August 1, 2011
 Your Life's
Bigger Picture

Seeing Beyond Your
Limitations to Your
True Potential
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How can I take all your money, and leave you broke and penniless?”

Greg Lukens welcomed me to his warehouse with his standard greeting. I liked him the moment I met him, and was impressed with his style. He knew I would be spending more than pocket change there, and he had defused my anxiety about doing so.

I was equally impressed as I watched him navigate the cavernous facility that is Washington Professional Systems. The company occupies a vast subterranean world--the confines of a former bowling alley nestled beneath the street shops of Grandview Avenue, in Wheaton, Maryland. Greg knows every cubic centimeter of this vastly-stocked outlet--the location and minute specifications of hundreds of specialty products, stacked to the ceiling on narrow rows of metal shelves. He knows his forty employees by name and can recognize them by voice.

Washington Professional Systems sells high-end audio products to the highest-end customers. It’s where a major studio will go to purchase a 24-track analog tape recorder, or one of those endless mixing consoles you see pictured on the cover of audio magazines, with five hundred knobs. It’s the place a radio station will contact to order a special broadcast microphone more expensive than a diamond necklace.

I was there to purchase some recording equipment for our ministry, costing around $2,000, which made me, I’m sure, Greg’s low-end customer of the week. Yet he treated me with respect, and gave me careful instructions about how to operate the items I had selected.          

If you had accompanied me that day on my visit to Washington Professional Systems, you might not have noticed anything unusual about Greg Lukens’ world until you entered his office. It was only then that the stark reality of his situation struck me fully. I watched in astonishment as Greg sat down at his desk to type out an invoice on his computer--a computer consisting of a keyboard, tower and speakers . . . but no monitor. At first I was stunned by this bizarre omission. It quickly soaked through my leaden skull that a monitor wouldn’t benefit Greg a bit, for he couldn’t see one pixel on it. Greg, you see, is blind. Not just “legally blind,” but totally blind--the result of a tragic spill off a dirt bike when he was thirteen.

In spite of this significant handicap, he not only founded this multi-million-dollar business, but manages its day-to-day operations.

And types comfortably on his personal computer. He has jury-rigged it to “speak” to him--to announce each letter he types, and to beep rudely at him after each typo.

It was a wake-up call like few I’ve experienced in a long time. As I drove home, I thought of the many limitations I bemoan in my own life that are very minor next to Greg’s. I felt like God was shaking me by the shoulders, saying, “Stop dwelling on your disadvantages. Stop worrying about what you don’t have. Focus on what you do have--the resources, gifts and opportunities that I’ve given you--and give your energy to making the best of them.” 

Not Dwelling on Our Limitations

We hardly face a greater challenge than knowing how to weigh our personal limitations. Each of us, as we look at our life, is aware--often profoundly--of certain limitations we have. They may include, as in Greg’s case, an actual physical disability. More typically, they involve limits on our talent or potential, shortcomings in our physical appearance, deficiencies in our health, less overall energy than we wish we had, and circumstances we believe are stacked against us. And, of course, there’s our finances. Who among us ever feels we have all the money we need to achieve our goals?

Against these limitations we have dreams--those things we would like to accomplish with our life. It’s often hard to know how to weigh our limitations in considering whether to pursue a dream. Should we regard them as an absolute barrier to our achieving the dream--even a sign from God that we shouldn’t move ahead? Or should we believe that God will give us success in spite of them?

Greg Lukens’ example is one of those remarkable ones we encounter from time to time, which suggest that we shouldn’t let our limitations easily deter us. We desperately need examples like his to inspire us, for even when a dream fits us well, we may be too inclined to cave in to our limitations--thinking they are a roadblock to our success. Yet Greg’s example reminds us that even the most serious limitation may not be an obstacle to our succeeding, so much as a problem we can learn to overcome. 

Focusing on Our Advantages

When I consider the factors that have contributed to Greg’s success, at the top of the list is that he’s a problem solver by nature. This is evident as soon as you meet him. The whole bent of his personality is toward finding ways to make things work.

Each of us should look carefully at how we use our mental energy. No matter how smart we are, we may not focus our thinking constructively, in a manner that opens us to God’s best options for our life. Many highly intelligent people use their brilliance to justify why their dreams cannot be realized, rather than to look for ways to accomplish them. When such negative speculating is the thrust of our thinking, we doom ourselves to failure.

Yet we have considerable control over how we direct our thinking. Having a realistic understanding of our personal limitations is critical. But dwelling on them is always counter-productive. And it’s not honoring to God to do so. We should strive, as a matter of lifestyle, to give much more attention to looking for solutions to problems, than to trying to explain why they can’t be remedied. When we’re able to make this mental shift, we’re often surprised by the difference it makes. We begin to see answers to “impossible” predicaments, and ways to pursue our dreams that have eluded us. 

The Benefit of Vision

There is a second characteristic that I believe accounts for Greg Lukens’ triumph over his disability, and it’s what I would simply call vision. Greg is someone with substantial vision. I say this not to be cute; I would use this same term for him even if he didn’t suffer a visual handicap. What I mean is that Greg has focus. He had a clear picture in mind of something he wanted to accomplish with his life--a passionate dream that fueled his energy and defined how he spent his time. Most important, he focused more upon the results he wanted to achieve than upon the problems that could block his path.

We shouldn’t underestimate what a sense of vision can do for any of us, especially if we feel stuck in a rut and uncertain how to move forward with our life. Having a dream we want to pursue, and establishing goals we want to reach--even if they are very long-term ones--can do wonders to focus our thinking, and to help us find the courage to take otherwise scary steps.

The point isn’t that God will necessarily expect any of us to build a major business, as Greg has, or to achieve outrageous financial success. Our vision should fit the unique gifts and interests God has given us personally. Yet having vision makes all the difference in that potential being realized.

We tend to think that those whose accomplishments we admire have succeeded because they are more talented than we are, or less cursed with obstacles in their path. Yet when we look closely at these people, we often find that their ability isn’t any greater than ours--sometimes clearly less. And many of them have had their fair share of setbacks, and hurdles to jump along the way. They are where they are not due to unusual talent, but because of focus, persistence, and the simple confidence they can succeed. 

A Simpler Answer Than Anyone Imagined

It was attitude, and attitude alone, that gave David the edge in defeating Goliath (1 Sam 17). We might imagine David succeeded because he was more skilled as a warrior than others in Israel at that time. In fact, the opposite was likely true. He was younger and far less experienced in combat than most of Israel’s soldiers. Many of them, too, were surely more experienced with a sling than David, and some could likely have beaten him in a marksmanship contest.

Yet Goliath had so successfully taunted the Israelite army that every last soldier--from the newest recruit to the king himself--was convinced that the giant couldn’t be defeated in one-on-one combat. This conclusion had settled in so solidly that a gloomy group-think prevailed. Most were obviously spending their energy explaining why the problem couldn’t be solved, rather than looking for a creative solution.

David undoubtedly benefited from not being a soldier, and from being “outside the box” of this defeatist environment. He was by nature an optimist and a problem solver. His attitude wasn’t, “here’s an impossible predicament,” but, “why can’t this problem be solved?” In that spirit, he reasoned from his past experience to the present: since he had killed bears and lions with a sling as a shepherd, he should be able to defeat even an oversized human opponent this same way. David may well have concluded, too, that by dumbing-down his approach--by going into battle without sword or armor, but merely a sling--he could catch Goliath off guard and have an advantage, which is exactly what happened.

What’s most encouraging is that the solution David came up with to a supposedly unsolvable problem was simple. Amazingly simple. It was so straightforward and obvious, in fact, that it’s astonishing no one else had thought of it. But David alone made the connection between his past experience and a strategy for defeating Goliath. David succeeded not because of superior talent but because of superior attitude. His faith-inspired thinking allowed him to see connections and a solution that others had missed. 

Our View of Christ Makes a Radical Difference

David’s example inspires us to realize that problems in our own life that we consider insurmountable may in fact have solutions--even simpler ones than we’ve imagined possible. It encourages us also not to be too quick to give up on our personal dreams. It reminds us that attitude more than talent so often makes the difference in what we are able to accomplish, and that our limitations may even work to our benefit when we have a clear goal we want to reach.

As David’s life unfolds in Scripture, it becomes clear that one factor more than any other accounted for his exceptional ability to think so constructively. He had a vigorous relationship with God, which affected how he viewed every aspect of life. He sought the Lord constantly, and walked with him continually.

His view of God was also extraordinarily positive. “This I know, that God is for me,” David declares in Psalm 56:9. He was certain that God wanted the very best for his life, and was working continually to bring it about. And David focused far more on God’s grace and strength, than upon his own limitations and inadequacies. This way of thinking led him to assume by default that many daunting problems in his life could be solved.

We will each benefit greatly from taking time daily to be alone with Christ, to nurture our relationship with him, and to renew our confidence that he desires the best for us. We should remind ourselves constantly that he is for us, and infinitely capable of bringing about his plan for our life. As that conviction sinks in more and more, we will find it more natural to keep our limitations in proper perspective, and not to let them be the overriding factor as we think toward the future.

Even more important, through walking closely with Christ, we open ourselves to his inspiration, and to what Paul terms “the mind of Christ” toward our life (1 Cor 2:16). Nothing helps us more to see beyond our limitations to our true potential, and to find the courage to move forward.

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