BRADY COLUMN: That different spirit
Not long ago I read about a man who audited a doctoral seminar on leadership. One day the professor asked each of the 16 participants in his class to tell one thing at which they excelled. The man said he dreaded questions like that because he still was not sure of what he did best. And besides, it sounded to him like bragging. But when his time came all he could think to say was this, “I am best at not quitting,”
At first, that answer sounds a little strange, but when you consider all the obstacles we face in life, the power to persist is remarkable. Without question, one of my favorite Old Testament characters is Caleb. The reason is that Caleb had a different spirit. He excelled at not quitting. God said that Caleb had a different spirit.
But I’m getting ahead of the story. Under God’s direction, Moses sent 12 leaders of Israel to spy out the Promised Land.
What kind of land is it? Is the soil fertile or poor? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? And are the people who live there strong or weak? At the end of the 40 days, these spies returned to give their report, Ten of the 12 reported that capturing the Promises Land was a total impossibility, just couldn’t be done.
However, Caleb, one of the two spies remaining, gives the opposite report.
He says, “Let us go up at once and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). That different spirit is truly an awesome thing to behold. As the late Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick tbeminded us, “It is not so much what life brings to us in her hand, as what we bring to life in our spirits that makes the difference between people.” For the rest of this column, I want us to look at some of the attitudes or spirits that we bring to life, with the hope that all of us will have the Caleb spirit-that different spirit.
There is the “can’t do” spirit. Too many people feel this way too much of the time. So where does this can’t do attitude come from? In one word, the answer is fear. To be sure, I’m not talking about healthy fear, and there are some of those. But I am talking about those paralyzing fears that stifle us and keep us from moving forward in life. Instead of fearing God, we fear humankind. Instead of being motivated by the possibility, we are intimidated by the impossibility. Instead of attempting great things for God, we are afraid of the attempt. And instead of living life with creative risk, we often choose to be safe.
There is the “critical of” spirit. A mother and her adult daughter were shopping one day, trying to make the most of a big weekend sale just prior to Christmas. As they went from store to store in the mall, the older woman complained about everything, the crowds, the poor quality of the merchandise, the prices, and her sore feet.
After the mother experienced a particularly difficult interaction with a clerk in one department store, she turned to her daughter and said, “I’m never going back to that store again. Did you see that dirty look she gave me?”
The daughter answered, “She didn’t give it to you, mom. You had it when you went in.” Basically, a critical of spirit comes from three undernourished areas of life-a sense of inferiority, a lack of love in the heart and a limited vision.