Greatness Comes from Those Years of Obscurity

“There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit” – Ronald Reagan

The 2004 film Riding Giants gives a great history of the sport of surfing. One segment that really caught my eye was the story about a surf spot in northern California called “Mavericks” near Half Moon Bay. For years Mavericks was not a surf spot; it was, as the film puts it, more of a navigational hazard. A rather nasty break about 1/2 mile off shore driving into jagged rocks. One day in 1975 Jeff Clark, who had seen the break growing up, decided the time had come to have a go at it. He paddled through the frigid water all alone and successfully rode the massive waves. For the next 15 years he surfed Mavericks alone. Occasionally friends would watch from the shore, but nobody dared surf with him. Fifteen years, surfing the nastiest break on the west coast, without a single care for adoring fans or getting credit for a great accomplishment. He was just doing his thing.

Then, one day he finally convinced a couple of other surfers to join him. Seemingly overnight Mavericks exploded, becoming a huge spot for big wave surfers.

Now, Jeff Clark wasn’t taking on a great moral calamity or curing cancer, he was just surfing. Even so, his commitment to “his thing” for so long in obscurity is quite inspiring.

It is often pressing on, working diligently when there are no accolades to be had, that results in eventual greatness. Moses spent 40 years tending sheep in the desert before the Lord used him to deliver Israel from Egypt. King David remained committed to the Lord and to the proper order of things (i.e., King Saul) while waiting to be king himself. Winston Churchill spent 30 years a political outcast (after WWI) before returning to lead Britain in its darkest hour. Abraham Lincoln spent many years on the back side of a political desert opposing slavery from his legal practice before stepping in to greatness. The list could certainly go on and on.

While Moses may not have been preparing for the future (though God was preparing him), the political figures mentioned clearly ascribed to the be-do-have principle. First, be the thing you want to be, and do the attendant functions. In the end, you will have the success. It does not work the other way around. You can’t wait to get elected president before deciding to be a leader and to actually lead. You won’t be ready and you won’t be effective.

For the Christian, this also speaks to quiet confidence of the presence of the Lord in our life purposes. We are reminded of Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” We also know that “one who is faithful in a very little is faithful in much” (Luke 16:10) and that “A man’s gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great” (Prov 18:16).

Ultimately, we are all working for the purpose of hearing those beautiful words, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23). So wherever you find yourselves today, whatever purposes God has put in your heart, whatever inspiration you are chasing; be encouraged. Years of obscurity now may well be preparing you for greatness.

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One Response to Greatness Comes from Those Years of Obscurity

  1. Michelle says:

    Eloquently written and very inspirtational. I really enjoyed this one!

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