Life is Not a Straight Line

I like setting goals. No question that, for me, clear goals, with a timeline and milestones, foster growth and accomplishment. The days in which I discipline myself to identify the three most important things I need to accomplish that day yield results both more productive and strategic. When reactivity is my prime methodology - emails, phone, meetings - the workday can easily end with the benediction, "What have I done today?"

But goals are not a multi-purpose tool, the Leatherman of life. There are areas of life that do not seem amenable to management, at least in the sense of "I'm in control of this."

Grief is a case in point. Both of my parents were on a clear downward path medically at the end of their lives. Being a trained professional who has been around a lot of people in grief, I assumed that I would be somewhat prepared for their deaths.

Each time when the phone call came, a part of me was shaken if not shocked. Grief cannot be managed, like rogue waves it seems to have a rhythm of its own. I am not certain one ever "gets over" or "deals with" grief; rather one learns to live with it.

The life of a congregation is another example. Some actions of a leader can trample life; some can nurture vitality, but there is an organic quality of congregational/group life not captured by a line graph. Not to overextend the chaos theory metaphor but, to a leader, it can feel as if somewhere in China a butterfly flaps its wings, and the fallout lands here.

"What's happening now?" is often not a response born of incompetence but of recognition that many forces are in play in this multi-verse called life.

"What's happening now?" - not incompetence but recognition that many forces are in play in this multi-verse called life.

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In Caleb's blog, he says "I will be triggered at some point, and I will want to use."

Fantasy and magic solutions are on the shelf, along with good intentions and a good supply of willpower. The question is not if temptation - using it in the full power of Jesus in the wilderness - will occur but what to do when it does."

"Just say no" is both naive and a revelation that the one so saying has never felt the power of the Dark Side of addiction.

A box of Smarties, an O'Henry bar or a bag of potato chips can wrestle me to the ground. What about the stuff that goes directly into the veins?

As part of his release, Caleb will develop release and recovery plans.

Are they worthwhile? Theologically, does Woody Allen have it right? "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." Is Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion closer to reality, "Everybody's got plans until they get hit."

Personally, I have found that planning is worthwhile but not sufficient. My basis metaphor for the Christian life is militant. So I resonate with Dwight Eisenhower, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

Planning, based in reality and not fantasy, helps gauge the power of "the enemy," - chocolate cannot be left unrestrained in the house; identify probable places of attack - dessert and in front of the TV; and potential escape routes - broccoli, are you kidding? It also pushes the question of resources. What or who will I need to get me through this part of the valley? When my wife is home, I am less likely to overeat, not because I will be cut down by a laser beam glare but, for some other reason, that is true.

Flexibility is essential "on the ground;" vision and commitment are vital. A compelling vision is crucial. Unless addicts hold a compelling vision of the life desired, we will not make it through the mud, darkness and ninja attackers.

Vision fuels commitment. And without commitment, there are only fantasies and wishes.

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When Caleb exits prison, that will be Step One in a much larger spiritual, emotional and physical campaign.

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