I had a friend tell me once that he estimated that over eighty-five percent of the world’s populations spent their lives as underachievers. I joked with him and asked him to please help me find the other fifteen percent. I don’t think our conversation was very scientific. But, I have observed that nothing noble and splendid is achieved without someone deciding that deep within him was the possibility of passionately overcoming the impossible circumstances and breaking the inertia of nothingness. That dream, plus passionate diligence, translates into higher levels of achievement.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” The person who is afflicted with poor motivational health spreads the contagious affliction to others, and bears within him the symptoms of discouragement and poor self-esteem. But nothing can ultimately conquer the person who desires to achieve. Every obstacle works as a weight-machine in the gymnasium of life that develops the achievement muscle. The workout proves to strengthen the powers of accomplishment.
It was Thomas A. Edison who reminded us, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Having laid hold of the possibility of the dream, we should mark out a direct pathway to achievement. We dare not look to the left or to the right or embrace doubts and fears that would cause us to veer from the course and become ineffectual.
On one of my early trips to Ethiopia, I was introduced to one of the grandest stories and one of the most intriguing venues I had ever encountered. We left the old capital city of Axum, the ancient home and palatial ruins of the Queen of Sheba, and where I had also helped rename the main street of the city to “Denver Street” in honor of Axum’s new Colorado Sister City. We flew in a small aircraft almost directly south to the very center of the country of Ethiopia. Our destination was the ancient city of Lalibela, often referred to as the “New Jerusalem” of Africa.
In the early 12th century, a baby boy was born to the royal family of Zagwe in the province of Wollo. At the time of his birth there was a dense cloud of bees that completely surrounded the baby and mother and brought honey for him to eat. The mother announced the bees to be soldiers who would one day serve her son just as they were now bringing protection and sweet sustenance to him. The mother named him Lalibela: "the bees recognize his sovereignty."
But Lalibela had an older brother, Ile, who was threatened by all the adulation, and decided to poison Lalibela. But instead of killing Lalibela, the poison put him into a type of coma for a period of time. Later, Lalibela revealed that during his sleep the angels had taken him to heaven where Jesus Christ had given him instruction to build duplicates of the eleven early churches on either side of the Jordan River. Churches on one side of the Jordan represented the earthly Jerusalem, while those on the other side represented the heavenly Jerusalem. He was to build the churches far up on the stone hillside in the province of Wollo.
In a matter of time Lalibela became king, and with the authority of the office set out to accomplish his mission. Within an unbelievably short period of twenty-three years, King Lalibela, with the help of his royal masons, chipped away and carved out eleven monolithic structures completely free-standing. To the very day of my visit nearly one-thousand years later, those hand hewn stone churches were still being used for worship.
By definition, monolithic simply means there were no cut stones stacked one upon another. The workers dug around the sides of the church, starting from the surface of the stone mountain that would ultimately become the roof. Once the entire outside of the church was carved out of the solid mountain, they chiseled doors and windows into the stone walls, entered inside and carved out the entire interior: arches, domed ceilings, altar areas, side rooms, and three dimensional carvings of the saints on the walls . . . all out of one solid mountain of stone. And, he did it eleven times!
The design and sheer magnitude of the task baffles all those who view the project even today. His contemporaries could not believe how fast he was able to not only carve out the churches, but also the stone stairways, tunnels, winding stone pathways connecting the churches, and even hidden monasteries and catacombs. Legend holds that Lalibela had the help of the angels working for him in order for such a task to be completed. King Lalibela worked by day; the angels worked by night.
Lalibela was driven by zeal and compassion. He accomplished an impossible task that still stands today and rebukes the scoffers and naysayers of this world.
If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves as well as the world around us.