I used to write curriculum for a publisher who provided Bible study resources. I wrote for teens, adults and teachers of these age groups. It was something I enjoyed, as it allowed me to exercise my creativity while producing resources that impacted people with the powerful truth of God’s Word.
This work was not an easy endeavor, because I was doing it as a "side hustle" while conducting my full-time career in education and ministry. So, there were many late nights, or weekends, that I would be working hard to meet a publication deadline. It always felt good to hit the “save” button and complete a project…send it off to the publisher and rest until the next assignment came.
I learned a vital lesson, however, on one occasion, as I was working hard to complete an assignment. Nearing the end of the particular series I was writing, I was just about to call it quits for the night. In the process of shutting down my computer...and I can't tell you what I did wrong...I lost all of the work I had spent hours creating. I don’t need to tell you, I was all kinds of crazy at that moment...in disbelief, angry, flabbergasted, sad, frustrated...it was a flood of emotions. The bad news...there was no option to recover the lost material. I searched for recovery methods, I sought advice, I googled advice. I found no rescue. The only choice I had, was to reboot and start over. All of that work…study, development of the studies, teaching methods and ideas…all of it was gone. I just turned off the computer and went to bed. However, the lesson I learned?...save your work often...I discovered auto-save and that never happened again.
When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn
There are times in life when we face a need to reboot. Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote a poem entitled, “To a Mouse,” in which he apologizes for destroying the nest the mouse spent so much time and energy building for his family, as he was plowing his field. In the poem, there is a line that we have come to know as a common saying, and from which John Steinbeck borrows for the title of his book, “Of Mice and Men.” The line in the poem says, “The best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong” (translated).
In our pursuit of our purpose and mission, we work hard to plan and strategize, putting in our time and developing our skills. We can do all of the right things. We pray and we submit our plans to the God who has called us to that purpose. However, things may not always play out the way we expect. Perhaps it is due to a bad decision, or the choice of someone else, or circumstances outside our control. The cliché is true, sometimes "life happens."
Looking back on my life, there have been times when things took a different turn. There have been situations that required a change of plans to take a different direction. A couple of years ago was one such time. I won't go into all of the details, but suffice it to say, work challenges, death in the family, and taking care of the needs of an aging parent, were the dynamics that required a shift in focus and postponing of some plans.
In those situations, I have to ask, “What are the options I have before me?” I have a choice to make. I can say, "This is too hard. I’ve wasted too much time. I'm moving on and I'll just forget this endeavor." Or, I can tell myself, "It is what it is, and there's no reason I can't pick up where I left off...I can REBOOT and start again." That is the choice that we make when we acknowledge that we have purpose. That is the move we can make when we realize that God is not caught off guard by the circumstances and His purposes remain. Just as I learned a lesson in my loss of the curriculum writing assignment, we can learn some important lessons in our life journey, when it takes an unexpected turn.
Give Yourself Some Grace
What I mean by this is, don't beat yourself up for getting off track. What are your emotions about the "crash" you experienced that has brought you to this place?...sadness, anger, frustration, depression, guilt, shame? All of those emotions are normal reactions to situations where we get knocked off our desired path. Acknowledge the emotion, express it in healthy ways (journaling, exercise, sharing/talking, prayer). Then, let go of any of the negative fallout of that emotion...let go of the tendency to wallow in shame or depression. Realize that EVERYONE has failures, gets sidetracked, gets in a rut, or makes a bad decision. But you don't have to exacerbate the situation by letting the associated emotion keep you from rebooting and moving forward.
I like what author Horacio Jones wrote, "Instead of saying, 'I'm damaged, I'm broken, I have trust issues,' say, 'I'm healing, I'm rediscovering myself, I'm starting over.'" I would say, we already know that we are "broken" in some way...that's the human condition we all share. However, focusing on becoming whole and the healing process is the perspective that opens the door for our hope. Author, Pete Wilson, put it this way, “My greatest fear for my life and yours is that we'll just get busy and distracted and settle for a mediocre, unexamined life. It's that we'll just settle into life as usual and never become the person God intended for us to be.”
Rebooting involves letting go of whatever will keep us locked in doing nothing and staying "offline," and making the necessary changes, little-by-little, to resume or start whatever our hopeful future entails. That leads us to the next principle.
Learn from Your Mistakes
“MY GREATEST FEAR FOR MY LIFE AND YOURS IS THAT WE'LL JUST GET BUSY AND DISTRACTED AND SETTLE FOR A MEDIOCRE, UNEXAMINED LIFE. IT'S THAT WE'LL JUST SETTLE INTO LIFE AS USUAL AND NEVER BECOME THE PERSON GOD INTENDED FOR US TO BE.” ~PETE WILSON
That's what I did when I had to reboot my computer and rewrite my publishing assignment. I set the autosave option to save my work frequently. That way, if the same thing happened again, I would lose very little material. I never had the problem again.
When life throws us a curve ball, or we make a regrettable choice, we can reboot and start over. But, an important part of that process is to ask, "What can I learn from this?" We can evaluate where we went wrong...did I react in the wrong way?...did I make a bad choice?...did I miss making a wise response to the circumstances that led to my losing my way? Simply, once we understand what got us off track, we can do what is necessary to avoid the same thing again. Someone has said (Not Albert Einstein), "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If we want to reboot and avoid another "crash," we have to find out what caused the crash and make the necessary change to correct the "malfunction." This is wisdom at work. To do otherwise, would be ignoring a necessary step to our successful reboot.
Make a Plan
This may be where a lot of people get bogged down. It is one thing to decide you want to reboot after a crash. It is another to have a plan in place to move forward. Sometimes that plan can be a thorough step-by-step course of action that takes you from start to "finish" in the reboot process. Sometimes, that plan may be just the first few steps and you will need to come back to the table and review your progress and develop the ongoing plan. Either way, the key is to HAVE a plan. Without a plan, you may find yourself spinning your wheels, or wandering aimlessly toward no really defined goal.
This is where another person can be of help…a friend, spouse, pastor, life coach or counselor. Having someone come alongside you to help you clarify your perspective, define your goals, identify your strengths and barriers and strategize a course of action, is a resource that is invaluable. (I will write about this in an upcoming post).
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” These are wise words...without a plan we can't know what we really want to accomplish and how we are going to accomplish it. Just as in rebooting a computer, you must follow a specific set of steps to reboot in life. There are steps that we must follow to be successful and the steps for you are as unique as the circumstances surrounding your situation.
Gather the Necessary Resources
If you call tech support for a computer problem, saying your machine is not working, the first question the support person will ask is, "Is your computer connected to a power source?" In other words, they're asking, "Is it plugged in?" That seems like a silly question, but the reality is, many people get frustrated with their computer malfunction, only to realize that they failed to plug it in. It really does happen.
For us to be able to successfully reboot in life, we must know for sure we are plugged in to the resources that will enable us to be successful. Some say that it is just a matter of finding the strength within to accomplish our goals. However, I am of the opinion that it takes more than just our inner ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. I believe it requires us to recognize and tap into all of the resources around us that are important to our well-being. We are social, relational beings and that means we function best when we are engaged in relating to others who are important to us and who can support and guide us in our endeavors to reach our goals.
For the person of faith, finding our ultimate strength in God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ is central. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). Additionally, finding the people around us who are there to walk beside us, hold us accountable and encourage us, is essential. These relationships empower us, encourage us and educate us along the way. There is no need to walk through this reboot alone, and the relational results that we enjoy are invaluable.
I love the words that the Apostle Paul wrote in that same letter to the Philippian believers, "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14). He knew the value of letting go of the past...failures, mistakes, wrongs...and looking toward the future that fulfills our purpose with the strength that God gives. That is a promise you can depend upon.
"BROTHERS, I DO NOT CONSIDER THAT I HAVE MADE IT MY OWN. BUT ONE THING I DO: FORGETTING WHAT LIES BEHIND AND STRAINING FORWARD TO WHAT LIES AHEAD, I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL FOR THE PRIZE OF THE UPWARD CALL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS." Philippians 3:13-14
Whether you face a life "crash" or a detour in the road, is not the end. You can reboot and set out on the path you intended, making the course corrections and gathering the resources you need. You can do it today! Remind yourself of that truth! Encourage others that they can do the same, as we pursue our purpose.
You may find yourself facing a barrier that seems to threaten your path of purpose. Perhaps you have overcome barriers in the past. Either way, we invite you to share your experiences and encourage one another through the comments below! Thank you for being a part of the Purposed 365 community! Please consider liking and sharing this post on social media!
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!