I watched in amazement this week as the stock market continued its downward slide. Every time I checked the news, I braced myself for increasingly dire reports. When the market finally closed on Friday afternoon, I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that the DOW did not end below 8,000 points.
While the week’s drama had been unfolding on Wall Street, Gail and I were safely tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, spending a few days with several dear friends and industry leaders. Naturally, we talked about the financial crisis, but we also shared some wonderful times of fellowship. We spent most of our time talking about more transcendent issues—things that matter deeply to each of us.
By Friday evening, everyone had left except us and our hosts, Rick and Debbie. About 5:00 p.m., the four of us drove into the Rocky Mountain National Park to see if we could catch a glimpse of the giant elk that roam the forests and meadows like ghosts. We hoped that we might even hear the elk “bugling,” something they only do during the mating season.
We had not been driving twenty minutes when we saw several cars stopped along a meadow. We got out of the car and immediately saw a bull elk with about six cows grazing. Then we noticed several elk on the mountainside above our car. We literally got within twenty yards of these giant creatures, our jaws drooping in wonder.
After thirty minutes of watching—and no bugling—we went to another site and parked. We got out of the car, unfurled our blankets, sat down with our binoculars, and opened a bottle of red wine. We passed a tray of cheese and crackers between us.
Within minutes another bull elk emerged from the woods. Soon, several cows followed and even a few calves. As we stared and whispered to each other, the calves began chasing one another in a circle. We knew we were witnessing something extraordinary. It was a perfect moment … but not the last.
As the sun set, the bulls finally began to bugle. The dimly lit meadows came alive with sounds—an elk choir, singing an ancient and elaborate melody. Older elks bellowed deeply. Younger ones trumpeted with joy. They called to one another and to their Creator, seemingly oblivious to our presence. I have never experienced anything like this. (Click here to hear an audio sample.)
This morning when I woke up, my first emotion was profound gratitude. Even though my financial worth had been decimated by the events of the last three weeks, I realized that nothing could touch the things that are most valuable to me. Experiencing the elk at dusk with people I love was a timely reminder.
I also realized that I have a choice: I can focus on what I have lost or I can focus on what I have. I started making a mental list:
- I have my health.
- I have a loving wife, who is also my best friend.
- I have five wonderful daughters, two sons-in-law and (so far) two beautiful grandchildren. “I am particularly fond of each of them,” as Papa says in The Shack [affiliate link] .
- I have several profound friendships that encourage and challenge me.
- I have meaningful work that I would do even if I wasn’t getting paid.
- I have incredibly competent co-workers whom I truly love and respect.
- I have a church that grows dearer to me with each passing year. (We have been members there for 24 years.)
- I have a relationship with God that is endlessly fascinating and fulfilling.
And the list goes on. I could name a hundred more things, but you get the idea.
My guess is that the financial crisis is going to get worse before it gets better. You and I have very little control over what happens in the external environment. But we do have control over what happens inside our hearts. It all depends on our mental focus.