Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An opportunity in our midst

I once heard it said, "Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal".  I think Henry Ford may have been the originator of this quote.  There is some wisdom in this statement as we all seem to lose focus on the mission, if even for a temporary span of time, when we get wrapped up in the obstacles in our midst.  Booker T. Washington said, "Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles he has overcome."  An obstacle is anything or anyone that "obstructs" our vision, progress, or stand.  It almost blocks our passage from one point to the other.  If you are like me, these are annoyances which you "deal with" and then move on.  I sometimes "paint myself into a corner", then am left trying to figure a way out.  How about you?  The truth is, there has never been an obstacle (or a corner) which God has not been there with the wisdom to help me through it (or around it).

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)

Paul is so awesomely correct in his perception of how we feel and what it is we are perceiving in life when obstacles riddle our pathway - it LOOKS like everything is falling apart on us.  Yet, it is on the inside where we need to keep our focus - not on the external evidences of obstacles!  The inside is where God is at work - where his grace and wisdom give us the ability to overcome the obstacles in our midst (or find a way out of the corner we are in).  Even the ability to see an obstacle is a measure of God's grace.  If you don't believe me, consider just how many times you DIDN'T stub your toe on the dresser instead of the one time you did!

The evidence of obstacles in our lives is not evidence of God's displeasure with us - they are a means of discovering greater depths in his love, protection and grace.  Those very things which seem to be our greatest challenges are really the things which will produce the greatest growth in our lives.  We SEE the obstacle - God sees the opportunity.  I would like to challenge us to begin to equate "obstacle" with the word "opportunity".  When we pair these two together, we might just come to the place of developing a different perspective of the thing which causes us so great a degree of distress.

God's intention is never to allow an obstacle so great HE cannot overcome it in our lives.  I think we get it all wrong when we thing WE have to overcome the obstacles ourselves.  Every obstacle is God's opportunity - it is his chance to connect a little more of his grace with our need.  God sees the obstacle as a temporary "stoppage" - not a full "blockage".  When we get "stopped" in the our path by the obstacle, we are just at a place of inactivity - we cannot move forward as we'd have liked to.  When we are "blocked" from making progress, it is with intent.  When a stop light creates a "stoppage" of traffic, it is to facilitate the safety of those who must turn at a certain intersection, or traverse in the opposite direction of the other traffic.  When a police officer puts up a road-block, it is to keep traffic out because a certain pathway has been declared unsafe for passage.  By the blockage, we are diverted away from hazards unknown.  What appeared as an obstacle actually becomes a means of ensuring our safety down the road.

When we begin to see obstacles, we usually engage in some "self-talk".  We think things like, "Now why did I get myself into this mess?" or "What on earth was I thinking?"  We ask the "why" and "how come" questions a lot.  It is almost like we immediately assume the place of being a "victim" when we are faced with the obstacle.  Why is it in my path right now?  How come I couldn't have avoided this hurdle?  Why is it I always run into this kind of stuff when I try to make any forward progress with God?  And the list goes on.  We need to learn how to "talk to" the obstacles in our midst instead of talking "about" them!  

The truth be told, some obstacles are there by our own doing - others because another places them there.  Those which our own doing often come with other types of "compounding obstacles" such as guilt or shame.  Those which are the doing of another may also have their "compounding obstacles" such as anger or resentment.  It is amazing to me how many times one small obstacle becomes a bigger one just by the "compounding obstacles" we introduce into the mix.  The "shift" in seeing an obstacle as an opportunity may just help us not "add to" the obstacle in our midst by keeping us away from the negative self-talk and the introduction of those compounding obstacles!  Just sayin!