Thomas Huxley was wrong about a lot of things, but he was right when he wrote, “The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”
Theodore Roosevelt’s life is an amazing example of a man who lived every day as if it were his last, worked every job as if he’d never have another, and in the end found himself as President of the United States. He neither despised the day of small things nor got stuck before he’d reached the peak of his potential.
Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings. He will not serve before obscure men.” That certainly was the case with Teddy Roosevelt who gave everything he had to everything he did. Obscurity cannot succeed in hiding a man like Roosevelt — and it never will.
Most of us, however, are not so passionate, tending to get comfortable just living life and getting by — neither giving our current activities the energy they deserve nor dreaming of anything better than what we already have. We stop exerting ourselves and get comfortable halfway up the ladder. Or, to use a different analogy, it is as if we are sitting on a stepping-stone in the middle of a stream. We’re comfortable, yes, but we were never intended to get cozy on a stepping-stone. Our ultimate goal is to cross over to the other side.
Jason, a twentysomething from Florida, wrote us to share how that lately he’d grown complacent with his life, just working his job and getting by. “Not that a steady working life isn’t God’s plan for some,” Jason wrote, “but I was feeling empty and knew that God had more abundant plans for me. I knew He had some hard things for me to do.” Jason concluded by sharing that he was now planning to switch gears and attend law school, with the goal of advocating for pro-life groups. He realized that he was getting stuck far below the potential God had given him. He knew it was time to step up to the next rung of life’s ladder.
Over 100 years ago a young woman named Mary from the town of Dundee, Scotland, lay in bed pondering the brave adventures of the great explorer, David Livingstone, who had just been buried in Westminster Abbey. Then she remember his famous words, “I don’t care where we go as long as we go forward.”
Go forward, thought Mary to herself. I’m not going forward. I’m not going anywhere. I’m twenty-seven years old, I work in a cotton mill twelve hours a day, six days a week, and the little spare time I have I spend helping out at church. But that’s not enough. There has to be more to life for me. She rolled over and prayed, “God, I want to go forward like David Livingstone. Send me somewhere, anywhere. Just send me out to be a missionary.”
This praying girl’s full name was Mary Slessor and she went on to spend thirty-nine years among the unreached tribes of Africa’s Calabar region. Braving sickness, danger, and death on all sides, Mary never stopped moving forward in her quest to reach the lost souls of Africa with the life-giving gospel of Christ — becoming the cherished “White Ma” to entire tribes and an inspiration to thousands of missionaries to come. She choice to move forward radically altered the course of her life and the souls of countless people.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “further up and further in.”