Having an opinion, a self-perceived great idea, or a project that you are passionate about is like shooting a rocket into the sky. Sometimes, people love it, they are impressed, your opinion/idea/project is affirmed, and you bask in the glow of glory. However, sometimes, people do not like it. They attempt to shoot it down, and, if they are successful, you bask in the glittering glow of falling debris. All of which is not a problem . . . unless you are on your rocket.
Certainly, riding rockets is appealing. It was quite impressive when – on May 5, 1961 – Alan Shepard climbed on top of a Redstone rocket and strapped himself into the Freedom 7 spacecraft and became the first American to successfully travel into space.
It was ambitious and exciting when President John F. Kennedy announced a few weeks later – on May 25, 1961 – that the United States intended to strap more people onto rockets and successfully land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade.
And, it was incredulous when Neil Armstrong – on July 20, 1969 – became the first man to walk on the moon, and return safely to earth as planned.
However, riding rockets has generally been the domain of the few and the brave, as it should be.
Once, when God had given King David rest from all his enemies, David had what he thought was a great idea – he wanted to build a temple for the Lord. He said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:1-2). However, God shot David’s idea down and, instead, gave that honor to his son, Solomon.
Instead of taking it personally, pouting, getting angry, or feeling necessarily hurt, David responded with humility, a profound sense of gratitude, and a prayerful spirit of worship. He also did all he could to help prepare for his son’s success in the endeavor. By not riding his rocket, he avoided personal devastation when it was shot down.
When the Apostle Paul – with good intent and a passionate desire to preach the Gospel in Asia – was prevented from doing so by the Holy Spirit, he responded by answering the call to go somewhere else (Acts 16:6-10). When the “Spirit of Jesus” shot down his rocket, since he wasn’t on it, he was free to continue his passionate journey unfazed.
When Abraham gallantly sought to save the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction decreed upon them for their wickedness by bargaining with the Lord for their lives, he did not ride his own rocket. After Abraham and the Lord agreed on the terms of avoiding destruction altogether if the Lord could find at least ten righteous people in the entire the city of Sodom, they parted ways. The next day, when Abraham returned to the place of their meeting and saw the dense smoke of destruction rising from the plain, he did not take it personally. In fact, the Scripture notes that “Abraham moved on from there.” (Genesis 18:16 – 20:1)
What about you? When someone shoots down your rocket, are you able to stand aside and watch the glittering explosion and sparkling fallout of debris and join others in saying, “Wow! That was spectacular!” – and then move on?
Our challenge is that we like our ideas, our passions, and our projects. We integrate our sense of self into what we write, say, sing, play, build, produce, raise and nurture. We pour ourselves into something, and are damaged when others take potshots at it, or worse, destroy it.
There is a better way. Get off your rocket. Fire off as many as you want, but don’t take it personally when others shoot them down. Even when people attempt to make it personal – and they will – seek to avoid the trap of taking things personally and feeling wounded.
Also, pay attention. Sometimes, other people are right, and God is always right. Maybe it was a bad opinion, idea, passion, project, or belief. Maybe something needs tweaking. Maybe it is not the right time. Maybe you are flat out wrong. Maybe you are right, but standing with the wrong crowd.
And maybe – like multitudes throughout history who have worked hard and paid attention to both their failures and successes with a goal of continual improvement – you can learn something while observing from your well-grounded position, and no matter what happens, move on.
Published in Meat and Potatoes for the Soul, Copyright © 2013 by K. Lynn Lewis.