Thursday, September 18, 2014

Learning the Beauty of Achieving a "High Zero!"

A few days ago, my friend Chip Armstrong, the absolute master of intriguing social media comment strings, drew many of us with West Point ties into a discussion of our “Delightful Days” as cadets by mentioning some of the challenged levied against us by the “Department with a Heart – The Department of Physical Education”! At West Point, PE is never a “get over experience. The course work is extremely challenging and grading is exacting and merciless. According to DPE, the best person gets an “A”. In boxing, that means the world champions in their respective divisions have done “A-level work.” Everybody else works down from that level. You can get an instant “A” by knocking somebody out, but that means they get an “F” and have to take the class over – during summer leave! One of the particularly satisfying experiences one could have in DPE was the joy of being told you had achieved a “High Zero!” Seriously. Achieving a “High Zero” meant that the Instructor acknowledged that a maximum effort had been expended, but it was also an acknowledgement that NO skill had been demonstrated! Those High Zeros were somewhat of a consolation and reminded me of the answer Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson offered to the question, “Sir, what’s your opinion of West Point Boxing?” Almost choking with laughter, the Champ offered n the midst of a hearty chuckle, “Well, Ya’ got heart!!!” With a few years behind me, and the experience of many ups and downs of logged in, I now see that issue of “heart” as of much value as any victories I may have enjoyed. I have learned that it is the ability to understand one’s shortcomings and to recover to face them again that builds character. It is the determination to rise up after being flattened, to get up after falling on one’s face and to return to the fray after suffering humiliating setbacks that forges the character that leads one to truly overcome. I believe the Lord uses our tough times in a similar way to shape us, mold us and create the type of character within us that allows us to lead and serve with understanding, wisdom and determination. He can mold the character within us that recognizes that we have limitations, while developing the faith that produces the resolve, patience and endurance we need to continue to press on regardless of the circumstances. I believe this development of character is part of what James had in mind for those who follow Christ when he said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” If we are not forced to face challenges beyond our means, we can never develop faith beyond our dreams! For that reason, I am thankful. I am thankful for my classmate Phil, whose right cross sent me to the canvas knocking me onto my already separated shoulder, twisting it completely out of socket. His excellence led to a chain of events that brought out untapped excellence in me and showed me I could live the Cadet experience with one arm for a month! That experience for me served as the furnace to forge steely character as did the “High Zero’s” the “D-minuses” and vast variety of other experiences I and others enjoyed during those formative years. It continues to give me perspective to this day, that God can transform my failures and limitations into growth opportunities that prepare me for greater victories ahead! My friends, it is my hope for you, that our experiences with West Point’s DPE will serve as an encouragement to you, and will help you not to wallow in your failures, but rather cause you to stand them up, inspect them, and to consider how you might realign them as building blocks in your life to assist you in your growth, maturity and effectiveness as a human being in this amazing experience we know as Life! Get Up! Press on! Keep doing your best! You can grow from it towards your good and for the benefit of others who walk alongside you as well!

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