I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!
While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard.” That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!
It was October, a month in my part of the world when temperatures begin to dip and the leaves of many types of trees turn brilliant colors. The trees dazzled me with their autumn glory. Leaves sported deep reds, bright yellows, soft orange hues, and a beautiful color somewhere between green and yellow. I plopped down in the middle of a grove of trees to soak it all in. Then I lay down in a bed of leaves and gazed up at the blue sky. I was within a natural cathedral that swayed to and fro in the chilly fall wind.
What if you were asked to write your failures on a wall for everyone to see? What if the person doing the asking was your boss? That’s exactly what happens every day at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Jeff Stibel, chief executive officer, came up with the Failure Wall. Stibel encourages his employees to write their failures on the 10-by- 15-foot surface in order to succeed in their work and in life.
Tom, the manager of a car dealership, navigated Jacob around the showroom floor. Pausing at a restored Ford Ranchero pickup truck—one of Tom’s classic vehicles—tears began streaming down Jacob’s face. He then shared the happy memory of working on a farm in his youth. Year after year, no matter the weather, the farmer picked him up in a truck just like that one. Jacob would sit in the back while the farmer and his dog sat up front.
On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”
Tiptoeing around construction projects, I joined my husband as he talked with church members working on renovations to our building. As I waited patiently for them to finish, I noticed a little hole in my husband’s glove just below the knuckle of his finger. He explained that the guard on the high-powered grinder had moved while he was using it. The diamonds on his wedding band took the force of the fast-spinning blade. His finger spared, the only signs of the accident were the reduced size of the diamonds and the small hole in his glove.
King Pyrrhus had tasted victory against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC). But the victory was bittersweet. Pyrrhus lamented, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Why? Even though the Romans had sustained more losses in the battle, the depth of their army was far greater. So Pyrrhus knew that ultimate victory in war with Rome was impossible.
Waiting in a long line to ride a roller coaster, I considered turning back several times. When it was finally my turn to board, the safety bar in the seat I was to occupy wouldn’t release properly. I was afraid of getting stuck, but I hopped in anyway. When the safety bar came down too tightly on my lap, I felt trapped and scared! I considered waving my hand and asking to be excused from the ride. But an attendant announced over the loudspeaker, “You can scream and you can shout, but there’s no way we’ll let you out.”
In his classic book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton writes: “[Children] want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”
It’s obvious,” my brother said. “A southerly wind is a wind that’s blowing toward the South.” I tried to protest. He rushed out and picked up a dictionary, returning with the gleeful smugness of the elder brother. “Read it and weep!” he said. When I read aloud the final phrase of the dictionary entry: “concerning winds, southerly means from a southern direction” he grabbed the book from me. He read the entry again, blinking in disbelief before stalking off dejectedly. He couldn’t accept the truth at first, even after reading it for himself. He had been convinced that he was right.
A few years ago, I drove to the Grand Canyon in the US. As we marveled at the natural beauty before us, we had to strain our eyes to see the little ribbon of water winding its way through the bottom of the massive canyon, one of the tributaries of the Colorado River. It was that tributary, some believe, that helped to patiently carve and make manifest the immense and majestic marvel we now viewed—the likes of which no human has ever been able to create!
After winning the Masters in 1997, a pro golfer decided to change his swing, a decision that baffled golf experts. He wouldn’t win a major tournament for 2 years, but he eventually reestablished himself as the number one golfer in the world. The competitor asserted that unlearning his old swing was crucial, for he needed to get rid of bad habits in order to become a better golfer.
A good friend broke my double bass—a large, expensive, stringed instrument used in orchestras and jazz bands. We were loading up the van before traveling to a gig and he carelessly set the bass down on an incline. The wind was blowing that night and the hollow, wooden instrument toppled, resulting in multiple breaks.
In recent years, researchers have begun exploring what leads to human resilience. What helps someone bounce back after physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma? Psychologist Martin Seligman suggests four main factors: