Turning Blocks into Stepping Stones
I’d like to share with you a way of thinking “blocks” and “problems” that has given me great peace, even during difficult times in my life. I think you’ll benefit from this way of thinking, too.
It all started one day while I was talking to my friend Ellen. I mentioned to her that I had a “problem to work on,” and she surprised me with her answer.
She said, “Oh, I don’t think about it that way.”
That surprised me because, like many people who like to “work on themselves,” I thought in terms of having problems that I needed to resolve so I could be happy.
If I had a problem, it was a “block” that was in the way of me getting what I wanted, and that block had to be broken through for me to feel okay.
But here was Ellen, telling me she didn’t think of problems as things she needed to work on. And she seemed like a pretty happy person. What was up with that?
Curious, I asked her what she meant. “You don’t think you have problems to work on, or blocks to get through?” I asked her. “How is that possible?”
“Well,” she said, “It’s not like I don’t have problems. It’s not like I don’t get sad, or angry, or afraid. I do. It’s just that I think of my life as a path, set before me by God.”
“Well duh,” I broke in impatiently. “So do I! So do most Christians!”
“You may think of your life as a path, but you don’t live it that way!” she said. “You think of your problems as blocks you have to overcome, to fight your way through. To me, that’s like thinking of each stepping stone of a path through the woods as some sort of obstacle you have to overcome. What if each step isn’t meant to be a struggle, but a step on a path to getting you somewhere great? But even the way you talk about it—a ‘problem’ to ‘work on’ or a ‘block’ to ‘overcome’ — shows you think of it as a struggle.”
I had to admit it was true. When I was “dealing with my problems,” I wasn’t seeing that problem as a part of a path, and certainly not as part of a path to somewhere great. I saw my problems as struggles, blocks I had to overcome so I could be okay.
“Go on,” I told her. “Say more about your life is your path.’”
“I don’t think in terms of ‘problems’ and ‘blocks.’” she said. “I think that if your life is your path, then the ‘blocks’ or ‘problems’ that show up along the way are actually stepping stones set by God to keep you going in the right direction — if only you’d pay attention. So I don’t call it ‘working on problems.’ I call it ‘walking my path,’ or just ‘my walking.’”
She continued: “I imagine it’s like God said to me, ‘I’m going to send you to a school to prepare you for a certain career. You won’t know what that career is until after you take the classes I sign you up for — and the content of those classes might often surprise you. But once you get your degree, and take the job I have prepared for you, you’ll see how every class made sense, and how every class was required.’”
“So,” I said, “you don’t know what experiences you need to have in order to get to where God is taking you. You actually don’t know the path you are meant to take. But you do know you are on one.”
“Exactly,” Ellen said. “The stuff that shows up as your ‘blocks’ or your ‘problems’ are the next things for you to ‘walk through,’ the next ‘course’ at your ‘University.’ And as you ‘walk through’ your blocks, they guide you in the direction God wants you to go, and help you become more of who He wants you to become.
“You still deal with your problems,” she continued, “but you don’t think of them as enemies or obstacles. You think of them as guideposts or stepping stones that God has set along the path that you are walking. And when you think about them that way, it helps a lot.”
A BLOCK OR A STEPPING STONE?
You can probably agree that finding out what God means to make you into is a process of discovery.
You don’t make a life plan when you are a child and stick to it till the end. You discover, day by day, what you are best at and what makes you happiest in life. The “plan” changes as you grow and discover more about who God has planned for you to become.
But even while most of us sense the truth of this, we live differently. We often believe that we should set our course in life and stick to it. We get strong ideas about what our lives ought to be like. And we make obstacles of anything that stands in the way of our getting to where we think we should be.
We end up thinking of our lives in terms of blocks to be gotten through, problems to be handled, and issues to be worked. And we become closed to the very process of walking the stepping-stones that God has set up on the path He’s made for us.
THE BENEFITS OF ‘WALKING’
Thinking in terms of “walking your path” has a host of really useful benefits:
- It assumes you ARE on a path, rather than flailing about randomly. I think that, at some point or another, every Christian I’ve worked with has had the sensation that the ups and downs of their lives were part of a bigger picture — that is, part of a path God has set before them. And that sensation is a good one. It brings peace, calmness, and openness during painful periods of life.
- It gives meaning to the pain your problems cause. The suffering from any problem is amplified when we feel like that the pain has no purpose, or no point. But when you believe that your painful experience is part of a bigger path, much of that suffering is relieved, and “the heat is taken out of the fire.” It’s like a coaching client of mine said recently about the difficulty she was experiencing: “Now that I feel that God has a purpose for my problems, I realize I’m not just suffering needlessly. I feel like I’m being carved anew.”
- You ask for the help you need faster, and you spend less time suffering. Because we often unconsciously think that having difficulties is some sort of moral failure —“ If I was a successful Christian, I wouldn’t feel this way” — most of us wait until the pain of a difficult situation becomes so strong that we are practically forced to ask for help. But when you know that difficulties and upset aren’t taking you off your path, but that they are actually a key part of of it, you aren’t ashamed when something is painful or upsetting in your life. You know that your problem is guiding you the next step toward what God means for you to become. You move quickly and without shame to ask for the help you need to “walk through it.”
Seeing your problems as stepping stones on your path opens you to the blessings, insights, and options that were waiting behind the upset. “Doing your walking” isn’t just about getting rid of problems. It’s about continuing down the path of your life, and reaping the rewards of …
… Feeling at peace in your circumstances, no matter what they are,
… Feeling a sense of guidance and support from God in your life, exactly how it is,
… Having the ability to see options you didn’t see before, and
… Having the ability to act on those options.
As you do your “walking” God guides you to take the next “right action” in your life … to live in harmony, no matter what is going on … to be at peace … and to have your life move more in the direction of the deepest longings that God has put into your heart.
In Psalm 27:8 the psalmist says to God, “When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” I know of few better ways to seek His face than through fully participating in the walking of your life.
By Dmitri Bilgere
Dmitri is a Crucible Project Leader. He is creator of the program “Leading Your Relationship: How to Create the Relationship of Your Dreams, even if Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Help.”
Get it free at http://dmitrib.com/lead
Photo Credit: Michael McKechnie via Creative Commons