waste, and a weak argument for adequacy.
I've long known that the chain which binds pride to personal accomplishment had to be broken but I'd previously been scarcely able to even mark out the problem in words let alone find a solution. Now, while the problem remains, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Now i see how surrender can break that chain. Now I see how I can really walk minute by minute, second by second, in His will. It's not that God is constantly telling my ears or my brain what to do, it is that He has revealed His character, and because we know His character, we know how He would act in almost any situation, in this practice, I find a peace and motivation that I truly believe is sourced beyond myself. And because it is sourced beyond myself it is not vulnerable to external pressure and circumstance but only to internal apathy. A reliance on something other than yourself requires surrender, it requires trust, but it's an active trust and an active surrender, I default to self-reliance and escaping that requires an effort of the will. It can be scary and exhausting, but it is always deeply good. It brings us to the places that we see people go in movies and novels. To suspense and surrender, to success and failure, to sweetness and sweat. I think this is why we consume the things we do when we want to entertain ourselves, because we were designed to experience them, we long for them. God gives us all talents and abilities but in the end the strength of man fails. In the end, surrender is stronger.