Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You Can Do Anything

Yes, this title is a cliché. But it’s also true.

Perhaps the greatest lesson the Bible has to teach comes right at the beginning. The Bible says:

“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him” (Gen. 1:27)

It’s a great verse. But what’s the image of God?

It’s man’s ability to create and control. Man can cure disease and build cars, invent computers and fly into outer space. This creativity, according to Rabbi Joseph B. Solovietchik, is man’s way of emulating God, the ultimate creator.

Man’s almost limitless creativity is Godlike. Yes, we can do anything. Unfortunately, we don’t believe it.

We refuse to accept our true abilities. We imprison our potential, comfortably assuming that mediocrity is our lot.

We have excellent company in our search for mediocrity. Often, well meaning friends tell us how we need to be “realistic” and do less, or to stop dreaming.

I remember telling an older colleague, a successful author, how much I wanted to start writing. He immediately belittled my dreams, saying that being a rabbi was too much work on its own, and writing is a dream best put aside. As realistic as this advice was, (and yes, I am writing this late at night), I was taken aback. But I ignored his advice.

I ignored his advice because it was wrong. Now I’m all for realism, and yes, there are people without plans who imagine dreaming is all you need to succeed. But reality is that a determined human in the image of God can accomplish astonishing things.

People who have triumphed over major disabilities are remarkable examples of man in the image of God. A recent book about James Holman (1786-1857) tells one such story. Holman, blinded in his twenties, becomes a peripatetic explorer, traveling deep into Siberia and sailing around the world. In an era when blind people were considered to be virtual invalids, Holman learned how to compensate for his loss of vision through sound, cleverness and social skills. Holman compiles the first English dictionary of an African language, and even learns how to ride a horse and hunt elephants! His travelogues, built on painstaking research, were of immense scientific value. Holman, a man truly in the image of God, transcends physical limitations through sheer creativity.

Holman showed that even a blind explorer could have insightful observations. Yet even in Holman’s own life, people argued his explorations have no value because they are the observations of a blind man. In other words, the critics were saying that because Holman was blind, he could not accomplish more than what they imagined a blind man could accomplish.

Critics will always predict mediocrity. Unfortunately, we are often our own worst critic, refusing to believe in ourselves. To unleash our potential, we must silence our inner critic, and remember that we are created in the image of God and that…

We can do anything.

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