I wasn’t always the most passionate and motivated of individuals. I don’t think I am that person now, but I believe I have changed much from the person I used to be. In middle school I was the straight-A student who had no friends but somehow managed to make it through the bullying, the harassment, and the sense of being lost in an American society I did not understand. In high school I was the academic nerd who should have played football and wrestled—except for the fact that my ultra-academic high school had none of these programs. My high school experience taught me that I was sheltered from much of the life American teenagers lived through. I am grateful, to some extent, for being sheltered from all the world had to offer me and tempt me with at sixteen, but also upset that I wasn’t allowed to make those choices on my own.
In college I realized that a lot of people out there just straight up suck. In college I realized that in this world you either work hard or you are just riding with the tide. I saw extreme laziness and extreme work ethic. I met people who broke their minds and bodies every day to be the very best and I also met people who were grateful to just be average—and then there were those who simply didn’t make it in college very long. In college I awakened to a different side of me, a side of me that I had been lost to since I was eleven years old—a side of me that I deeply missed.
My second semester at NC State I joined ROTC, and once again I kissed the face of aggressiveness, competition, danger, and excitement. I remembered the days when competition was an everyday, every week experience and I realized how much I missed it. I remembered the sense of meaning and significance that being pushed to your limits was. I remembered and tasted, once again, the bitter flavor of failure and defeat. Academics never challenged me. School has always been easy. But competition, competition will stab your heart and set it on fire.
I wasn’t the greatest cadet—you can ask anyone who knew me in ROTC and they can tell you that I was very much subpar. Even though I loved the taste of the pursuit of greatness, I had come into the race late and hadn’t developed the psychological side that my peers had mastered. To compete you can’t just go at it with your body—you have to embrace the fire and pain with your soul. The pursuit of greatness will devour you and spit you back out over and over again. Greatness is earned by the spilling of blood and the gnashing of teeth.
I walked away from ROTC a broken person. I am still broken and my wounds have just recently begun to heal. However, I have acquired that old flavor of pursuing greatness and I am not letting go of it anytime soon. One thing I have noticed between my relationships in ROTC-military and those outside of it is that it takes a different approach and level of leadership to motivate people to put their hearts into something. For some, the simple thrill and pursuit of greatness, often found in competition, is enough. They will get up, grab their weapon, and rush into the fire—even if it kills them. But for most, an extra level of sugar-coating is required. You have to sell it to them. You have to convince them. Sometimes they make you even beg. True passion and devotion are rare items in the world and I found out this truth through living and experience.
I live my life with my heart in my hands. My heart and soul don’t exist inside me rotting away in passivity. No. I carry my heart in my left hand, my soul in my right one, and my spirit is a fire that burns; it consumes all and refueling it isn’t cheap. People, who consider themselves rational and logical, may look at me and see someone extremely emotional and passionate—maybe too passionate for their taste. They may see over commitment and blind loyalty. Maybe they are somewhat right. But that isn’t what lives inside me.
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”
If God is the greatest and He wants and deserves our all, how could I not pursue greatness? How could I settle for average? How could I be satisfied with the standard? At no point does this mean that we can’t fail. We were wired to fail and at the point of failure we run back into His arms to be refilled and built back up stronger than before. God rushes forward like a roaring lion slaying His enemies—we stand by His side as His instruments of war and peace. In my passion and devotion for life, even in the most random and insignificant of circumstances, I pursue greatness because that is my form of worship.
Yes, I will admit that sometimes I sin in this process. At times, the pursuit of greatness is corrupted and broken men fall alongside the road. Like I stated above, passionate, devoted living in the pursuit of greatness doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed and expected to fail. Failure is part of the pursuit. After all, how can we acknowledge where we need to grow stronger and build up from our weaknesses if we never fail? How can the warrior perfect his armor is he hasn’t been struck where it is lacking protection?
This approach to living is very counter-cultural. Even though the Western and American experience is very “experience-driven” and “emotion-driven,” many of these experiences and emotions are not built into the path of greatness. Therefore, any lessons learned are washed away by the tide of time. This is because most are satisfied with being average. We are a society filled with average workers, average children, average parents, average husbands, average wives, average employers, average leaders, average followers, average lovers, average fighters, and average Christians. When was the last time you woke up and told yourself, “I am going to be great today. I am going to pursue being great because the one and only God is my foundation.” Have you ever set your mind to the rhythm of those lyrics? Probably not, but it’s okay because most haven’t because you are just average.
Passion in every moment; devotion in every experience; loyalty in the sight of defeat; love in the moments of greatest wrath; resolution in the sight of failure. Greatness isn’t given for it is earned through the breaking of bones and the spilling of blood. The pursuit of greatness isn’t a life of pride but a life knowing that no one is going to give you anything for free, not even God, because God will take your talents away if you do nothing with them. Remember, the servant that settled for average and safety had his talents taken away—are you going to be that servant? The pursuit of greatness is worship if done for the Most High. A life in pursuit of ultimate devotion and passion centered in the heart of the ultimate One who lives in perfect passion, ultimate devotion, and greatest glory is a life of worship.