It can be easy to hear the word “opportunity” framed as a great thing someone was given that allowed him or her to pursue something that would not have been possible otherwise. It also can be just as easy to hear someone complain about his or her current circumstances as a result of not being given an opportunity.
At the bottom line an opportunity is truly just a chance. That chance means we have a choice or a decision to make. If we do not act to make the choice or decision, we will forfeit our future because the lack of choice or decision becomes a future that is not of our own making. Sadly, it then can be easy to lament that we never had “an opportunity” to get the position, the education, the relational connection, and more.
It’s true that the number of opportunities we may have is greatly influenced by a long list of things including where we live, our family situation, our innate abilities, and more. We cannot ignore something in the midst of such a list, however. We still have a responsibility for the choices or decisions we make because our character will guide them as well as shape our character.
Many things influence what we believe, but we ultimately choose what we believe.
I am reminded of many examples to illustrate these points. Some of them you know well, but only I (or close family members) know others.
Noah was given an opportunity to be used to salvage mankind when God determined the evil on the earth had reached such proportions that Creation needed to be destroyed. When He told Noah the plan to destroy the earth by means of a flood when it had never rained, Noah may well have scratched his head. The idea of an ark must have sounded pretty crazy, but Noah took the opportunity, made the choice, risked humiliation, and his destiny to be remembered was sealed.
Joseph never stopped telling his brothers about his dreams and their jealousy and envy got the better of them. After they sell him he has the opportunity to feel sorry for himself and give up or look for an opportunity in less than ideal circumstances. In the midst of his slavery, he seems to have chosen to act in ways that made an opportunity for him to become the key man in charge of Potiphar’s house. His character was being shaped and molded so that when the test came at the hands of Potiphar’s wife’s attraction to him, he determined his destiny by fleeing from her sultry pursuit of him.
Abraham Lincoln was born into a poor home with what seemed to be few chances. His father was uneducated, but his mother was religious and taught Abraham and his siblings about the Bible. She thought education was important and when a school opened when Abe was seven years old, she made sure he had the opportunity to make the nine mile trip to be able to learn. That chance stirred in him a love of learning that shaped his life and destiny.
My father was the youngest of six children. His father died when he was only five years old. It didn’t deter his mother’s desire for him to become educated so he walked to school each day and loved what he learned there, but when he was 13 his older brother was killed when he fell from the barn roof. This brother had been handling all the farming duties and now it fell to my father (with the help of his uncles) to handle the farm for his mother and sisters. It meant he would need to leave school to do that, but he continued to read and learn with a determination that his children would have the opportunity for the education he didn’t have. He never earned a lot of money, but he made certain I had the opportunity to go to college and when I did so I became the first person in my family to earn a college degree.
These illustrations may have stirred your own memories of how opportunities have shaped your destiny. The key in each case was to avoid compromising integrity of character to act on the opportunity that came into the person’s life.
Each day is an opportunity for each of us. What will we do with those given to us?
When Frodo was lamenting the task that had fallen to him in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandolf tells him, “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that has been given to us.”
“Because an opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity. It’s the decisions when no one is looking that will dictate your destiny. In fact, your integrity is your destiny.” Mark Batterson