September sunlight toasts the assortment of modern-day chariots dutifully freezing in place in the parking lot. A fledgling breeze gushes energetically but quickly exhausts itself.
I stand behind a blue and white Bruins-wrapped van. I’m as unsuspecting as the neighborhood squirrel that failed to look up when my dad’s Honda grumbled down the street early one morning.
Brody eyes me sternly as I unlatch one of the van’s back doors and climb into the vehicle’s ominous recesses. Surrounded by fellow gang members, my garment bag smirks at me. It knows about strength in numbers. Maybe it’s even read some military history—it’s protecting itself with a tight cluster of guarding garment bags.
While I’m preoccupied disputing with the uncooperative bag, the open van door spots its opportunity. Like the Light Brigade opening a waterfall of lance-lugging, saber-shouldering horsemen at Balaclava, the van door charges fearlessly toward its enemy—me.
Regrettably, I don’t have nineteenth-century Russian artillery to use against the door’s onslaught. I try to open the unscrupulous door, which is now partially closed. Will it just let me escape this horseless carriage unscathed?
Door Despiteful seems to be caught on something. I try again. It still won’t open.
Suddenly the warm air in the van feels heavy, like a sarcophagus lid closing around me. This door! I’m almost as annoyed as I was when a sibling caused me to rip a page in my beloved atlas.
At the Battle of Anvard, the Calormenes chopped down a huge tree to use as a ram for the city gate. This just-force-it strategy raises its hand and waves frantically in my direction.
Nope. Too risky. I’m not going to force the van door open. I’ve read about ancient Rome, so I know better than to charge a testudo formation.
Forget the garment bag. I just need a way to get out. Unlike the famous windows of medieval Prague, which were large enough to accommodate several unhappy people being thrown out, these back windows don’t open at all.
What about the luggage? The suitcases, backpacks, duffel bags, plastic containers, and miscellaneous snacks smile at me coldly. They are the lofty Himalayas, and they know I’m no Tenzing Norgay.
Do these luggage items better resemble Tibet’s sky-grasping rocks or a child’s overfilled birthday balloons? What if the weight of a young mountaineer such as myself causes them to pop? I am between a lock and a hard place. I’m trapped!
After panicking for a good millisecond or so, my expression lightens. I laugh audibly. Imagine getting yourself into this kind of pickle your first day on the job!
I believe that abilities pour down from above, like droplets in a Niagara torrent. There are as many abilities as there are image bearers—billions.
In this moment, I seize on the universal human ability to patiently innovate. This ability locks horns with the desire to hastily react. It’s the difference between Edison’s persistence despite ten thousand failed light bulbs and Jephthah’s harebrained promise.
Both patient innovators and hasty firebrands grace the portraits in history textbooks. Patient innovators meticulously carve their legacies on the sturdy monuments that attract museum visitors and guard government buildings. To create a few culture-guiding masterpieces, da Vinci crowded thousands of notebook pages with sketches and writings. For decades, Wilberforce prayed, strategized, rallied supporters, and counted votes. His life goal wasn’t assured until the week he died.
Hasty firebrands recklessly splash ink on history’s pages. John Wilkes Booth stabbed a nation already on its knees. Richard the Lionheart effectively abandoned the kingship of England for dubious adventures abroad. Napoleon invaded Russia when his troops didn’t even have the right buttons to withstand winter’s appetite.
Assuming a time-traveling Houdini doesn’t come to my rescue, I’m on my own. How can I be patiently innovative while I’m trapped in a stuffy van? I can start by asking questions. Of door-forcing, window-breaking, and luggage-scaling, which option is the least risky?
The luggage Himalayas are looking better and better. The metaphorical snow doesn’t seem nearly as impassable as I originally feared. I ease my lean frame over one obstacle and then another. Once Everest is summited, I leap down from the van a free man. I sneak around to the back and open the door from the outside. Ha!
The door seems to know its adversary has outwitted it. It closes meekly.
I walk into Walmart cheerfully, carrying a fresh appreciation for the freedoms I enjoy and the efforts that maintain them.