The last thing you expect
“The last thing you expect or want in life is often the first thing to take you on your journey to life.” – Timothy Shriver
Not long before he died, John Lennon wrote a song that popularized (although it did not originate) a much-quoted truth: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” I know I’m far from alone in being able to say unequivocally that in my youth I never imagined what the next forty years of my life would be like. I hope I also have lots of company in feeling no real doubts about where I’ve ended up.
I’m reminded of yet a third quote, from one of my favorite movies, Chariots of Fire. It’s the (mostly) true story of Eric Liddell, who refused to compete in the Olympic race that would require him to run on Sunday, a day he held sacred. In the film, despite pressure from friends, coaches and even the Prince of Wales, Liddell remains steadfast to his principles even when it means sacrificing the opportunity of a lifetime.
Near the end of the story Eric is in the stands watching the final of the 100 metres – the one he was supposed to run in. His friend asks: “Any regrets, Eric – that you’re not down there with them?” Eric nods and replies: “Regrets, yes – no doubts though!”
If you’ve seen the film, you know that Eric Liddell went on to run in a different event for which he had not trained, and he won the gold. He also set a new world record; an astounding feat, under the circumstances. But today he is most remembered for holding firm to his beliefs. The loss of one dream became the now-legendary fulfillment of another.
Sometimes we choose our calling, but often, our calling chooses us, and we may fight it, thinking we have better ideas. But some of the greatest achievements have come from people who started out with other plans. Matt has a page-a-day history calendar with an interesting tale each day, usually about lesser-known aspects of famous people, places or events. I was fascinated to read just recently that General Motors was begun by a man who didn’t like cars. William Durant was a high-school dropout who found success manufacturing horse-drawn carriages, but it was his applications of lessons learned there to a different pursuit that would change history.
It’s a familiar pattern. Babe Ruth was a record-setting pitcher long before he left full time pitching at the age of 22 and became the legendary home run king. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star newspaper for not being creative enough. Fred Rogers was an ordained minister who went into television programming because he didn’t like television, and decided to try making a difference there.
It’s a good thing to have plans, hopes and dreams. It’s also a good thing to be open to the possibility that your destiny may be something you never wanted or expected…and it may take you to a future that’s beyond anything you can now imagine. I wish you few regrets in life, but whether or not there are regrets, I pray you will one day look back and feel no doubts that you did what you were called to do.