Getting off Track
As it pertains to getting off track with our destiny, our “you should,” the first thing we need to do is to realize that we are off track. One of my all-time favorite poems is a poem by Langston Hughes on dreams. It says, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” The “hold fast to dreams” concept is very similar to the theme of Proverb 13:12 (NKJV): “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” It is those times when my life feels like one of its “wings” is broken, and I cannot “fly,” that I realize I have gone off track.
When I am off track, it leads to a place of emptiness, dying hope, and heart sickness. T. D. Jakes describes it like this:
“If you lose it or move away from it, bells start to ring. Alarms begin to sound within your heart. If you do not get back on course, your soul begins to ache and life itself begins to whither. When a person has escaped his arena, his destiny, or purpose, his soul almost seems to weep…the weeping soul can be seen in sad eyes and dismal expressions. It is written on the face of many alcoholics. These are people who seek a solace in the bottom-end of a bottle because they are mourning the loss of a place called ‘there.’ …When you are off your path, your soul will ache. It is not like a toothache, a backache, or a stomachache. You feel this pain in the deepest part of your essence...Like all pain, a soul ache is a warning that something is wrong. The pain is an alarm that buzzes and screams when you have chosen a path that alters your course. It indicates that you have stepped out of your destiny and are lost…What you don’t want to do is chose a path that takes you off course. But when you do make a choice that doesn’t fit your life plan, God will let you know. Your soul will start to ache…When that happens, you have to say no to whom or whatever that is making your soul ache…” (Jakes, 1990)
How do I get off track? We have spent a lot of time in this book talking about getting off track by listening to the “you should” of others, but I’d like to take a moment to touch on getting off track by ourselves through disobedience, presumption, setting our affection on ungodly things, dwelling on past mistakes, and people-pleasing.
When I listen to my ideas above the “you should” of God, that’s called disobedience or rebellion. Jonah comes to mind when I think about this way of getting off track. It’s not that Jonah didn’t know the will of God; he just didn’t want to do it. I have found myself “swallowed up” in the proverbial “belly of the whale,” where it seems like God is not letting me advance in any direction other than the direction He told me to go. I won’t spend a lot of time here because it should be obvious that you cannot oppose God and be successful.
Presumption is assuming that you know the will of God without asking. The Bible calls it a sin in Psalm 19:13 (NKJV): “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.” Presumption can take you just as far off track as outright rebellion or listening to the misguided “you should” of someone else. It’s just as wrong not to ask the holder of the blueprint for our lives, His direction, as it is to ask someone who’s never seen it.
God is the “Lord of our paths”. Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV) says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” We must trust Him with our path and stop trying to control all the steps along the path. When we acknowledge him as the “Lord of our path,” He will perfectly direct our paths.
We can also go off track when we “set our affections” on ungodly things (Col 3:2). We see this with Lot in Genesis 13:12 (KJV): “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” We can’t focus on God and anything ungodly at the same time (Matthew 6:24, Luke 11:17, 1 Kings 18:21, James 1:8)
I did a Google search on the words “rearview mirror” and came up with a couple of interesting quotes to describe the phenomenon of being so focused on what’s in your past that it jeopardizes your ability to see what’s ahead of you. We can choose to learn from past mistakes or become paralyzed by them. We can build experience from our mistakes and get better after every failure and better for the next time we try, assuming we are on the right path.
I wanted to include these quotes to stir you if you have been so busy beating yourself up over what didn’t work in the past that you don’t answer the bell for the next round on the road to your championship destiny.
“Most people suffer from the self-limiting dysfunction ‘rear-view mirror syndrome’ driving through life with their subconscious mind constantly looking in their own self-limiting rear-view mirror. They filter every choice they make through the limitations of their past experiences. Always remember that your potential is TRULY unlimited, and that you are just as worthy, deserving, and capable of achieving everything you want as any other person on earth.” Hal Elrod (Elrod, 2017)
“I have a really small rear-view mirror in my life. I look at the rear-view mirror for memories and learning experiences, but I've got a big front windshield and I'm looking at right now. I've got so many projects on my plate.” Pat Croce (Croce, 2017)
I also put people-pleasing in the category of things we do by ourselves to get off track. People-pleasing, though similar to yielding to someone else’s “you should,” implies that we are leaning forward or initiating an effort vs. someone taking action to offer advice to us. The results of people-pleasing: paralysis, getting off track, are still the same as listening to the wrong “you shoulds”:
“What Will People Think? Perfectionists are very sensitive to what others think of them and they often try so hard to please so many people that they lose themselves. What I mean is that in an effort to please others, they rarely follow their own heart and do what is pleasing to them or to God. Some people are addicted to approval. They cannot feel peaceful unless they believe everyone is pleased with them…The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing…The need to be popular can make you neurotic and steal your destiny.” (Meyer, 2013)
Rejection and being reminded of past failures can easily get you off track, and both are just different, harsher applications of someone else’s “you should.”
Rejection is a powerful way for someone to get you to follow their “you should.” In other words, if you don’t follow my “you should,” I will reject you, withhold my love and acceptance from you. Depending on the place and position the person holds in our lives and hearts, it can be a powerful influence over which direction we might take in a situation. Joyce Meyer describes it like this:
“They let the fear of man’s rejection determine their destiny, instead of following their own heart, and in an effort to keep other people happy, they have ended up unhappy themselves. I urge you not to do this, or if you already have, then begin rectifying it. As believers in Christ, we have the privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit and He will always lead us to the perfect place if we let Him.” (Meyer, 2013)
What happens when you get all pumped up about the destiny of your life or the dreams that you are pursuing, and someone close to you reminds you of how you have failed in the past? If you don’t have a solid foundation in the Word, a healthy relationship with God, and a good support system, it may be enough to derail you.
I have failed a lot in my attempts to become a professional entertainer. I have auditioned for “The Voice” three times, “America’s Got Talent” twice, “Sunday Best” twice, “Showtime at the Apollo” once and more than a dozen times for Broadway and cruise ships. I have auditioned for more acting-related things than I can remember.
Recently, people close to me questioned if auditioning was the right thing for me to be doing at this point in my life. It shook my tree. If I hadn’t been so firmly grounded in what I knew God had shown me about my life, I might have been thrown off.
If I had listened to similar voices nearly 15 years ago, I would have never sung the national anthem for the NFL, NBA, MLB, WNBA, NHL, NASCAR, and NCAA. I would have never completed the work I have in independent film, commercials, print, voice-overs, industrial films, musicals, improv comedy, or even being an extra in the movie “Dream Girls.”
I toured the US and Europe as the Tour Director and lead male vocalist of the Air Force’s traveling Entertainment Team, “Tops in Blue,” at a time when I was “too old” and “too high in rank.” My friend Maura Gale says we have to carefully guard who we allow to get close enough to speak into our lives and remind us of times when we failed, missed it:
“Who has the ability to influence your mind by reminding you of a mistake you made in your past? (i.e. it didn’t work then why will it work now). You must disconnect the plug that gives them the power to push the play button to your past. You cannot argue, disagree or get frustrated with someone you have appointed to a leadership role in your life based on familiarity and time. You have to uproot and stop their source of strength. The people you’ve put in charge need to be qualified to speak into your life, not appointed by default. That goes for co-workers, family members, ex-boyfriends and sista friends who have known you almost all your life...How can anyone who doesn’t know what God’s word says about a situation offer you godly advice?” (Gale, 2005)
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