Thursday, March 10, 2011

Success and Failure Through a New Lense: The Life of Abe Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln:  Failing Success
I’ve been taken lately with two different historical figures, in regards to my life and the legacy I long to leave. I plan on writing on William Wilberforce (the subject of the movie, Amazing Grace) at a later time but for today I bring thoughts on Abraham Lincoln. Both men, had major failures in life, but by the grace of God, a will to persevere and people around them who loved them regardless, they left a mark on the rights and dignity of all people regardless of color of skin or social position.  Maybe that is why I relate to them so thoroughly ... I am weak.
Abraham Lincoln has won a place in my heart because of the overwhelming loss and suffering in his life, yet his inability to quit. It is like he knew he was called to something great, perhaps not knowing quite what it was, but nonetheless, he did not stop until his life was literally snuffed out by another. We all know him as the sixteenth president of the United States, the one who kept the union together in the midst of the civil war, who after the war did all he could to bring the south back into the fold, but do you know the full story of this man.
His failures and sufferings make him my hero

His mother died when he was twenty-one, his sister died in childbirth and the woman he wanted to marry also perished of typhoid fever.  Not only did he suffer these losses but when he finally did marry, two of his children died before the age of eleven. He was largely self-educated and had a poor relationship with his father, whom he often had to loan money to. In addition to the before mentioned, Lincoln struggled with what we would now call clinical depression, but was then referred to as “chronic melancholy.”
In business he was considered a failure, having declared bankruptcy. In fact, chew on this: When he was 22, his business failed. When he was 23, he lost a bid for U.S. Congress. When he was 24, he failed in business again. The following year, he was elected to the state legislature. When he was 26, his sweetheart died. At age 27, he had a nervous breakdown. When he was 29, he was defeated for the post of Speaker of the House in the state legislature. When he was 31, he was defeated as Elector. When he was 34, he ran for Congress again and lost. At the age of 37, he ran for Congress yet again and finally won, but two years later he lost his re-election campaign. At the age of 46, he ran for a U.S. Senate seat and lost. The following year he ran for Vice President and lost. Finally, at the age of 51, he was elected President of the United States.
But despite this, God had a plan for his life which could not be defeated.  Ten states in the south didn’t even have his name on the ballot for the presidential election, but still he won.  In fact, he won only two of 996 counties in the south.  This is mind boggling.
There is so much more that can be said about this imperfect man. What I draw from it is that none of us are disqualified … none beaten … none detoured long from our course in life and the mark we are to leave on it, if we will keep on keeping on, in the strength given by our Father.

I think Proverbs 24:16a (NIV) says it best- for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.

Last thought:  dream, rest, fail, but rise again to dream.

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