Having been born and raised in the “Mitten State,” I appreciate Lake Michigan’s beauty as readily from the east as I do the west. It all depends on whether I want to see a sunrise or a sunset.
Last month while enjoying a sunset from Grand Haven, Michigan, my husband and I came upon two surfers braving 30-degree air temps to ride the waves. One could easily argue whether “fool” should be added to “hardy” when describing these adventurous souls, but let’s instead give them a round of applause for getting out and living life.
Winter surfers bring to mind my Bible group’s current study. We’re reading The Last Arrow, Save Nothing for the Next Life, by Erwin Raphael McManus and it’s been very thought-provoking. I must admit though, as a women’s group, we’re trying to decide whether or not we fully agree with the author.
Again, those surfers…
Let me preface my review with a note on theology. Christians love to argue their perception of the Bible as much as they do politics, but I personally do not. We’re all saved by the same gracious God, thank you very much, so the “I’m right, he’s wrong” conversation won’t show up in this review. If you’re not a follower of Christ, that’s okay too. You’ll find this book has interesting points for everyone.
Why We Are Inspired
McManus uses a story of striking arrows as motivation to live life to its fullest. The story is from the Bible (2 Kings 13:14–20) and he parallels it with our personal responsibility to develop and maximize whatever potential God has given us for the good of others. Nothing wasted. Nothing held back. This I agree with wholeheartedly.
A few of many quotes I find inspiring:
- “Most of us underestimate how much God actually wants to do in our lives and through our lives.”
- “I am absolutely convinced that the world has opened its doors to me because I opened my heart to the world”
- “Sometimes the great challenge God has placed in front of us comes in the most unexpected situations, such as being good husbands, good wives, good parents.”
- “We expect God to act but we never take responsibility to act ourselves, which is why so many of us never get down to that last arrow.”
- “The last arrow moves you past what God will do for you to what God will do through you.”
- “Your actions have momentum. Every action has a reaction; every choice ushers in a future.”
- “Most of us live our lives as if we are going to live forever. We are all dying. We don’t get days back. We need to treat each day like they are sacred.”
- “When you surround yourself with great people, it elevates who you are…You will become who you walk with.”
Why I Sometimes Said “Hmmm”
Throughout his book McManus focuses on living exceptional lives, on refusing to be average. The ladies in my group agree with his direction, as do I, but we’ve also questioned his (over)drive. Must we do extraordinary feats to lead exceptional lives? What is “average” and is it wrong to be satisfied with such? One friend said reading his words gives her stress.
We’ve decided God doesn’t make average, although sometimes we choose to be average, as in unmotivated, fearful or irresponsible. We agree that we don’t need to be famous or achieve over-the-top success to use our God-given potential. Sometimes the seemingly quiet and unseen acts are the most exceptional, such as nurturing a child, caring for the sick, standing up for those who can’t.
We’ve also questioned how McManus boldly strikes his arrows. We wonder if he sometimes does so at the expense of others? After 9/11, when much of the country was cautious about air travel, McManus took on even more speaking engagements around the country. “I had a callous disregard for my own personal well-being and life,” he writes, describing his refusal to allow fear to steal his future. Yet his wife felt he was making dangerous choices that could possibly leave her alone to raise their two young children.
3 Stars, Still Worth the Read
Is there a 3.5 star rating? That would be mine. McManus is a bit out there, even extreme, for me. His message is motivating, yet he’s repetitious in his delivery (his discussion questions are even more so). This, however, doesn’t negate the power of his words. The more I read, the more I settle into what he’s saying.
I find The Last Arrow applicable for both my personal and entrepreneurial life. It challenges me to keep moving forward and not sit idly by. Yet, I’m reminded of Jason Fried’s words, “There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.” My exceptional life doesn’t have to be McManus’ exceptional life. Mine is what God means it to be, and I hope to strike my arrows as long as I can.
If you’re looking for a nudge and also a quick, easy read, this is a good book. It’s definitely one for meaningful conversation, exchange of ideas, and evaluation of your values.