If You Weaken Soon Enough

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Life is difficult: So begins The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck’s landmark bestseller, but I have mixed emotions about Peck’s opening assertion. Who can argue that life is difficult, particularly for people who live without a sense of a transcendent being? But after three-score and few more years on this planet, I have my own corollary to Peck’s contention: Life is great if you weaken soon enough.

Let me explain what I mean by “weakness.” First, who defines a successful life? Does it mean to move up a socio-economic ladder, assume leadership, or gain fame and recognition? In fact, a successful life, mine or yours, is not about climbing for reward and reputation. Success travels the opposite direction—downward—to imitate Christ, the selfless servant, who equips, enables, encourages, and empowers others. Never mind the size of our homes, cars, or bank accounts. A successful person seeks and finds ways to offer Christ’s love to all whom he or she encounters, particularly the least lovable.

What causes some people to live with compassion, to devote themselves to acts of service or to causes . . . while others grasp everything in pursuit of happiness? The answer is that the people of compassion, joy, and fulfillment do not claim rights to their own destinies. Someone else holds the controls and the reason and the purpose for their existence.

When Howard Butt’s father, Howard E. Butt, Sr., died in 1991 at age 95, his former pastor said at his memorial service, “He was a giver before he had anything to give.” More than any other trait, the heart of this man’s enormous Christian character centered on giving. That legacy of caring and sharing lives on in his family and the foundation that bears his name. For 19 years, I was privileged to work alongside this family and to glimpse what it means to find the pearl of great price.

My office at the Foundation had one bare wall, and I asked my artist wife, Gail, to paint a picture to hang on it. I didn’t tell her what to paint; she painted her impression of the face of Christ, and it now hangs in our office at home. Onto her painting of Christ’s face, Gail superimposed the following text by J. Stephens, which sums up the key to a successful life:

As I learn let me share
As I take let me give
As I weep let me care
As I am loved let me live