As the great theologian and sage Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Children enter the world with no concept of the word can’t. Soon, however, the world begins to teach them that some things are, indeed, beyond their reach. By the time we reach adulthood, several defeats have helped delineate our capabilities. Unfortunately, these failures may steal our confidence so that we become timid, unwilling to try to achieve worthy and reachable goals. Wise people know their limitations, but they don’t allow those limitations to become excuses.
Agur, the wise man who wrote this set of proverbs, used an animal well known in Judea to illustrate an admirable characteristic of wisdom. The word rendered “badger” in many translations is actually shaphan in Hebrew. The plural form is shephanim. Unlike the fierce badger familiar to most people, the shaphan could be a rock cony or species of hyrax, a creature that resembles a large guinea pig with short ears, a chubby body, a stubby tail, and short, brown fur. Adults can grow to 20 inches (50 cm) in length and tip the scales at 9 pounds (4 kg). Like rabbits and prairie dogs, they are very docile animals.
They feed on vegetation in the morning and evening, live in burrows, and form tight-knit communities. Shephanim have no natural defenses against animals that would prey on them, animals like leopards, snakes, wolves, and eagles. Despite the fact that everything wants to eat them and they are hunted on the ground and from the sky, very few shephanim actually fall victim to their predators. That’s because they live in very secure refuges, remain close to home, and have a remarkably complex sentry system. The older adults usually take positions on prominent lookout spots and sound the alarm at the first sign of danger.
Compared to many animals, the shephanim have it tough. They live in harsh terrain and are relatively defenseless creatures. Yet they thrive! They recognize their own limitations and make the most of their circumstances. Moreover, they use their greatest asset, their community, to the greatest advantage.
All of us have limitations, but at least one key to success in life is refusing to allow limitations to become excuses and finding a way to accomplish your goals regardless.
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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