A few years ago, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever. It wasn't valuable. It wasn't expensive. It wasn't an electronics device or designer name shirt. It was a small, clear plastic cube.
I remember opening the gift and immediately noticing that there was a $20 bill in the center. The cube itself is approximately 4" x 4" x 4" - not much larger than a Rubik's Cube. But, the solution to Rubik's Cube paled in comparison to the fight I had before me.
Between the outside of the cube and the center - where the $20 bill was located - is a complex maze, and a small silver metal ball. The only way to open the cube and remove the $20 bill is to move the ball through this clear plastic maze and position it in one very specific spot to release the lock.
It seemed like child's play at first. "How hard can this be?" I said to myself as I began to roll the little ball around. Click. Clack. Ding. Ping. Grrrrrrrrr. Dead end.
After about ten minutes, it was back around to me - we always go around the room and open gifts one at a time. My turn had come up again. But I was only focused on the puzzle. "You can skip me," I said. I had some business to take care of.
I studied the plastic demon intently. It was not going to get the best of me. Three centimeters left. Two down. Four right. Turn cube. Five millimeters forward. Flip cube. Beads of sweat on my forehead, I would not be deterred.
The problem with staring at a clear cube for 20 minutes is that you begin to hallucinate. You begin to see openings that don't really exist. And so it was that I continued to toil with what had become my arch enemy.
Ultimately, my mind was just too strong for this weak opponent. I mastered the cunning plastic cube through will and determination. I could not be defeated.
I still remember when I finally had the silver ball in the sweet spot, and the cube clicked open. Sure, I was appreciative of the $20 gift inside. But, the true joy came from the challenge to acquire it.
John Ortberg once wrote, "Challenge produces joy." While I don't always embrace the challenge like I did with the clear plastic cube, I can say that when I look back at the times in my life that I faced adversity - and overcame it - the joy I felt was exhilarating.
Sometimes, we take the easy way out. The path of least resistance. We don't have the time, we don't have the patience, and we don't have the desire to battle. But I think we cheat ourselves when we throw in the towel so easily.
If you don't believe me...you can borrow my clear plastic cube and test yourself. I still have it.
But, you'll have to get the 20 bucks somewhere else.