Tradition has it that mapmakers of old would inscribe on their maps phrases such as – “Here/there be dragons” – to indicate unexplored and potentially dangerous areas beyond the limits of their known world. In many ways, if we are following a vision, a calling, a sense of destiny, similar metaphors can be used to describe the path that lies before us. However, fear of the unknown and the possibility of difficulty should not dissuade us from pursuing what is before us.
The account of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt and their journey to the promised land has prompted the musings/insights for this piece. After journeying through the wilderness the children of Israel come to the borders of the promised land, the land that had been promised to their forefathers, a land “flowing with milk and honey”. Twelve spies are sent in to explore the land, and report back. Ten of the spies return with discouraging news: the land is a good land, but it is difficult and dangerous – “Here there be giants”- we will be destroyed. From the perspective of the other two spies the land would have to be taken by force but with God on their side victory was assured.
There is much that can be distilled from the full account of this story. A key realization is that we may be given the promise, the ability and the vision but we still have to “fight” to see the fruit of that which has been promised. According to Richard Bach: “You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” Hard work, determination, perseverance, wisdom in the face of discouragement and self-doubt, are all necessary companions as we walk the path to seeing our vision fulfilled. Without the struggle, without facing opposition, how will we develop the character necessary to live out the destiny to which we are called?
We need to listen to the questions from the naysayers and well wishers but in the final analysis, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
“There be dragons”, to slay. “Here be giants”, to defeat. Maybe in the end success should be measured not only by the goals we achieved but also by the lessons we learned in the struggle.
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