The Obstacle is the Way

I was on the phone watching my children play in the front yard through the office window.  It was a stressful conference call about a seemingly insurmountable problem. As I sat in my chair observing the motion of summer through glass panes, I noticed that my kids weren’t satisfied just running around the lawn.

Yes, they played tag for several minutes, but then paused to mope in boredom.

It wasn’t long before they began to drag buckets, bikes, jump-ropes, a water-sprinkler and ladders out of the garage and arrange them carefully around the yard.

As I labored through the phone call and the stress of a seemingly insoluble work “problem,” I noticed that my kids were transforming our front lawn into a challenging (and mildly dangerous) obstacle course! I leaned my forehead against the window with concern when my youngest son climbed a 6 foot ladder and leapt through the water of a sprinkler. The kids were testing their own strength, balance, and even good judgement just feet beyond my office window. The scene outside in the real world of summer made me smile through the yelling on the other side of my phone call.

Without the challenge of climbing, jumping, diving, rolling, even slipping and falling… well, a summer day outside can seem a bit mundane.

Children do get bored without a challenge.

Prisoners will tell you (and students at school will also, if you give them a lie detector test) that the trials of new tasks are what make the time go by quickly. Folks who retire from the challenges of daily work seem to go into decline?

We need our obstacles.

We spend time stressing over our latest trials.  We approach problems as if they are the thing keeping us from happiness, from making more money, from winning salesman of the year, from becoming a bestselling author. Some of us even run and hide from obstacles.

We stress and worry and toil as if the purpose, the only goal of life, is to completely rid ourselves of obstacles.  And then one day, whether we have attacked it, avoided it, or allowed it to roll over us… the obstacle disappears. And you know what happens?

Another obstacle appears in its place…and eventually another, and another and another one after that.

I hung up my conference call watching one of life’s great lessons being played out like a silent film on the green summer lawn.  We were made to charge head first into that obstacle course: It’s how we learn, how we grow stronger, how we change for the better. I swiveled my chair back toward my computer and began to work on a solution for the “obstacle” my phone call had built into my morning with the assurance that there would surely be another tomorrow.

Life, after all, would be pretty dull without a ladder to climb, a sprinkler to jump through, and a problem to solve… the obstacle, my friends, is the way.




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