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Who Wants to be a Loser?

Abraham Lincoln’s  pivotal place in U.S. history is well established. 


But history buffs know the backstory of his unbelievable string of failures:


  • crashed in business

  • lost a race for state legislature

  • failed to enter law school

  • went bankrupt and spent seventeen years repaying a debt to a friend

  • ran for congress and lost

  • finally won a seat but lost re-election

  • ran for senator and lost

  • sought vice-presidential nomination and lost

  • ran for Senate again and lost.


On the surface, this deep moral thinker from the backwoods, was a capital “L” loser. In one of his lowest points, he suffered the loss of the only woman he ever really loved—Ann Rutledge. She died from typhoid fever. A year later he suffered a nervous breakdown and remained in bed for six months. Sometime after that, a woman named Mary Todd, who came from a famous family line in Kentucky, married Lincoln because she thought he was presidential material, saying to a friend that otherwise “I would not have married him, for you can see he is not pretty.” Mary was the original Valley Girl.


Their marriage was a nightmare. She later said that “he was the most useless, good-for-nothing man on earth.” He sarcastically wrote that the Todd family spelled their name with two “d’s”, even though one “d” was good enough for God. In one account, he was seen being driven out of his house by her with a broom. She nagged him constantly in politics.


But some historians believe that he may never had become president without her willfulness.


It made me wonder. What would have happened if Ann Rutledge had not died? Would Lincoln have married her and entered into domestic bliss—possibly not having the nagging push toward the presidency? And what would have become of America had not Lincoln run and taken an anti-slavery stand?


What are the discomfort points in your leadership life? Are there current nagging experiences that are metaphorically a “broom smacking”? It’s hard to see anything positive when you’re in the middle of it, but it may be that it’s being used to push you into your future.


The problem is that it may not be until we look back that we begin to see God’s purpose for our lives. And even though history can provide a reference point for meaning, that’s little comfort when the current pain points feel debilitating. There is really only one leadership solution in those moments: simple perseverance.


It's one foot in front of the other. One day at a time. And the simple refusal to quit.


Of course there are no guarantees of a personal Lincolnesque-type leadership destiny.


But wouldn’t you rather find out? Especially when it’s not all about you…and when it may be for a greater good.


Only time—and history—will tell. 



Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


The Elemental Churches Inventory guides your leadership team through a multi-faceted review of strengths and opportunities in four vital elements of your church’s life: Integrity (systems, processes, infrastructure), Passion (commitment to the mission), Servanthood (outward-focus), and Imagination (innovation, openness to change). And because of its unique web-based and curriculum approach, it’s a third of the cost of typical consulting!


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