Survive or Live

12 Years a Slave

In the movie 12 Years a Slave (adapted by the book of the same title), Solomon Northup is stolen from his freedom in the North to be a slave in the South. Solomon has lived a majority of his life as a free man, so the thought of slavery is completely foreign to him.

Early into his captivity, Solomon is faced with this horrible dilemma – Does he keep his head down, obey and survive, or does he do everything he can to live freely. He says,

I don’t want to survive. I want to live.

The push and pull is captured in a scene below deck of a steamboat headed toward New Orleans. He and two other slaves discuss their options, which aren’t many.

The rest of the movie is a tale of walking the tightrope between surviving and living. It shows an existence of having life yanked away every time one does more than just survive. Ultimately, the answer from Solomon’s life is sometimes you have to survive so you can one day live.

Survive another day…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve done my share of surviving. I’ve woken up to wonder how to pay a bill, grind through a job or scramble to see where my next paycheck was coming from. I’ve had to put my head down and fight to just take another step.

In the famous Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, Jobs’ describes this as his desert years. Jobs was forced out of Apple, he’s floundered at his next venture(s), and he wondered what he was supposed to do in life. Jobs is simply surviving.

Here’s the question you have to ask yourself when you’re in the desert.

Am I surviving to survive, or am I surviving to live?

Solomon always has the bigger goal ahead of him – freedom, his family, life. Solomon is surviving to live, truly live, not just live another day.

How to go from survive to live, what's your why?

…Survive to live

So here’s the bigger question,

What’s your WHY?

I recently sat next to Dr Holly Wyatt on a flight from Denver to Orlando. Dr Holly was the medical expert on ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss for several seasons, and she runs a weight loss clinic at the University Colorado. I had a fascinating discussion with her about her work – past, current and future.

As we talked, she described her job not as one of telling people what to eat or how to exercise. Her job isn’t to tell people how to lose weight. Most people inherently know these things already. Her job is helping people discover what is stopping them from doing what they know to do.

She helps people find their WHY.

Your WHY is the reason you exist, the thing that gets you up in the morning, what challenges you to keep going. Solomon’s WHY was his family, freedom, life. My WHY is my family, my ministry, helping people find purpose, meaning and freedom in their lives.

When you find your WHY, you begin to live.

Most of us know our WHY, we just have to ask ourselves what it is. We need to take some time, think, meditate, pray, journal. It’s inside you already.

What is your WHY? Share it below and encourage someone else looking for their WHY!

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