January 16, 2015

Going the Distance

I love this movie! "Field of Dreams" is one of my all-time favorite movies. I especially like this scene where Kevin Costner's character, Ray, sees the "message" up on the screen that encourages him to follow his dream. The message flashes the name of an old-time baseball player, and you hear the sound of a voice speaking the words..."go the distance." Chills run up and down your spine and for a moment, you are captivated by the story. You think to yourself, "go where, do what?" You begin to root and cheer for Ray as he creates his field of dreams, and you wonder whether you are watching something purely fantastical or if there is some nugget of truth hidden within the context of the story.

I am not sure why I am on a baseball fix. I am not a huge baseball fan. In fact, baseball is one of my least favorite sports. I do like the game, and I do think there is great strategy and purpose to playing it or learning to play it. I think baseball teaches good skills, both physical and mental, and it serves to train players in the key concepts of sportsmanship, team camaraderie, and persistence (never give up, never give in!) Lately, though, my mind has been running to sports metaphors as a means of understanding some of the events and circumstances I am facing in my life. I am in the midst of a pre-crisis, not a full on crisis by any means, but the beginning stages of a real crisis nonetheless.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines crisis as "a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention," "an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person's life," or "an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome." Regardless of which definition fits your idea of crisis, I think we can all agree that there are certain components that make up a crisis. Therefore, in my view, a crisis is a...
  • difficult situation
  • that requires serious attention
  • includes a significant event or change of status
  • leading to an unstable state of affairs
  • ending with the possibility of an undesired outcome
Yep, that is my idea of crisis. Dealing with crisis, with any crisis, is a challenge. How we choose to look at a crisis, and how we choose to navigate through a crisis often will help determine if the outcome ends up with a positive or a negative experience. Sometimes we are unable to change the outcome, and as a result, the experience ends up negative through no fault of our own. Often, however, we find ourselves in crisis due to some action of our own, and thus, we do have measures that can produce a change in outcome. In short, if the crisis is partly our fault, we can (at times) take steps to avert that unwanted or undesirable outcome.

One good example is a financial crisis. We may find ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis. Rarely is the crisis the result of actions outside our control. There are times where this is not the case, of course, but typically the financial crisis is partly our responsibility. We may overspend our budget each month, take on too much debt, etc. We may quit a job before we have another, thinking that a new job will be easily obtained. Our judgment may be impaired slightly, and we may assume that we have enough "savings" to cover our purchase or that added expense (a new car, a bigger home, etc.) Often, we make the decision in good faith. We believe that our circumstances are stable, and that we will be getting that raise, that promotion or that new job soon.

I know that I have "been there, done that" more than once in my lifetime. I have been at the brink of financial ruin, only to be saved by the Hand of God. Yes, I have been down to nothing, and then seen the Lord provide just the right amount needed, right when it was needed most. I learned valuable lessons through those very lean times, and I became frugal and wise in spending money. At times, I slid into the miserly camp by becoming so fixated on income that I refused to be generous. The Word tells us that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), and encourages us to freely give -- of our time, our talents, and our treasure. Other times, I felt moved to give even when I didn't have what I considered "enough," yet the Lord blessed my giving, and supplied my needs with sufficiency.

The focus of my point is not necessarily on financial crisis or marital crisis or any other crisis, but rather on what we do once we find ourselves at the point of a crisis. I think the most important step in understanding a crisis is being aware of the following:
  • A crisis is either beginning, in the middle of, or ending (pre, crisis, or post)
  • We play a part in every crisis
  • We can help work toward resolution of a crisis by attending to it (not tuning it out), by being proactive, by being communicative, and by being forward-thinking (outcome oriented)
As a crisis communication manager (or scholar), one of the things I learned in my course of study is that crises occur all the time, that they happen all around us, and that while we cannot avoid them (necessarily), we can learn to shorten their duration, and work toward promoting positive outcomes. In short, if we commit to "go the distance" we can often work through any challenge and overcome it with perseverance, diligence, and fortitude.

Of course, this doesn't negate the fact that some crises occur outside our control (like natural disasters, a company downsizing, or an out of control driver). We may not be able to shorten a marital crisis if the crisis was not our fault (a spouse leaving, for example). We can work through our part, acknowledging our actions or words, and then accepting some measure of responsibility (if only for our own actions). We can also work toward resolution of conflict through communication, and we can work toward a positive outcome, even if that means ending a relationship, walking away, or learning to deal with the death of dream.

Today I am struggling with a number of issues that are characterized as pre-crisis events. I am not in full-blown crisis yet, but I am aware that certain factors are potentially heading that way. How I deal with my daily life, with my own needs, own wants, and own desires can determine how well I survive the crisis when it finally develops (in my case, the possibility is that a crisis exists, and that it will develop outside my control).

I am thinking about "going the distance," making changes now that will serve toward creating the "best" possible scenario once that crisis develops. I am choosing to be proactive and to approach the problems with forward-thinking. I prefer to be out in front of the crisis, in the game, so to speak, taking steps now that could hasten the crisis once it occurs and could produce a positive experience.

What this means in layman's terms is this:

I may not be able to control the circumstances of my life, but I can control the decisions I make. If I make good decisions now, there is a very strong possibility that the outcome, post-crisis, will not be as difficult or devastating as if I take a "wait and see" attitude. Merriam-Webster defines the word "proactive" as meaning "controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems." Taking necessary steps now, planning for future problems, and using good judgment are all part of being proactive in any situation. My goal is to reduce the amount of pain, of sorrow, and of suffering that will come during the crisis phase by choosing options now that will help me later on. Thus, by being proactive now, I am giving myself the 'best' chance of future success.

As I look toward my future, one thing is certain: the Lord has me well-covered. I say this often, and when I do, I mean that God's grace is sufficient for whatever need, whatever circumstance, or whatever trial I may face. I am covered by His Grace. I have enough strength, endurance, perseverance, diligence, faith, and obedience to see me through to the end (of the crisis, of this year, of this life!)

The road before me is uncertain. I have options on the table, and I must weigh each option, pray over it, and submit my analysis to the Lord for His guidance. In the end, the way that I go will be guided by the Lord, submitted to Him for approval, and determined by His Will. I am trusting Him for His outcome, and I am looking to Him for His wisdom. I don't want to make a mistake. I don't want to choose the option that looks best to me, but in reality, is not the "best" choice for my future. It is a heady task, given that I am deciding a future that is not just about what I want. No, I have my parents welfare, my son's education, and my career/job to consider. I have to think about retirement, life expectancy, contingency plans for long-term care, etc. There are many, many facets to the decision-making process, and all them are important. The days of making decisions that are solely in my own interest are long-gone. I wish this were the case, where I could decide to go here or there simply because it seemed good to me. Now, however, I have so many worries on my plate, so many things to factor into the decision making process.

Yet, I approach the decision with the same attitude as if I were buying a car. I carefully weigh the options, I carefully analyze the details, and I carefully consider any possible unexpected concerns. Once the analysis is finished, I make the decision, and I stick with it (I don't waffle). Then, I go before the Lord and I wait. Yes, I wait. I trust that throughout the analysis phase, the Lord has been steady, guiding me, helping me to consider this or that. He has provided details to me that I might not have considered, and throughout the entire process, He has kept me focus on the end goal --> on making a wise decision.

Thus, with my decision in hand, with the "green lights set to go," I still wait for His confirmation, for His "Yes!" I consider this two-step process as vital to the outcome, to a successful outcome. The decision is made, but the Lord's timing must be the final consideration. The Lord must release me to go, to purchase, to change jobs, to move, to whatever is necessary. His timing is perfect.

In closing, as I think about all the various aspects of making life-changing, life-altering decisions (predicated on a potential future crisis), one thing is for certain: the Lord guides my every step, infuses my ever decision, and leads my way so that I have confidence to go where He tells me to go, to live where He tells me to live, and to do the work He tells me to do. I am resting 100% in His timing, in His provision, and in His way. I know that the plans the Lord has for my life are good, they are rock-solid, and I am content to be patient for Him to open that door, to give me that word, and to show me the way in which to go. I give Him all praise, all honor, and all glory for He is Good, so very Good to me!

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