My Third Career: A Catapult, Not a Carrier
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
–Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking
I had an “Aha” moment recently, a serendipity … you might call it a blinding flash of the obvious. Something that was there all along but hidden in plain sight.
But first some history: My primary concern for twenty-seven years, even in my money making season, had been to discover my calling and to get busy doing it. The Bible says that each of us has a life task “prepared beforehand for us to walk in” (St Paul in Ephesians 2:10). King David, in my favorite Psalm, Psalms 139, declares:
“For you have formed my inward parts;
You have covered me in my mother's womb …
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are your works,
And that my soul knows very well ….
When I was made in secret … your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed.
And in your book, they all were written
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”
Each one of us has a life task coded into what I call our spiritual DNA. We don't have to acknowledge that code because God has granted us free will. It's up to us. The succinct way Shakespeare put it in Hamlet is. “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” The other big question is “how to?” For me it was never a question of whether or what to do, but “how to?”
An answer came to me in five unplanned encounters, all during one momentous week. In each case, I had long ago made a small investment of time or money in someone's life that provided a stepping stone for them to proceed with a task God had uniquely assigned them. Every one of these people was already fully equipped. All they needed was a shove. What I like to say is, “The fruit of my work grows up on other people's trees.” In whatever form it took, the results were because of encouragement.
Someone needed to say, “You can do that,” and to ask, “How can I help you?” This is what my mentor, Peter Drucker, did for me.
My work in the Halftime Institute has convinced me that many, if not most serious believers, at some level, understand what their calling is, but that understanding may be buried under years of busyness and distraction. Yet, that suppressed sense of calling stays with them for years, leaving church each Sunday it follows them like an accusing shadow.
In explaining the Parable of the Sower Jesus described our diversions in life as “the cares and concerns of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.” The pressures to keep pushing for success are unrelenting and many- money, recognition, the best table in a five-star restaurant. People want their lives to count, but they lack two things. First of all, they lack that clarity about their calling which leads to courage and commitment. But they also need encouragement – someone to say, “You can do that. Let's talk about it until it becomes clear.”
Here are a few things I've learned in my third career as an “Encourager”:
Encouragement is a mix of:
Permission to be the person God designed you to be.
Acknowledgement – A pat on the back that says, “You did it! Great work!”
Applause – Recognition in small but effective doses from people who actually care about you and genuinely understand the good work you've accomplished.
Accountability – A critical element in converting “Good Intentions” to “Results and Performance.”
Encouragement releases positive energy, lifts spirits, and makes the challenging and “impossible” seem possible. Usually, a little encouragement, delivered one-on-one and possibly invisible to the outside world, goes a long way. Someone once told me, “At this stage of your life, it's your job to release and direct energy not to supply it.”
A good way to sum this up is what I learned from my good friend, Admiral Ed Allen, who was captain of one of the U.S. Navy's twelve carriers. He once expressed my role in this way, “The catapult is what makes United States Navy work. It is virtually invisible but it gets 60,000 pounds that is a fully loaded F-16 off the deck in about 200 yards. You are not the carrier. You are not the plane. You are not the pilot. You are the catapult that gets the plane airborne.”
Admiral Allen gave me a dramatic visual image that brings to mind the goals of all the ministries I'm involved in. It's what Leadership Network does for large church leaders, Halftime does for high capacity midlife significance entrepreneurs, and what The Drucker Institute does for Social Sector leaders. They are all catapults.
My call, perhaps for the rest of my life, is to be the catapult, not the carrier. We can all do this! The Bible sets out a set of specific good works which God wants us to live out. As St. Paul tells us in Ephesians, “Therefore – I beg you to be humble and gentle – to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
This article is excerpted from Radix magazine (37:1). To subscribe (for four issues) send a check to $12 to:
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Radix has been a source of wisdom and encouragement for most of my adult life.