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March 20, 2014

As the story goes, Jesus stood before the unruly crowd, armed with rocks, and spoke on behalf of a woman accused of adultery. Drawing a line in the sand with his finger, Jesus finally spoke: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” No one stepped forward and the woman was spared.

People of the Christian tenets see Jesus as a savior, a prophet who drew a line in the sands of time. Those who came before the Son of God were subject to the wrath of The Father; those who came after were shown the same mercy as the adulterous woman, finding salvation in walking a righteous, Christ-like path.

Much can be said about the success and failures of Christians (and Christianity in its current interpretation) in walking this path. But I want to instead focus on this idea of ‘drawing a line in the sand.’ With subtle differences, I can see two basic explications of this oft-used idiom:

1. A line in the sand is a decision point, either physical or perceived (or both), beyond which one will not proceed. These are boundaries in relationships or in our habits that establish limits of appropriate behavior and thoughts. We need these in order to function, especially to have social success, but can at times be difficult to navigate because of their situational and dynamic nature.

2. A line in the sand is a decision point, either physical or perceived (or both), of no return. Meaning, once the decision to cross over that boundary is made, the decision and its inherent, imminent consequences are irreversible and permanent. These commitments we make are less difficult to navigate in some ways as the boundaries are typically black-and-white: for better or worse, in success or failure, in sickness and in health, there is no going back. You either make it work, make that change, make that commitment, or you don’t. But these commitments are often the most profound and carry the biggest consequences: hugely positive if
we succeed in the process or simply devastating in failure.

Over Spring Break, I asked our girls, “What holds us back?” and had them call themselves out on their most damaging mental habit. They were “Honest and unmerciful,” acknowledging their propensity to dwell on the past, or expect immediate results, or focus on things they simply cannot control, among others. As I touched on in my previous post, we are not physically lacking or unskilled or untalented. Our deficit is mental. And, for a team that works our asses off every day, we are bringing that same sort of vigor and persistence to addressing these habits that undermine the work we do in pursuit of realizing our potential.

In a follow-up exercise, I asked the girls to “draw a line in the sand” with these damaging mental habits, viewing that decision like the commitment I detailed in #2 above. To cross over that line, into a player mentality devoid of the mental habit they identified, replaced now by a positive affirmation of the new habit they have committed to manifest in their life. We have to recognize, I said, that this is a process: there will be days when we fall flat on our faces, and there will be days when we do this beautifully.

The victory is in the relentless pursuit. Just as we have taught ourselves these habits, new habits can be learned and put to work for us as we labor toward that shared, powerful vision. And it all starts with a line in the sand.

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