“There are times when the only way to get from A to C is by way of B.” Jeffrey R Holland, Wrong Way
Sometime last year a 16-year-old student asked, “how do I make myself do what I don’t want to do, or how do I even know what the heck I want or should be doing!” I stood in front of the room and the class laughed because everyone knew this kid was the funny guy in class. At the time grades were falling, assignments were missing, and I think we were all breathing a general attitude of apathy. I had tried to hide what I knew may come across as the same old motivational pep-talk with tips and research.
The sarcastic question hung in the air for a bit because a question that is one of THE questions of life and cuts to the heart of the issue shoots motivational rhetoric off its high horse.
I knew underneath the laughter, these questions bounced back and forth between their minds and hearts. I knew at this time in their lives they wanted answers to these questions NOW.
This memory came to mind as I was listening to a podcast called “Big Strong Magic” addressing some of these very questions. See, I have had many a discussion about the gifts of failure and finding your path with students. But I viewed this conversation in pride. I thought it was okay for teenagers to fail and find their way and not have their perfect course laid out in front of them, but I didn’t want to have to traverse that course myself. I had already done so and wanted in some way to be exempt.
I recently stepped off a secure path, or my A, and expected more direct guidance than I’m currently receiving. I suppose I wanted to find the perfect way. I’ve had to rethink this word. I now feel like what Christ means by perfect (like “be ye therefore perfect”), is not to be flawless, but whole. And after reading Brene Brown and Catherine’s interpretation of her research, I would even change the word whole to whole-hearted.
I didn’t want to have to find my C by way of B. I wanted to leap out of A’s box and be directed to C. But guess what, I’m on a B path. And it may not be direct, but I have to believe that I’ll find the life and divinity in it. So I would say to that student, and to all of us, that the the space between your questions of what to do and finding the answer may be messy and trying.
In that same podcast, Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert go on to say that the only thing that gets you back to work on day 2 is if you forgive yourself for how bad your work was on day 1. Day 2 doesn’t stop because of will power or weakness, it stops because of shame, and the antidote to shame is not discipline but empathy. I feel like Christ is the master of this concept. If we were kinder to ourselves and more patient I can’t help but wonder what could change in our lives.
So here’s what I’m living and believe Christ wants us to acknowledge: traversing mountains and going back and forth in messy paths creates a life of wholeness. The glory in C perhaps is only because of the messy middle of B. Side-lines and wrong ways can allow you to stop and see people from a new angle and view. So it’s the middle part, the B part, the doing part that produces something. While I have no magic answer to get me or anyone else to do what you don’t want to do, or know which way to go, I do believe that the exploration is in some way part of the plan.
Where and how do you find and notice God’s and guidance in messy middles? How do think gratitude can be a tool of peace in such times?