The older I get, the more I understand and accept that I am flawed, often untethered, and in constant need of refinement. I am so grateful that we have a Father who pursues us even when we don’t know we are running off course. He leads us to balance when we get outweighed by the grind of daily living.
A while back, I remember having two consecutive days at work that were stellar days. The interactions with my students were top notch, conversations with colleagues were meaningful, productivity was off the charts, and I had a pep in my step. I have a friend who refers to these as “cape days” where the superhero in us is soaring with our cape waving behind us with pride, joy, and accomplishment on display. I love cape days.
Inexplicably, in the middle of the week, immediately following these two days of heroism and unbridled motivation, I found myself deflated. The cape was wrinkled and flat against my back. It dragged behind me like a wet mop. I could not figure out how with one setting of the sun, I lost my swagger. I did not have it in me to fulfill a purpose. I had no pep talk that was going to reestablish my mood. While I know it is unrealistic to think that every day will be a cape day, I wanted more consistency and quicker recognition when my emotional, physical, & spiritual states were going to go on strike.
I began to pray asking God to guide me toward redirection, specifically redirecting a mind like mine that tends to get consumed by insignificant influences. I admittedly often allow a conversational comment, a social media post, a text (in which I inevitably infer tone that does not exist), or an awkward interaction plant a seed of doubt in my mind related to who I am or how I am going about something. It is an insecurity issue. I worry how I came across to someone or question why they approached me in a certain way. That comes with being emotional and sensitive. While those can serve as fuel to my flame and be a strength, they can also be a weakness. So, on this lackluster mid-week sink hole I found myself in, I knew I had to do some self-reflection. My cape was flying just 24 hours ago. Something had started to interfere with the path I had been on at the beginning of that week detouring me from my intended outcome. Detours lead to readjustment in navigation. By definition, a detour is a deviation from a direct course or the usual procedure especially; a roundabout way temporarily replacing part of a route.
Sometimes I realize the exact moment a detour began for me. Other times, like this sink hole of a Wednesday I have been referring to, I was at a loss for how I got off track. I am coming to understand that a very sly, methodical approach of Satan to drive us away from peace and into chaos is that of the undetected detour. Bit by bit, the enemy changes the road signs, creates obstacles, and traffic ensues. Or in other cases, we voluntarily go off-roading.
As someone who does not have an internal compass for directions as an actual driver, I will tell you that getting lost is stressful for me. If it were not for my GPS, I would never get out of my neighborhood. Following navigational directions, geography in general, and grasping the overall layout of my surroundings are not areas where I flourish. Being lost or without directional guidance in my mindset produces the same outcome as being lost as a literal driver. I become uneasy, anxious, and induced with stress when I get off the course I was supposed to be following.
I came across Psalm 119:8 (MSG) and it stuck with me like gum on a shoe.
It reads, “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You are blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him. That is right – you do not go off on your own; you walk straight along the road He set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I would never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I am going to do what you tell me to do.”
We are living in a world of overstimulation and prone to distraction. There are days where the enemy launches a full-on attack. There are also days where he does not have to work too hard to derail us. Considering our current cultural climate, Satan knows we do a decent job on our own getting off task and volunteering to be distracted. It is no secret that we are inundated with information from our very waking moment. Our daily lives are blasted with alerts, notifications, alarms, ringtones, and updates. This is not my attempt to blame social media and technology for all known problems. I would be amiss, however, to not acknowledge the part it can play in causing us to lose sight of the daily course we should be on as the minutes and hours unfold.
A few months ago, I found myself in a concerning pattern that I did not even realize I had created. That is how habits form. One day you do something and then the next and before you know it, you do it every day. Remember earlier when I mentioned that Wednesday where nothing seemed to go right. The cape was no longer flying. I felt emotional. I was cranky. Anxiety was taking hold of my thoughts. A few days after that, I felt compelled to analyze how my week had been. Why did it veer so off track? I made a list of things I had done that were beneficial and helpful to my having a good, productive day in which my moods were stable, smiles were achievable, and thoughts were balanced…the cape days. Then, I made a column of things I did that could have contributed toward my week getting off course. It was on that list where I had to face some choices I made. I wrote several things down.
These are the ones that made me stare at the page:
1. Woke up too late as a result of going to bed too late
2. Looked at Facebook & Instagram before I even got out of bed
3. Did not have anything readily available for breakfast
4. No time to actually look up and look around at my blessings
5. Irritated at cluttered car
Satan really does not have to do a lot sometimes to get us to take a detour. The Lord has given us a brain to use both logically and creatively. The logic part is where we mess up. We ignore logic. When the application of logic and common sense is ignored, we lose our grip of the wheel. I set myself up for failure when I decided that my body could function on 5 to 6 hours of sleep. I made it clear to myself and to the Lord my priorities when I did not speak to Him and thank Him for another morning that He has granted me. Instead, I needed to look at a screen. I assumed my brain and metabolism could go full throttle with no nourishment. I walked to my car with belongings in tow on the way to work without so much as a glance to how lovely the weather was or that my rose bushes had started blooming. I was irritated before I turned the key to my ignition because my car was so incredibly cluttered and dirty. I was the one who had not taken the time to clean and organize it. I was allowing the chaos to happen. I was purposefully putting a target on my back for the enemy to tackle me while vulnerable and ill-armed.
I decided to be intentional and made some changes in the week that followed. On Sunday evening, I went to bed when my daughter went to sleep. It was 8:30 pm. I allowed my tired body and mind to rest. I woke up the next few mornings thanking the Lord for the day, greeting Him, and praying for my family, friends, and students. I chose to not look at my phone until after I had showered and eaten some breakfast, which I prepared the night before so it would be available for me when I came downstairs. I found myself ready for my daughter and I to walk out the door to begin our day and I looked around my front yard. It has rained the night before and everything was so green and full of life. I told my daughter to go stand in front of the roses. I took her picture as she did various poses and we laughed. Then, looking at the clock, I realized that I was about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I grabbed a trash bag and began to tidy up my car and bring a few items into the house that belonged there and not in my impromptu vehicular storage container. On the way to school where my daughter attends and I teach, we cranked up some worship music and sang loudly. I grabbed my daughter’s hand at a stoplight and we prayed for our day. When we rolled into school, we were both of a happy countenance and had clearly connected with the Lord on several levels. With these few adjustments, I corrected course. I re-established my path. Those changes made a difference for myself and for my daughter.
We cannot continue to relegate blame for our valley moments when we made choices that took us off the mountaintop. So, in many cases, I deviated from my daily course because I made decisions that displaced my pursuits.
I found that my attitude was purchasing a one-way ticket with the expectations of a round trip result. I took myself to the valley. I had to correct my course and start climbing once again.
One of Christ’s own followers, Peter, serves as an exemplary model of self-sabotage through distractions and poor choices. In Matthew 14, Peter and the disciples were in a boat with Jesus during a tumultuous storm. Jesus appeared to them as the storm raged and saw they had much fear in their eyes. Jesus told Peter to come and walk on the water with Him and to not be afraid. Peter began taking his first steps with his focus on Jesus, not on the storm around him. Jesus was truth. Jesus was life. Jesus was the navigation in which to follow.
But in Matthew 14:30, Peter made a choice…a choice to believe circumstance over the Savior. The Bible states, “Peter saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid and began sinking, crying out to the Lord to save him.”
Peter got off course.
Peter was walking on water until he became distracted by the wind around him. That distraction planted a seed of worry and doubt. That seed grew instantaneously in the perilous surroundings leaving Peter with no foreseeable options other than to give in to the stress. Peter became anxious. Peter lost his cape. Peter lost His light. Peter’s distraction made him sink.
The enemy’s ultimate goal is to make sure we are so distracted with our feelings, our imperfections, our insecurities, and our frustrations that we do not create room or space for God’s purpose and pathway to be our priority.
We are of a human nature. The question is not IF we are going to get off course. It is more of WHEN. And, HOW. Also, for HOW LONG. We must be prepared to course correct. Recognizing our actions and surroundings is key. The cape stops flying behind you and I because we stop moving in the direction we are supposed to be moving. I am striving to be more aware of my actions and reactions. I understand that no day is perfect, but every day exists because of a perfect God. If I allow Him to lead me, correcting my course when needed won’t seem like an uphill battle, rather a quick adjustment. Consistency with my choices and intentionality with my responses will lead to awareness and positive functionality. Let us continue to reflect on those words in Psalms. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set.