Life is good and everything is going great … then suddenly I’m derailed by a bad piece of track or a wrong turn. We’ve all had our bad days, some worse than others. Still, most don’t compare to what the Apostle Paul endured.
The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked, attacked by murderous mobs, beaten, starved, imprisoned, threatened with death many times, and betrayed by friends. Paul was stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods three times, whipped with 39 lashes five times, attacked by an angry mob, shipwrecked three times and floated for 24 hours, held under arrest for two years without a trial, and bitten by a viper. Just to name a few things. Where can anyone find peace through such hardships?
Here is what I discovered.
The life of a teacher can be going great – like being on the fast tracks of a fabulous day. Then suddenly be derailed by a bad piece of track or a wong turn. As I learned from Jeanne Catherine Gray, my thoughts don’t merely report on my derailment or wrong turn. My thoughts are the engine that fuels my train. My thoughts can take me further down the bad turn. Or, my thoughts can look for a turn back onto the main line.
I remember the time when I was teaching a programming class. I greeted each of the twelve students as they walking into the computer lab – a full class of students in a typically dark room and … I knew no one. I noticed that one older gentleman looked particularly grumpy and it concerned me. My suspicions were confirmed when I asked him about his expectations for the class.
He said, “I hope I learn something. I’ve been programming with this language for about twenty years.”
My train just derailed. My confidence suffered. How can I teach this class? They have more experience then me! I’ll look stupid. I’m a failure! And on and on …
At this point, my thoughts aren’t just reporting on my situation. My thoughts are a part of the situation. And, they taking me in a bad direction.
I have a choice. I could continue to make assumptions as to why a man with twenty years of programming experience is in my programming class and continue to mentally beat myself up. Or, I could take a turn back onto the main line, where life is good. I needed to look for a way to make the class sucessful and stop beating myself up. With that in mind, I asked him a question, “Why are you here?”
His answer was simple and logical. “You’re teaching a newer version of the language that I don’t know. I need to know the new version to do my job. And, I can’t afford to waste my time.”
My problem just got solved because I choose look for a turn back onto the main line. I didn’t want to continue to mentally beat myself up unnecessarily. I looked for a way to make the class successful. By asking him why he was in the class I discovered that I could help him. And, better still, he could help me as a subject matter expert. The class turned out great.
As the saying goes, “When God closes a door, look for an open window.”
Perspective is everything. Think about a piece of wood being sanded and cut in order to turn it into a masterpiece. I’m like that piece of wood. I can focus on the cuts and scraps and miss the point. Or, I can focus on becoming a masterpiece and see the purpose behind the hard ships – which gives me a great reason to keep going.
I don’t fail when I fall down. I fail when I stay down. I don’t fail when the cuts and scraps come. I fail when the cuts and scraps stop me. Paul didn’t fail when the shipwrecks and stonings and beatings came. Paul didn’t fail because he saw God’s purpose and kept going. Paul’s perspective past his short-term challenges to God’s long-term perspective gave Paul a way back to the main line of a good life. And, that perspective gave Paul God’s peace. I want that peace.
How about you?
“Turning today’s pain into confident expectations for a great tomorrow.”