You’ll Only Change When You’re Ready: Part 2

(or Go with the Flow)

flickr photo by Northwest Rafting Company https://flickr.com/photos/nwrafting/3845473033 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

After enduring battle fatigue and failed efforts at getting my way, the last and most important precursor to accepting a new way of handling the challenges I faced was opening my mind to the notion that such a thing even existed.

I needed something larger than my problems and more capable than myself at arriving at the right solutions. This is where my faith entered the picture.

For me it’s all about putting my trust in God. I know some you get freaked out at the mention of the God of the Bible and Jesus. Well don’t. I recognize the fact that everyone is on their own spiritual journey and free to choose to trust in a “higher power,” their own efforts, other things, or nothing at all.

And that’s okay.

Yes, my hope is that everyone would come to know Christ, and accept him as their Lord and Savior. But you know what? I don’t hold it against anyone for choosing to do otherwise. The point of this book is to reveal what has and hasn’t worked for me when I’ve faced trials. And a faith in God, more than anything else, got me through some pretty tough times. More on that later.

We can all agree that life is going on all around us. Everyone’s in the process of moving through life in time and space, getting a little older and hopefully a little wiser.

I like to think of life as a river and we’re all flowing with the go of that river. (No intentional reference to my surname. Nuh-uh, none at all.) When we’re born we traverse the river thanks to the guidance and protection of our parents or guardians. And it’s a pretty sweet deal. They handle all the navigating, all the paddling, the breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we — as infants — get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

As we grow, we learn how to sit up, take in our surroundings, and little by little along the journey we learn the things we should and shouldn’t do — always wear your life preserver, never lean out of the canoe while shooting rapids, and don’t lose your paddle — most of the skills we need to aid us as we travel the river.

Eventually, we learn how to best use our paddle in different types of water, and we begin to maneuver our own canoe, hopefully without crashing into rocks. And if we’ve been paying attention, we learned what to do if we should strike a glancing blow at a boulder or momentarily lose our paddle.

In time, and with practice, we learn how to maneuver our dugout through the waters alone, to shoot the rapids when necessary without incident, and how to upright ourselves when we capsize. We learn via trial and error what to do in thunderstorms, calm waters, and when we encounter the occasional bear.

The thing is, we’re constantly moving forward. We always have the option to pause and head to the shore for a respite or climb on a rock when we need to regroup, but the river is still moving forward. And so are we.

Flowing with the Go Is Not Passively Moving Through Life

With this analogy of life as a journey down a river, the concept of flowing with the go is pretty easy to grasp. Just as there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do on the water, there are certain things that are not good courses of action in life.

Choosing to kick back in a canoe for an extended period of time and allowing the current to take you wherever it will is never a good strategy because doing so can lead to disastrous consequences; the same principle holds in life. To go through life with no regard for circumstance or consequence is reckless at best. We’ve all got to paddle our own canoe.

Each incident in life — and on the river — no matter how insignificant it may seem, is an opportunity to prepare for what lies ahead.

Flowing with the Go Is

Realizing that God is fully aware and in control of everything. If we take my analogy further, everything was designed by and created by God. He determined when I would be born, who my parents would be, my physical attributes, my gender, my race, personality, mental abilities, physical impairments and aptitudes, and he knows the events that will unfold in my life.

God knows what’s going on with everything even when I don’t have a clue what’s going on and especially in those moments when I think I do. In my limited “wisdom” — and I use the term loosely — I am only privy to a small amount of information about any situation. I don’t know the reasons why people do what they do, nor do I understand the circumstances that allow for certain things to take place and for others to never reach fruition.

God has my best interests at heart. Most of us have been blessed to have a select number of people in our lives who have our best interests at heart, and for a small number of us a couple of those people have been with us all our lives. Some come into our lives for only a short time, and go.

The Bible’s replete with scripture about God’s love for humanity. And since I’m a human, I’m eligible to receive that love. I’m sure that as long as I’m on this side of eternity I won’t fully grasp all that God’s love entails. I know all too well how things turn out when I rely on my own devices, so I decided to take God at his word, specifically Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I’ve got nothing to lose in doing so.

I can only control my own actions. I’m the boss of me. I can only paddle one kayak at a time. As tempting as dictating what others should say and do appears, I have no obligation or responsibility to control their actions. If someone needs help, asks for my opinion, or I see that they’re blithely heading into danger; to lend a hand or offer a suggestion or a word of warning is the right thing to do.

There are folks who subscribe to a line of thinking that can be summed up as “I’ve got mine. Now you go get your own.” To relinquish all involvement with others is in my opinion, well, selfish. None of us got to where we are today without the help of someone else. There’s a thick line between controlling others and intentionally leaving others to suffer: it’s called compassion.

Extend forgiveness. I know there are some people out there who would disagree with me, but I like to think that I can easily extend compassion, empathy, and even forgiveness to others when they slip-up or make a mistake. It happens to everyone. Repeatedly. Who hasn’t said or done something that unintentionally offends someone else? It doesn’t take a board certified psychiatrist to realize that sometimes people are put in trying situations that impact others negatively through no fault of their own. Life happens.

But . . . I have a tendency to deny myself the same grace and forgiveness I extend to others. Call it being a perfectionist or setting a high standard for myself. Maybe I don’t like being called on the carpet for having disappointed other people. Or maybe it’s that my ego strives for some unattainable level of perfection. I don’t know.

I do know that I’m not perfect. I’m going to make mistakes. And there are plenty of naysayers out there poised and ready to shine a spotlight on my missteps or bad decisions. So why get all caught up in that? If the Creator of the universe is willing to forgive me, shouldn’t I be able to do the same?

Like it or not, our lives are moving forward through time and space, in much the same way that a canoeist or kayaker travels a river. We can choose to move through life with a hands-off approach and meet potentially disastrous results or we can opt to recognize that there are bigger forces at play in our lives and choose to work with them in handling whatever comes our way as we paddle down the river.

an excerpt from the book, “3 Things I Know: Facing and Embracing Life’s Challenges”


Originally published at clayrivers.wordpress.com on March 12, 2016.

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