Ron Taylor comes back into my memory from time-to-time. He was a teammate in college out of East Chicago, IN; a 6’5” 230lbs power forward with calves as big as my waist line….oh wait, my waist line when I was a skinny athlete back in the day. Wow…if he had calves as big as my waist line now….never mind……
I remember a December morning in 1981, sitting in the cafeteria eating breakfast trying to cram for a final exam. Ron comes sauntering over with his breakfast, sits down across from me at the table, and says in his slow drawl, “Maaannn Gordon…If you don’t know it by now…you ain’t never gonna know it.” In that moment, I gave him an annoyed smile and hoped he’d get the hint I had no time to converse…because I was not ready to accept his prognosis of my circumstances. Also in that moment, I had no idea those words would continually echo through the decades in my life.
What my teammate was so profoundly pointing out was this: It’s all about preparation.
My memory this morning was triggered by a story I read in the bible where Jesus is talking in a synagogue and the people are all amazed at his teaching because it was accompanied by power. It wasn’t just a really good cerebral message, it came with power. The people had never seen or heard anything like this before. Then, all of a sudden, some dude controlled by an evil spirit starts badgering Jesus and he gives him a cup of shut up and tells the spirit to come out of him. This causes those present to flip out at what they just witnessed.
The part that struck me though was that Jesus didn’t have to go into this long-winded dialogue where he preached and yelled at the demon to come out. He didn’t have to go into this excruciatingly long speech where He debated with the demon about why it needed to listen and obey. Jesus was full of power and authority…and He was prepared for the moment. He was prayed up and ready for anything that came at Him.
Several times in the bible, we read of how Jesus was devoted to being in a quiet place of prayer, having his heart aligned with the Father. He demonstrated the importance of putting ourselves into a position to become prepared for what we will face…especially for those things we aren’t expecting!
As a former coach and athlete, I would equate this with practice time. Practice was never glamorous, but it was the place where we became prepared for game time. If we weren’t committed to the practice time when no one was in the gym watching, our efforts were exposed at game time when the gym was packed with spectators, and the opponent was real.
My former teammates’ wisdom was far more profound than he or I realized in those moments on that December morning. All of my efforts to cram for that final exam would only lead to “memorizing” at best; it would not lead to “learning”. I don’t even remember the class I was studying for to be honest with you, but I’m relatively certain my poor effort led to very little “learning”.
Missing Your Flight
So, what does the missing flight have to do with this story? A metaphor comes to me often in meeting with my probation clients. It has to do with opportunity. I get this mental picture of people traveling through life on a two-dimensional plane (a flat surface, not an airplane). At the same time, also on that same two-dimensional plane travels future opportunities. Unless those opportunities are traveling on a parallel course, our path and the path of the opportunities will intersect at some point in time. We probably don’t even see most of the opportunities that will cross our path, and in fact, many of those future opportunities may not even be a thought in our mind at this present time.
The question is, will we prepare for those opportunities out ahead of us that we aren’t even aware of? Will we do today everything in our ability to prepare our self so we are in the right place at the right time when that opportunity is ripe to be picked. Okay, now I’m mixing metaphors because I’ve just added fruit trees to this linear story.
Part of my linear-math-graph story is picturing the scenario of getting to the right place, but due to poor choices made in the preparation process, we arrive late. Maybe the extent of the poor choice is simply procrastination, but whatever the reason, we’re standing in the right place….only it’s the wrong time. It could be kind of like that sick feeling a person gets when they arrive at the correct airport gate only to see all passengers have boarded (except for you) and the plane is just outside that window slowly backing away. It’s leaving for a destination you desired to go…but you’re not on it.
I become so frustrated with scenarios where a probation client has put off getting his court ordered classes done, and now the Barbie-dream job comes along and he wants to take it…but it would interfere with his completion of court requirements so I can’t let him go. This scenario has played out frequently with the oilfield work going on a county to the east of us.
As I begin to wrap this up, I am reminded this principle is not only about missing positive opportunities, it’s also about avoiding potential crises in our life; avoiding that medical exam instead of scheduling it, not preparing for lean times financially, a family crisis that requires us to be in a state of mind to actually be effective in getting the family through it, etc.
As I think about the idea of changing careers and perhaps doing something that could be incredibly exciting and financially rewarding…I think of Ron Taylor once again…”Maaannn Gordon, if you haven’t pulled the trigger by now, you ain’t never gonna pull the trigger.”
As I think about future health issues I could face down the road, I hear Ron again…”Maaannn Gordon, if you haven’t lost weight by now, you ain’t never gonna lose it.”
As I think about my desire to step back into marriage ministry and use gifts of teaching, I hear Ron saying, “Maaannn Gordon, if you haven’t stepped up by now, you ain’t never gonna step up.”
As I think about wanting to be a slumlord and purchase investment property for our future, I hear that guy still mouthing off saying, “Maaannn Gordon, if you haven’t put yourself into position to do this by now, you ain’t never gonna do it.”
Well…time to shut up Ron…and go sit at another table.