In malls from San Antonio to Santa Monica expensive retailers like Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, and Bloomingdale’s are opening new stores. That suggests many customers with money to spend, yet we all know legions of debt-strapped people struggling to keep their noses above water.
Looking at the economy, it is easy to see that some people are better off than others. However, inequality can be found in other areas too. Studying health, for instance, would reveal that some people enjoy healthier lives than others.
Now if we analyzed marriage and family trends, we would discover that some people have more successful marriages and better functioning families than others.
Some people even win what I call ‘the ovarian lottery’ with genes from their parents that bequeath them good looks.
Life would seem extremely unfair if all rich people were good looking, enjoyed great health and had fantastic families. However, you don’t need to be a social scientist to know that this is not the case. In other words, every single human being carries his or her own bag of problems.
There may be people who seem to have it all just as there seem to be a few who are singularly cursed, but in reality all of us have blessings that call for rejoicing and challenges that call for struggle.
The wonder of being a human being is that today’s woes are not tomorrow’s destiny. Likewise riding high today is no guarantee that tomorrow will be all smiles. Life seems like a cosmic version of the children’s board game Chutes and Ladders.
Except that in life things do not depend on a roll of the dice. Most things don’t just happen. You can usually track them to decisions you make, even if you fail to recognize the importance of the moment.
In countless unexpected moments, veiled opportunities that will change your destiny (for better or worse) are hiding in plain sight. It might be an instant when you either choose to step forward and fearlessly assume responsibility or you let the occasion pass. It might be the smile and courtesy you extend to someone in need witnessed by a third party who turns out to be vital to your future.
In a military encounter from Biblical times we see how big results rest on seemingly trivial decisions. In Chapter 7 of the book of Judges, God picks Gideon to rescue Israel from the Midianites. After Gideon raises an army of 32,000 men, God directs him to reduce the number so that all will recognize the forthcoming deliverance as miraculous rather than a natural victory of superior force.
When the army is down to 10,000 men, God provides Gideon with a method of further reducing it. He is directed to take the remaining soldiers down to the water and watch as they drink. While the majority of the thirsty men dip their heads into the water, 300 men use their hands to scoop water up to their mouths. That small but fateful decision draws God’s favor onto them.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that eating is an activity we share with the animal world. For that reason, we constantly need to highlight ways of eating that demonstrate the triumph of spiritual awareness over physical desire. Lowering your head to the food or drink lowers the spiritual to the physical. Raising food or water to your head elevates the physical to the spiritual.
Stressful periods, and certainly wartime, present a particular challenge to humans. Retaining our uniquely Godly qualities demands constant effort. The men chosen to champion God against the Midianites, made the small but important decision to elevate the way they drank; changing their destinies through that one action.
There are other ways to recognize moments of transformative potential in our lives. In my audio CD, The Gathering Storm, on sale this week for only $19.95, I describe actions that Noah took at a time when most men were succumbing to their animal natures. These actions led God to single out Noah – and his children – for survival. Those steps offer direction for us today to elevate our own behavior, protect our own families, and attract God’s favor.