Those of us who’ve had to apply for university at some point in life will remember something called a personal statement. This is where you go on about who you are, what experiences have shaped the person you are and why you have decided to apply for whatever course that you’ve applied for. Some years ago, New York University received an application and the personal statement read as follows;
I am a dynamic figure of insane scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations in my lunch break and make them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slates for Cuban refugees. I write award winning operas. I manage time efficiently. Occasionally I tread water for three days in a row. I woo women with my sensuous and gob-like trombone plane. I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed. I cook 30 minutes brownies in 20 minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, an outlaw on parole. Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon basin from a hawed of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello. I was scouted by the Mets. I am the subject of new maze documentaries. When I’m bored I design long suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy air burn hang gliding. On Wednesdays after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge. I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, a ruthless bookies critique and worldwide sewer of my original line of Contory evening wear. I don’t perspire, I am a private citizen yet I receive fan-mail. I’ve been caller number 9 and have won the weekend passes. Last summer, I toured New Jersey with a travelling centrifuge forces demonstration. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame and international bartney circles. Children trust me. I can herald tennis racquets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read “Paradise lost”, “Moby Dick” and “David Copperfield” all in one day. I still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I perform several covet operations with the CIA. I sleep once a week and when I do, I sleep on a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of Physics do not apply to me. I balance, I weave, I frolic, I dodge and my bills are paid. On weekends to let off steam I participate on full contact origami. Years ago, I discovered the meaning of life but I forgot to write it down. I’ve made extra ordinary four course meals in a toaster oven. I breed price winning clumps. I’ve won bull fighting in San one, cliff diving competition in Sri Lanka and spelling bees in the Kremlin. I’ve played Hamlit. I performed open-heart surgery and recently I held a conversation with Elvis. I HAVE NOT YET WENT TO COLLEGE!
In reading that letter as an admissions officer or whoever would have read that, I am guessing that 2 things that would have come to their mind; he’s such a liar or so imaginative, very creative. I mean let’s face it, that personal statement is ridiculously incredulous. It is too good to be true and they say when it is too good to be true, it usually is. Believe it or not, this personal statement was written by a homeless guy who lived in the subways and had absolutely nowhere to lay his head. It was a university application from someone who would go through the day with absolutely no idea what he was gona have for dinner that night. It was written by someone who knew what it is to suffer. However, after that display of creativity prowess, I am sure you agree with me that offering him a place in the university was the right decision. The guy went on to study at New York University and as of 2009, he had written two movies.
While I found this story so fascinating and inspiring, my aim is just to share the power that suffering has in our lives. Suffering, hurt and pain is by far one of the most common driver of success amongst the most successful people. Like someone said, true creativity and artistry is born out of suffering. One’s personal struggles give them a story like no one else’s. When you’re kicked, jolted and persecuted, that is the time that you’re shoved into a new reality and a way of confronting challenge that you’d have otherwise have not have brought about on our own. You get into a situation in which you imagine a new future because the one that you’ve always envisaged is no more. Suffering makes you see beauty and life in places where everyone else doesn’t. Having lived in the western world for four years, I know that hardships especially of poverty are something that our brothers and sisters in that part of the world would find hard to decipher but having been born in a humble background family and poverty stricken community I know exactly what lack of material needs means. I know the excitement that used to be there at the acquisition of what some people wouldn’t understand what the fuss is all about. While I may be presenting this in the context of material lack and poverty since it is what I can relate to most, I know that suffering can be as varied as the creative genius that it birthes in us and the way in which it actually reveals how powerful and strong we are. Have you ever been in a situation where you thought to yourself, “I just can’t go through this another day, I just can’t take it anymore” and here you are 6 months, a year or even three years later holding on? Have you seen someone go through something and thought, “I’d have surely fell flat on my face a long ago” only for you to go through it and survive and even have God glorify himself through that in a mightier way?
Am I in any way subscribing to foolishness in a way to bring suffering (which will in turn bring out that creative genius in you or bring glory to God)? Obviously not! If you’ve been reading all along thinking getting yourself into a suffering situation, please reverse and get that thought out of you NOW! What I am trying to point out is that if you’re going through some tough situation in your life right now, if you’ve been laid off your job, if you’ve lost a loved one, if you’ve been diagnosed with some chronic illness, try and look at the brighter side of things. See the beauty and the creativity that can be birthed through that experience because regardless of the cause of the affliction, there’s surely going to be a positive that can be drawn from that. Some creativity can be birthed, a business venture can be founded from that job loss, a talent can be discovered and above all character is being built and God is glorifying himself. The interesting thing about character is that you can never get it through anything else apart from experiencing and overcoming challenges. You’ll never get it from laying on of hands by an anointed man of God and neither can you get it from a great bestselling book on character development. It is earned! I am not sure what you’re going through at the moment but whatever it is, know that God allowed it because through it you can come out a better person. Allow the turmoil, the hardship and the pain of life to birth and unveil that greatness in you that you never knew existed!