Last month I mused about the incredible
influence of certain conversations and interactions which seem
to burst into our lives at just the right moment—coincidence or providence? As I continue to
ponder this idea, I am struck first, by how challenging these seemingly ‘random’ meetings
can be, and second and more importantly, by the fact that if we
lean into the challenge and do not give into isolation rooted in
fear, such interactions often can have the power to change our
I have had a number of such encounters throughout
my life, including one in my 20s when I was speaking at a conference
at the University of Maryland at College Park. As I was speaking,
one 'gentleman' kept grilling me with inappropriate and off the
wall questions. It became so crazy that I thought that I needed
to get to know him. I was of course reluctant at first, but soon
realized that this homeless fellow was utterly brilliant and was
brought into my life to add new dimensions to who I am. For decades
now, we have been friends. He is a little ‘out there’, but
in a brilliant sort of way. He spends every Thanksgiving and Christmas
with us. It makes such occasions anything but boring. I now can
say that I am a better deeper person for knowing the man we call ‘HP’.
have all sensed what Adam Smith applied to the markets, as the "invisible hand'. I see this hand in a larger way, a path
of light and meaning available to us if we chose to heed and follow.
If we pay attention, we see things that others might miss. If we
observe, it does seem that there is a bigger plan unfolding. A
plan that is not random, but rather purposeful and intentional.
Yet often, our fears cause us to end a story before its time. We
end things when they get messy. We end things when they get uncomfortable.
It’s during these moments that I challenge you to take the
leap….and finish the story.
What is ‘the leap’? I am speaking to the notion of
taking a 'leap of faith'. Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish
theologian and philosopher likened the leap of faith to a trapeze
artist performing a high wire act. In order to move forward, the
trapeze artist must 'let go' of the trapeze for a short period
of time. He or she has to loosen the grasp on the comfortable in
order to reach out to the possibility at hand. Sound familiar?
The only way to move forward in our journey is to let go...terrifying
at times yet profoundly rewarding once accomplished.
I have always
found that stories illustrate and underscore such encounters that
contain a larger purpose. Stories where a barrier is presented
and there is a choice: embrace the new reality or draw back in
fear. The story of Kurt Warner, quarterback for the NFL Arizona
Cardinals, illustrates this truth for me. Warner was not a highly
recruited pro athlete. In fact, Warner at age 22 was working in
a grocery store as a 'bagger'. This was hardly the next step following
college that would lead one to win a Super Bowl, to be named the
NFL's Most Valuable Player twice and the Super Bowl XXXVI's Most
Valuable Player. His story goes something like this.
In a supermarket,
the stock boy Kurtis, was busily working when a voice over the
loud speaker asked for a carry out at register 4. Kurtis was almost
finished and wanted to get some fresh air, so decided to answer
the call. As he approached the check-out stand, the smile of a
beautiful woman four years his senior caught his eye, and at that
moment he fell in love.
Later that day after his shift, he waited
to punch the time clock in order to discover her name. She entered
the break room, smiled, punched her card and left. He looked at
The next day, he waited outside for her and offered her a ride
home. He appeared harmless enough so she accepted. When dropping
her off he asked if he might see her again outside of work. She
simply said it wasn't possible.
He continued to pursue her. She later
explained that she had two children and couldn't afford a babysitter,
see him outside of work. Warner offered to pay for the sitter.
She reluctantly accepted his offer for a Saturday evening date.
Saturday came around and Warner arrived at her door. Brenda quickly
told him that she was unable to go with him since the sitter had
cancelled. Not to be denied, Warner enthusiastically offered to
take the kids along.
To return to my thesis, a moment was coming for
Warner. Does he run, duck and let go of the trapeze? Or does he
take the leap…and
grasp the opportunity for deeper growth when confronted with a
new reality…an uncomfortable reality.
Brenda tried to explain
that taking the children was simply not an option. Warner pushed
back. Finally Brenda relented and brought him inside to meet them.
The older daughter Jessie was as cute as imagined. Then Zachary
appeared in his wheelchair. He was born a paraplegic with Down
Syndrome. Decision time: run or stay?
With little hesitation, Kurtis
encouraged the children to come along on the date. Brenda was amazed.
Most men would run away from a woman with two kids, especially
one with such severe disabilities. Her first husband and father
of her children had chosen that option. Yet Kurtis was not ordinary...he
had a different mindset, the same mindset that took a grocery bagger
to the Super Bowl.
All four went to dinner and the movies that Saturday
night. When her son needed anything, Kurtis would take care of
it. When he needed the restroom, he picked Zachary out of the wheelchair
and carried him there and back. It didn’t take the family
long to realize he was incredibly special. A year later, Brenda
and Kurtis were married. Kurtis adopted Jessie and Zachary and
then he and Brenda had five more.
This is an unusual and powerful
story. Why do our hearts warm to such a tale? I think it’s
because we all want to be a part of this kind of story and be this
kind of person. We all want to lean into our challenges and not
steal away to our isolation rooted in fear.
Is there a challenge
in your life where you need to be present and step up? I have several.
long to be like Warner.
We all have the opportunity to be great
in this way...but will I...will we step up?
Not a sermon just a