Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier *
I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
* This poem is also known as “The Creed for the Disabled”, thanks to Dr. Howard Rusk, who is considered to be the founder of rehabilitation medicine, and who established what is now known as the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center.
We live our lives as mortal creatures trying to maintain our footing as we balance precariously on a steep slope on the side of a huge mountain. Now at the top of this mountain rests all of our goals and aspirations which we attain utilizing all of the strength that God has endowed us with. And at the foot of this mountain lies their counterpart, our dashed hopes and failures which are often the result of our weakness, also divinely endowed! And as a rule, it is as we make our life’s journey that most of us find ourselves standing smack dab between these two polar opposites, seeking the one but often discovering the other.
When we begin our journey in life, we devote much of our time trying to reach the top…. an accomplishment often of monumental proportions! But the climb up is both a steep and rocky one, and if we have learned anything from history, it is that more likely than not, we are probably going to lose our footing as we make our climb, no matter how much safety gear we have brought along with us! The funny thing is that we often learn much more about ourselves and what we are capable of from the tumbles we take that bring us to the bottom. After all, as we are reminded by the popular saying, “The only place to go when you hit rock bottom is up”!
It is fair to say that we can not hide from the many falls that carry us to the bottom. Someone always knows and if it happens to be someone who delights in pointing fingers, our secret is soon out in the open anyway. Now I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to make sure the story of my tumble is an honest accounting of what happened, instead of a lot of half-truths or outright falsehoods. To guarantee this, the only logical answer is to be upfront and honest about these failures. And yes, I realize that it often means there might just be a few more eyes staring a hole in our back as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, and begin our climb once more. But there may also be a few more people who might just volunteer a hand up as we begin the climb once more! And therein lies the proof of the strength of character and determination God has endowed us with, and which continues to exemplify the very best part of who and what we are as people. It speaks to others, ourselves, and God, as well, about the special gifts we have to share with them, should we be willing to do so, as we live our lives, and it affirms our trustworthiness, our honor and our dependability.
Now this presumes that our heart cares about where it is and what it is, we hope to accomplish. But even when we have reached the point where our downward spiral has pushed us to the point where one more step back up is beyond our will, there is one other thing worth remembering. When we hit bottom, and there is no one left to turn to or to lean on, God remains ready, willing and able to lend us that hand up, even when our contemporaries aren’t. You see, He understands the strength of will and character it often requires for us to begin the climb all over again, for perhaps the millionth time. And even during the moments when others, and sometimes even ourselves, doubt that we have it within to get up and start that climb again, God never doubts our abilities and capabilities. Just take a look at Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV, which says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
He is the rock upon which we can gain a foot or hand hold, as we start the climb up once more and I, for one, am very happy to find Him in my corner, there for me to lean on, as I rest, regroup and regain the strength I need to start my journey anew. And while our family and friends are important to the lives we lead, it is really only God to whom I owe any explanation for the manner in which I accomplish my journey up and down the side of that slippery slope, because as long as I make that journey keeping Him close to my heart, I will, one day, be able to reach the stars!
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
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