How often have you heard the cliche, “A straight line is the most direct route from point A to point B?” 

Their are a few situations where this advice has worked out well for me – math, some decisions, etc.  There are times when linear is good.  There are other situations however, where our life experience is not best suited for that straight line.  Raising a family is definitely not a linear path, nor is one’s career.

I scheduled some time with one of the pastor’s at our church because of a professional experience he had with an organization that I wanted to better understand.  That particular organization shared an outlook that I was curious about, and wanted to know more.  Steve willingly shared his experiences, and then turned adeptly to my own faith journey, asking me to share my experiences and perspective.

Without going through the entire story, I can sum up my response with one word – stuck. 

I had raised the ante since moving to Blackhawk Church, getting involved in helping in several areas, and being proactive in meeting others.  That had fulfilled me for a time, but now i felt stuck, taking care of my obligations and enjoying them, but feeling as though they were becoming just that – obligations.

After listening, Steve walked over to his bookcase and pulled one of hundreds from his bookcase and commented that this book – A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing Guide (Larry Osborn) – had literally helped him thorugh a similar time in his faith walk, and was still one of his favorites.  What independent person wouldn’t be drawn to that title – geeez.  I was hooked right away!

Since that time I’ve read the first half of the book and enjoyed the authors simple style and common sense approach.  I was absolutely engaged this morning reading the chapter, The Dimmer Switch Principle.  Several of the ideas in this chapter absolutely connected with me –

The Three Strike Rule

When people find someone they admire or feel can mentor or advise them, they will often continue to seek out their counsel.  Seems natural.  As long as I don’t overdo it, people generally don’t mind.  Turns out what they do mind are the people who keep coming back for advice, but often on the same issue, never taking action with the advice given.  You might ask why people would even do that.  Makes one wonder doesn’t it.

The three strike rule allows the pastor, or leader, to listen and offer their wisdom on three separate occasions, then to politely decline after three strikes.  This would be a time saver for a lot of people.  One example alone is all the leaders who share the frustration that they end up having the majority of their time sucked up by the most needy of their employees or associates. 

The Dimmer Switch Principle

Pretty simple really:  When we respond to the light that is shown to us, God gives us more.  When we don’t respond faithfully, our ignorance tends to dim the light.

What’s interesting is that I can imagine many people saying that they have experienced the dimming light effect, and that God must be a spiteful God.  I don’t think so.  What we often forget is how often we are blessed, and how god provides us with the free will to use our judgement and take action.  I don’t think blessings come without responsibility or free will.

My mind immediately came to the blessings I have experienced through life, even though these are only a few of the cases I observed what God was doing in my life (some of us are a bit more dense than others).  I’ve experienced that growing brightness and do equate it to spiritual growth.  Right now, my feeling stuck appears to have a few clouds moving in on the horizon.

Contrarian Idea

As it turns out, I can help get myself unstuck by thinking in contrarian terms.  Don’t mistunderstand this for being argumenative or stubborn – seen my share of that lately.  Contrarian can simply mean paying attention to my faith journey and asking what’s working and what isn’t.  Some times an action will work for us on one day, but not the other.  As a leader, I can connect with a colleague and build stronger relationships by using a particular technique.  The next week I try the same action with another, and it falls flat.

Contrarian thinking, according to the author, brings freedom and candor.  We get to ask things out loud that we were only thinking about.  We need to stop feeling inadaquate because we can’t remember, recite or remember certain teaching.  Use what you know and are comfortable with.  The rest will come over time.  This is true and freeing for us whether we consider our spiritual journey or our growing knowledge and application of leadership.

Have you read the book?  Waht did you take away from the reading?  Feeling different about your spiritual or leadership journey?  Let me know.