If you are anything like me, you might have tried to side-step all the 'preparation' required for some exam in life, only to find all that side-stepping really left you wanting when you needed the right answer! You believed you could just do a cursory review of the work and all would be well. Preparation is key to not only exams in school, but for each of life's challenges as they come day by day. We all have differing responses when we face one of life's challenges, don't we? Some of us will rise up, take the bulls by the horns and plunge right in, while others withdraw a safe distance, consider their options and seemingly take forever to respond to the challenge. Sometimes we take every opportunity to avoid the challenge, just hoping it will go away! Regardless of how we face life when we are "challenged", it is important to keep in mind that each challenge carries a purpose. As Jesus remind us, true blessing in our lives comes when heart and mind are in alignment. Believe it or not, the "purpose" of the challenge is oftentimes to assist us in identifying where our heart and mind may not have that "perfect alignment" - the places where some preparation is needed.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4)
If you have ever driven while your tires are "out of alignment" you can relate to the "challenge" of controlling the vehicle. It is a rough ride and there is a tendency for your car to just drift to one side or the other! This tendency to "drift" to one side of the road doesn't take any real effort on your part. The effort your must exert is more in keeping the vehicle centered on the lane you need to stay within! That is how you know you might have an "alignment" problem - when there is continual "drift" out of the path you should be traveling. Guess what - it is pretty much the same in our spiritual lives! We might just begin to take notice of the fact that when faced with challenges, we often find ourselves "drifting" to the path of least resistance. When we try to "counter-act" that drift, it becomes a little difficult to control mind, will, or emotions - because they are not 'set' right. It takes effort - sometimes beyond what we seem to have left within ourselves for us to stay on course!
The truth is that the car "stays on course" much better when we routinely have the alignment checked. The ride is a little smoother, isn't it? As long as we have those tires rotated every 5,000 miles and request that the mechanic also "check the alignment" with those rotations, we enjoy a much easier ride! Take this idea into your everyday living. It is because of the continual focus of the one who operates as the "mechanic" in our lives that we can enjoy the alignment of our mind, will, and emotions with what he knows will produce the best "ride" in our lives. The mechanic does not automatically check our tires for alignment when we come into the shop each time - we have to request him to do so and we have to be willing to pay the price for that request. The same is true in our spiritual lives - we have to make frequent requests of our Lord to "test our alignment" and then we have to be willing to pay the price in order to be "realigned". There is always a price for preparation, but without preparation the ride we call life can be much more 'bumpy'!
God sometimes points out that we are "out of alignment" much as our mechanic might point out uneven tire wear as a sign that our car needs an alignment. God's way of "pointing out" our lack of alignment is often in the challenges we face throughout the day. He often lets us "struggle through" the natural pull of our emotions, will, and thought processes until we become aware of the lack of alignment that is giving us enough 'drift' that we aren't quite able to stay the course on our own. Yet, there are times when we have been drifting long enough and he just simply sits us down and points out the "results" of our lack of alignment - the wear and tear the drift has taken on our being becomes evident the more the 'drift' has been accepted as an 'okay' part of our lives. When challenged by the drift the best response we can have is to take time to realign our mind, will and emotions. You will save yourself a whole lot of unnecessary and expensive wear and tear on body, soul, and emotions when you prepare for the ride! Just sayin!