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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Patient Warrior

Not being a math whiz myself, I appreciated a story I read a few years ago. A young man traveled to St. Louis to take the entrance exam to West Point. He was from a poor farming family, and his hopes for a college education hinged upon an appointment to the military academy.

Upon his arrival, he learned he would be competing with twelve other young men. His chief competition, much to his chagrin, had been preparing for the exam for over a year!

The exam was to take four days, each subject lasting four hours. The exam on algebra was the major obstacle for this young man. It was mandatory to solve 67 percent of the problems. After two hours, he had solved only 20 percent. Discouraged and convinced he was a complete failure, he picked up his papers and walked to the desk of the officer in charge, ready to hand them in. He had wasted everyone’s time, including his own. He was going home, ready to spend the rest of his life farming.

Arriving at the desk, the young man noticed the officer completely focused on a book he was reading. He did not want to disturb the officer, so he returned to his desk and decided he might as well try one more time.

Then, something happened. The young man began to recall the theorems he had studied. He became enthusiastic and hopeful. After four hours, he had completed more than the necessary 67 percent. The rest of the exams were tough, yet the young man pressed on.

Last week, I saw the grave of that young man in Arlington National Cemetery. The tombstone had five stars on it. Omar Bradley, received his appointment to West Point, became a hero of World War II, and grew to be one of the most beloved and revered generals in military history.

During his entrance exams, Omar Bradley found temptation to quit. He grew frustrated and his emotions told him to leave. Yet, he remained patient, overcame his emotions, and he persevered.

Omar Bradley defied the military stereotype. Consequently, I find Prov. 16:32 particularly fitting to him—and ironic:

32 Better a patient man than a warrior,
a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Omar Bradley was a patient man (who held his emotions in check), a warrior, and he took a city---many in fact.

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