Greatness comes from within. Meaningful actions, allow others to witness it.
“The enemy of good is great” is how Jim Collins opens one of my favorite books entitled From Good to Great. All throughout that book he demonstrates how we as people settling for what’s good, or considered all right has too often become the norm. In fact, I’d argue that there’s more greatness available, because so many have decided that being just a little bit better than the man or woman next to them will suffice. So many people do not tap into their potential for a variety of reasons by which we must overcome. Well the concepts that surround how to define, how to uncover, how to live greatness are not just reserved to Collins in his book. In a few events I’ve been paying close attention to, I was reminded that becoming great seems to follow a very unique formula and I wanted to try and unpack what’s been running through the waves of my mind for a few weeks now.
It is no secret that I’m a man of faith, and I enjoy the peace and privilege that my faith has brought me thus far in my life. I often use the Bible as a reference for my blogs because let’s be honest there’s some pretty good material in there whether you believe in God/Christ or not. The writers of that text were certainly divinely inspired even though the context of the material can be sometimes construed. (Another topic, another blog). As it relates to greatness, God uses all kinds of people throughout the Bible to prove points, prove His power, solidify his sovereignty, and most importantly demonstrate His Love. But what many people don’t realize is other than Jesus, He doesn’t use ‘perfect’ or likely people to get these things accomplished. My pastor shared a quote with me many years ago when I first moved to Houston, “God doesn’t call the perfect, He perfects… the called.” – MDC. That by far has resonated so powerfully with me, because for one it’s true, and two… I’m not perfect. So it reassured me that I could somehow still be used even though I’m a pretty messed up guy. All of us have our flaws, but I’ve been amazed at how one small thing about us, or one decision made by us can be used to literally redirect and retransform how our lives are shaped up. I keep hold of my faith, because all the examples of the ‘giants’ in the text are all people that were by all accounts just average, and by some orchestrating became leaders, kings, rules, disciples by a means that could only be by a higher power.
First I noticed that what happens first in a make your name great situation is (drum roll please) …. God tells us. As simple as that. Starting with Abram, and further examples with Simon, Joseph, Daniel, Saul and many more He tells or shows them that He will make their names greats for many a generation. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Sure. However, God is not saying I’m going to make you great doing what you already do or are doing. I have another plan lined up that’s beyond anything that you could ever imagine. Now this is where things get ominous. In the examples of above I gave their ‘former’ names before God called them to a higher place. We know that God changes the names of these giants to align with what He has planned for them. He shifts what they will be called by men and women to prophecy what He has called them to do. Abram to Abraham, and Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. He had to change their identify before He could use them fully.
Next, I noticed, that God ALWAYS asks or forces us out of our comfortable situation. Saul a powerful king, Daniel a pretty savvy Shepherd’s boy, Simon a known fisherman. He tells us in order for me to make your name great, you will have to sacrifice some of the vices or pleasures of your current situation. Just like these giants, we have to trust God that His ways are indeed higher than ours. And that our greatness just may not be in the very things we went to school for, the very things we are known or even not known for, or even in wrongful persecution. What is consistent in how God takes us from Good to Great is He takes us from a situation and sets us on an unimaginable path. These paths most of the time make no sense. They are rough and misleading. They cause us to be persecuted by those we have always known and love, they cause us to be talked about by those we’ve never met. They sometimes cause us to be thrown in prison like Martin or Malcolm, or Mandela or Joseph, or even most recently… Kalief Browder. They may also cause us to lose our job and be black balled, you know like Colin Kaepernick. After changing our names, and asking us to leave our day jobs, God has the audacity to grab us by the collar and allow us to be dragged through some extremely hateful, uncomfortable, and quite frankly scary circumstances. Yep that’s Him. In fact, the more I study the stories of Great people, they always seem to follow this unique path. You have this idea of what you THINK your life will be, God steps in tells you something unimaginable, changes your identity, and many times removes you from what you THOUGHT might be your claim to fame.
I was inspired to write this after two major events occurred in the past weeks. I watched the full documentary of Kalief Browder, and Kaepernick was named GQ’s citizen of the year. Now starting off with Kap, I wrote an article earlier in the year stating why I wouldn’t boycott the NFL, although I’ve truly enjoyed watching the league fall apart as they have refused to deal with the issues at hand. I later made a statement on how I believed that Kaepernick would do more good as an ex-NFL player than he ever would coming back out of retirement. I do indeed know that this man LOVES the game of Football, and it gave him the very platform that he has today. But, now Kaepernick is a globally recognizable household name. For being brave enough to risk his own career, because the cause was bigger than the sport that he loved and played all his life. Reminds me of Simon, now called Peter. Simon was KNOWN for his skill in his career as a fisherman. He probably even told people that he’d be in the Super Bowl of fishermen if there ever was one. However, even He was approached with an opportunity that said I’m changing your name to Peter, (Petros) rock. And upon you I’m going to build my entire church. WHEW… Colin, if you ever read this, I believe that same opportunity has been put on your table. Football is a cool sport, and there’s NO doubt that you are skilled, and no doubt you may have been a hall of fame great. However, when you mentioned it’s bigger than football you were speaking your own prophecy into fruition. And because you were brave enough to do that, you brought about a national conversation about not only Police Brutality, but Racism in a larger spectrum, and even uncovered some hidden racist within your own professional league. This sir took bravery. Being called everything but a child of God, and because of that your name is on the lips of those who may have never known your football ability, but will know you because of your sacrifice of it to help improve the lives of the least of these.
In another story with Kalief Browder, it’s a little more disheartening as there’s two parts to his story that both inspire and disappoint me. For those that don’t know the story of Kalief Browder, I’d encourage you to go watch the short series on Netflix before continuing with this blog. (Seeing that it’s almost the end you probably won’t do it anyway).
Let me make it short: Browder was wrongfully accused of stealing a backpack from a man in his neighborhood. He was thrown into prison on Riker’s island and not given a trial for a couple of years. He refused to take a guilty plea as he knew he was innocent (and he was for the record). During his time there, he was subject to the violence being jumped many times, beat up by corrections officers, and put into solitary confinement. And not just put in there for a few days, but a couple years. With a combined 1,111 days in prison, He eventually was exonerated when the state was unable to produce the witness who had by this time went back to Mexico. But what happens when a 16 year old boy that’s been in solitary confinement is brought back into the world? Well he can’t function. Family members mentioned they didn’t even recognize him as he came home, not in physical appearance but in his personality and spirit. That many days of no human contact had crushed him mentally in ways that are synonymous with a caged animal. Of course, his family led a law suit against the state. During this time Browder was attacked and his face sliced, because those in the area thought he now had money when he in fact didn’t. Shortly after, he woke up one morning spoke to all those in his family and then hung himself outside his bedroom window. And the story ended with the lawsuit never being settled, as his mother died later from a heart attack.
Now I use this man as an example of good to great, because who knew what Kalief may have ever become. But I truly believe he had to have had a strong relationship with God to get through each and every day in that jail being innocent. I mentioned earlier Nelson and Malcolm and Martin and Joseph all characters from decades on earth that were jailed because of false charges brought up against them BUT it was being strong in those times of wrongful accusations that brought attention to a wider issue. I’m pretty sure Kalief did not grow up saying I want to lead criminal justice reform, but that’s precisely what his life did. Not only that, but it brought attention to the larger problem that we do not value black and brown lives in our country. It brought light to how the love of a mother for her child can help her withstand a heart disease that should have killed her years and months before it did. This story literally brought me to tears and I had to pause one episode because it was extremely overwhelming. But I also believe each and everything happens for reason. And I had to ask myself why. Kalief Browder is now added to a list of heroes of mine. I can’t say for any other reason that I may have known him but for his bravery to not plead guilty and live out his days trusting God and the process.
Well what do all these people have in common, and what does it have to do with you? Well many of us have hit a part in our lives where we are wrestling with our gift or our calling or purpose in this world. I want to share these stories, to try and identify God’s methods of assisting us to fulfill His purpose for our lives. It’s first prophetic telling and/or showing us what’s to come. Next, it’s reidentification through alchemy. Literally taking our raw, unrefined selves and giving us a new name a new means by which to be known by. After that, He then calls us away from the very things we have made our idols. It might be our families, our hobbies, our jobs, etc. Now don’t be mistaken, he could very well use the skills and passion you had towards those things, but this will be on a larger stage. Once you get to this point, you truly have to strengthen your faith and trust the process. The road from good to great with God isn’t always a 1 or 2-year process. It might be a lifetime of process, and a moment of greatness that lives beyond your life for many generations. Allow yourself to be used for the greater good outside of your realm of life. Whether you identify with Simon-Peter, or Joseph, or Daniel, or Colin, or Kalief, realize that there’s something bigger in store for you than you could ever imagine.
My theme for 2017 is “Pushing Limits 10X Effort” and it’s aligned to the scripture ‘Eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of man, the good[great] things God has in store for them that love Him.” I Corinthians 6:9. This tells me that if I can dream it or think it, there’s something even greater than THAT in store for my life. Growing up I wanted to be a millionaire, but that’s too easy that’s too simple for what’s supposed to be of my life. Be willing to expect more out of God, and not limit him to earthly pleasures as ‘great demonstrations of His power.’ He can blink and give you kingdoms, but molding you into a beacon of light that will make this world brighter even for our God takes time. And it takes time because He loves you, and He loves you because He made you. And because He made you, He’s working to make you all He’s designed you to be. Trust the process. The greatness is IN you, let Him bring it out.
. With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,
Trent J ACEO