The Man in the Arena

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July brings back memories of childhood summers, when three generations of my family would trek to the mountains of New Mexico to fish and ride and explore God’s creation.
 
The exploration took us beyond the mountains to exotic Santa Fe and dry, flat Las Vegas (New Mexico). In this little town we would encounter some of the veterans of a long-ago war: Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. As children, we didn’t see past the wrinkles and aging uniforms. Only years later did we begin to know the brave, foolhardy, eccentric, passionate leader, servant, crusader and bully president who led those soldiers up San Juan Hill.
 
Roosevelt was a complex, controversial figure who tried his hand at everything from cleaning up New York City politics to launching America’s commitment to conservation. In his successes and failures, he showed himself to be a man of intelligence and reflection. 
 
It is to him that we owe these words of wisdom:
 

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 
 
The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known either victory or defeat.  

 
I recently had the opportunity to listen to the audio book Killing Jesus. I was tempted to be distracted by its occasional theological flaws. The actual intent of the book, however, was not theology, but history. The portrayal of life in Galilee, in Jerusalem, in ancient Rome was mesmerizing. 
 
But mostly I was captivated by the portrayal of Jesus as the brave, even foolhardy, man in the arena. He criticized, but always as a part of teaching and challenging. He put himself in harm’s way and eventually died a death that most of us have never seen or heard described in such gruesome detail. 
 
Jesus stands in stark contrast to so many of our public personages of today. He does not surrender, he does not whine, he does not stand in the shadows and hurl darts.
 
He rises in strength and called us to be all that the Father has created us to be. Jesus dares greatly and could never be classed “with those cold and timid souls who have never known either victory or defeat.”