What comes to mind when you hear the word “frontier?” Covered wagons? Lewis and Clark? Space–the “final frontier,” for all you Trekkies out there? Danger, uncertainty, a place to avoid? Or how about excitement, discovery, a place to seek?
In this modern age, the Frontier is neither an idea nor a reality with much apparent relevance or appeal. Most of us tread well-worn paths that lead to familiar destinations in our day-to-day lives.
That, my friend, is a problem, because we were made for the Frontier, and the Frontier was made for us. We are tapping into the fullness of our humanity when we push into uncharted territory. And whether we like it or not, ALL of us will be forced to encounter new Frontiers in one way or another many times in our lives. We might as well be ready for it.
Let’s become seasoned Pioneers.
“God, help. I have no idea what to do. Help me. Please.”
I was on my knees on the floor in what used to be our home office. I was at my wit’s end. A work situation was stretching me well beyond my abilities, and I was stuck and scared. I think I’ve only prayed a handful of truly honest prayers in my life. Not because I ever intentionally set out to utter dishonest prayers, but rather because until I’m truly hard-pressed, until I really feel like my back is up against the wall, I often utter prayers from the head rather than the heart. A prayer that conveys, in essence, “God, I’m working on this thing, but thought I’d loop you in just in case you have anything to offer.” Maybe you can relate to that.
On this occasion, though, my prayer was an honest prayer of genuine desperation.
Lest you’re tempted to think of me as any more spiritual than is warranted, I have to confess that my phone was on the floor next to me. Because, heaven forbid, what if I missed a game-changing notification of some sort while I was communing with the Divine?! But, as they say, God works in mysterious ways, because as I uttered my desperate prayer, my phone buzzed to announce the arrival of a text. And yes, I checked to see who it was from. “Hang on, God, be right back with you.”
It was from my dad who, as it happened, knew I was in the middle of a really challenging situation.
“You will meet God on the frontiers of your own ability,” his text began. “That’s where He’s waiting for you. Not short of that, or out beyond that where you think you “should” be or you wish you were.”
“Thx, Dad,” I wrote back, with tears of relief rolling down my cheeks and stunned by the way the truth of his words penetrated my heart. “Encouraging and timely. I’m definitely feeling like I’m on the frontier and disoriented. I was on my knees praying when you texted. Thank you.”
“Then go with confidence,” was his simple response. “God is with you.”
The Best Place to Be
Go with confidence?
Go with confidence. God is with you.
Though the terrain wasn’t any more familiar or any less menacing than before, and the stakes still felt impossibly high, this Frontier was now the best possible place to be rather than a place from which to escape as soon as possible.
In an instant, my relationship with this particular Frontier was transformed. So was my relationship with the Frontier in general.
On the frontiers of my ability, I now saw more clearly, God comes alongside to help me take the next steps. It’s not as if he’s not with me when I’m operating within my established zone of competence, exactly; it’s just that his intervention isn’t needed because I’m already up to the task. And far be it from God to be over-responsible and coddling, as we humans are often tempted to be. So, He waits for us out on the bleeding edges of our ability, eager to supply what we need in order to expand our frontiers even farther. The perfect Father. I want to be where God is bringing all of His mighty power to my aid as often as I can be.
My relationship with the discomfort that the Frontier inevitably brings was overhauled, too. Fear, uncertainty, and disorientation are all normal responses to the Frontier. In fact, they’re like indicators on our personal dashboard, notifying us that we’re approaching unfamiliar territory. Or, they might be indicating that we’re actually approaching a familiar border of Frontier territory into which we’ve never been willing to venture. We just keep bumping up against its borders and retreating as soon as we make contact. As a result, it has remained hostile and unsettled–a barrier to our forward progress.
Now, though, I’m more able to see fear, uncertainty, and disorientation as potentially positive signs that I’m venturing into growth territory rather than warning signs that there’s a deadly waterfall ahead. I can say to myself, “Hey, looks like you’re scared and disoriented. You must be operating on the frontiers of your own ability. Good work. Stick with it. And remember: God is with you, so go with confidence.”
In short, I’m becoming a more seasoned Pioneer.
If you share a spiritual orientation similar to mine, then you may already have derived some fresh comfort and motivation from what I’ve shared thus far–especially if my account has helped you realize that YOU are operating on the frontiers of your own ability right now. But even if you don’t have a similar spiritual orientation, it’s still true that the Frontier–far from a place of peril and woe to be avoided at all costs–is actually the BEST place to be.
What Makes the Frontier the Best Place to Be?
So what makes the Frontier the BEST place to be? Why would we put in the work to become a more seasoned Pioneer?
First, whether you find yourself there voluntarily or involuntarily, operating on the frontiers of our own abilities fortifies us against the many perils of this life.
It’s the metaphorical weight room of our lives, where we add more weight to the bar. Additional weight adds more resistance, and repeated attempts to overcome that resistance give us greater strength, resilience, and adaptability in the face of life’s many perils. By contrast and by definition, the complacency and atrophy that come from only ever operating within our abilities are existential threats. Whenever possible, then, voluntarily open up new Frontiers in your life so that you’re better prepared for the involuntary Frontiers that Life will inevitably bring your way.
Secondly, operating on the frontiers of our own abilities helps us find our unique Path in the world.
You are on the offensive, deploying a spirit of voluntary exploration, seeing “what’s out there,” so to speak, rather than hoping that “what’s out there” will come find you. You are creating your own storyline within the ancient tale of human exploration and adventure. When we test ourselves on the Frontier, we come to understand more clearly the kind of human we are and what our ideal operating conditions are like. We also come to understand more clearly what kind of human we are NOT and what our adverse operating conditions are like.
As we begin to travel our unique Path in life, we begin to fulfill purposes along that Path that are uniquely ours to fulfill. We take our place in the world and in the grand Story of humankind. You are wind in the sails of the human enterprise rather than an anchor holding it back.
Thirdly, in time, new Frontiers become settled territory.
They are no longer the realm of the unknown but get enfolded into the realm of the Known. They define the new borders of your expanded zone of competence. From those new borders, you can venture into new Frontiers that were once well beyond your reach. In addition to greater personal strength and the fulfillment that comes from treading your own Path, you now have more power and influence to wield for the world’s good.
Become a Seasoned Pioneer
The Frontier is the best place to be. On the frontiers of our own ability, we get stronger, we find our unique Path in life, and we acquire more power and influence to wield for the world’s good.
We were made for the Frontier, and the Frontier was made for us. We are tapping into the fullness of our humanity when we push into uncharted territory. And whether we like it or not, ALL of us will be forced to encounter new Frontiers in one way or another many times in our lives. So we might as well be ready for it.
It’s good to become a more seasoned Pioneer!
What’s your relationship with the Frontier like? What kind of Pioneer are you? Do you consistently recoil in fear or automatically register the indicators on your dashboard as a signal to turn around? Maybe some Frontiers–at work, for example–are welcome challenges but others–at home, for example–are confusing and anxiety-provoking. Whatever your relationship with the Frontier is like, what’s just one way you could upgrade it? Start where you are, summon the courage to venture just a little bit more into the Frontier, and hold that new ground with tenacity–through all of the attending discomfort–until it becomes part of your settled territory. Then, advance again, Pioneer.
And for some extra status-quo-busting motivation, remember: You ARE going to die. But you’re not dead yet. So get after it!
Companions for the Journey
Even seasoned Pioneers need a companion for the journey.
Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, visit my website, or email me.. Or, enlist a group of fellow pioneers to support you in your journey by joining a Graveyard Group. New groups are forming now. Visit andrewpettycoach.com to learn more.
I’m so glad you tuned in today. Don’t forget to follow this show, and I’ll see you next time on Andrew Petty is Dying.