Sunday, May 24, 2009

Opportunity Disguised As A Lion

Book Review: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day: How To Survive And Thrive When Opportunity Roars By Mark Batterson

I've got to say that I really enjoy Mark Batterson's books. I read Wild Goose Chase first but haven't yet written a review. That will be coming (hopefully) soon. In A Pit presents a principle about opportunity: opportunity seldom looks like opportunity at first. I just read the following quote from Harvey Mackay's weekly newspaper column about James Barksdale, the former CEO of Netscape. Barksdale had a maxim about opportunity known as the three-snake rule:
  • The first rule: If you see a snake, kill it. Don't set up a snake committee. Don't set up a snake user group, Don't write snake memos. Kill it.
  • The second rule: Don't play with dead snakes. (Don't revisit decisions.)
  • The paradoxical third: All opportunities start out looking like snakes.
Batterson makes the argument from the life of a biblical character, Benaiah, and an encounter he had with a lion, in a pit, on a snowy day. Benaiah chose to fight the lion, and went on to become the leader of King David's army. Benaiah's life and career hinged on this event, and he ended up in charge of the army of the greatest king in the history of Israel.

Batterson calls us to become a lion chaser; someone who would chase down the lion rather than someone who would run from it. The book is energizing, empowering, encouraging and challenging. Each chapter is engaging as the author discusses facets of embracing opportunity even when it's disguised as a lion, or a snake. I admit I took my time and savored the book. One chapter called Unlearning Your Fears he asked: "Are you living your life in a way that is worth telling stories about?" Well are you?

Another chapter and one that I studied the most was titled Guaranteed Uncertainty. It begins:
I know one thing for sure: Benaiah didn't wake up on the morning of his lion encounter and plan out every detail. It wasn't scheduled in Outlook. It wasn't on his to do list. I'm not even sure it was on his wish list. The lion encounter was as unplanned as a toothache.
God makes opportunities out of the uncertainties of our lives. If you think about the great moments in your life, they were seldom planned. Batterson uses examples like the Pentecost, and other major events of scripture. They weren't planned. Those people (and us at times too) didn't get up on the morning of the day in question knowing it was going to be a day with a life-changing pivotal opportunity. Embracing God requires us to embrace the uncertainty of our lives and use perspective and trust in God to allow Him to make the most of each opportunity (or lion or snake).

In the same chapter, the author explains something that made a big impact on me: Explanatory Style. What is your normal interpretation process for the events that happen your life? When someone stands you up for lunch, do you think "Something must have happened to them," causing you to worry, or do you think "That turkey stood me up!" causing you to be angry. The author calls that our explanatory style. He goes on to explain that our default explanatory style can cause us to see problems as opportunities God has placed before us or it can cause us to blame God or someone else for the problems and drop into victim mode. Great leaders seldom rise from victim explanatory styles.

The book was thoroughly encouraging and challenging. As a Christ-follower, I am encouraged to continue to work on my Explanatory Style. I commit to refuse to blame God or others for my circumstances. My prayer is that I can honor that commitment and that I will be found faithful to embrace the opportunities God presents in my life, whether they look like snakes, lions, unemployment, loss of income or any other type of setback.

Please let me know if I can help you in that area as well. I recommend the book wholeheartedly.