There are two characteristics that I really admire in people. Firstly, some people just have this amazing capacity to endure in tough circumstances. They can be taken anywhere or put through anything and they don’t crack. They take it in their stride, get on with life and make it happen. I really admire this kind of never-say-die perseverance through stress and suffering. I call it ‘having a low floor’ in their capacity. Things can get really low, and yet they can still handle it and maintain a good attitude. Secondly, you get people who have what I call ‘a high ceiling’. These are the people with a flair for life. They are dissatisfied with living on the level of day-to-day survival – they want to prosper. These people bring excess and creativity into a situation, always striving for the best possible experience – to master the art of living well. If you think about it, which one is more like you?
Often a weakness or blind spot comes with these strengths. Those who suffer well also tend to suffer needlessly, or they have no desire to put effort into ‘unnecessary extras’. To them, life should be lived humbly – those practicing the ‘art of living’ are met with the suspicion of superficiality or arrogance. These low-floor people also have a low ceiling – a war-time mentality. Conversely, the high floor in many high-ceiling types would render them quite useless in a war. Their happiness and functioning are often very fragile, being based on external things. To them, life must be lived for the pleasure of it – and those who do not seek this passionately are met with the suspicion of cultural bankruptcy. Interestingly, I have met many people with either a low floor or a high ceiling, but not too many with both. Christians, too, seem to relate more to either the high ceilings of Abraham and Solomon or the low floors of Job and John the Baptist! My conviction, however, is that God aims to stretch our personal capacity in both directions. In Jesus, the King and the Suffering Servant, our inheritance is both a high ceiling and a low floor. We can live out both His glory and his humility.
Last year my wife and I visited a town in Europe for a month. The accommodation we had organized ended up being a big disappointment – it would be kind to call it a filthy room with an uninhabitable kitchen and bathroom attached. It was bad. We tried to make it work, initially, by only sleeping there but the single bed/baby-cot was taking a toll all on its own. A week of dingy living, without the financial freedom to move out, lead to quite a heated discussion. My wife has a high ceiling but a high floor. For instance, she will light candles and put on background music for even a casual meal at home, but I can’t get her to go camping (its apparently too dirty and uncomfortable). Suffice to say she was having a crisis in the ‘pig-sty’ we were staying in. I, on the other hand, was determined to soldier on and not let it spoil our trip (yes, my floor descends underground). So yes, the discussion was heated. What to do? Break the bank to stay in a decent hotel, or just go into survival mode? Thankfully, the Lord delivered us . A work colleague offered us a spare room to stay in at their up-market apartment for the last two weeks. At first I was hesitant to inconvenience the guy, but we finally accepted. My wife had already learned her lesson about dropping her ‘floor’ when it was necessary (perhaps soon we’ll be knocking up a tent!). Now it was my turn to learn a valuable thing: in the natural we live life on the floor, but in terms of a philosophy of living God desires us to live as close as possible to our ceiling. Living on the floor of your capacity is not righteous unless its necessary. That was massive for me.
What has God done for you in this regard? What growth would you still like to see in yourself in the future? I’d love to hear your experiences and insights…