The Waymaker

“Way” is an old-fashioned term for “road.” It’s where we get the adages “show me the way,” as in asking directions or “I’m on the way,” meaning “I’m on the road.” These days though, “way” refers more to the method of doing something, as in “show me how to do that thing.” However, when Jesus used the word “way,” he was talking about finding the right path; he said, “’I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” meaning “I am the road to take you where you need to go”—both now and for eternity.

Our Compass

Jesus as “the Way” signifies that he’s our compass, our direction in terms of where we’re headed in this life, especially as we chase our destiny and seek guidance regarding our assignments in fulfilling it. The twists, the turns, the roads not taken—he points the way through the maze, around the wreckage, and through the wastelands, guiding us safely to our destination. And that’s just one dimension of direction he gives…

There are other times in life when we’re at a crossroads, seeking direction for new, major-life decisions, including which career to choose, how to prep for it and then where to work. Later we need to decide whether to get married, whom to marry, whether and when to have children, and eventually, when to retire. But that’s still not the end of the choice-making.

There are even more decisions to make—those in between the major milestones, other choices which may seem less significant but are really just as impactful. We have to decide where to go to church (a bigger deal than you might think), how to spend and/or save our money, where to live or move to, whether to rent or buy a house, and what kind of vehicle to get—all decisions which affect how we live.

Finally (and unfortunately), there are also those decisions that we have to make because life has reared up, aimed its treacherous arrow and hit us right between the eyes. Perhaps there’s a health crisis and a quick decision needs to be made about treatment options or maybe a child has gone off the rails and we, as parents, need to decide how to handle it. Perhaps we have to give up a long-held dream and the thought of letting go is paralyzing because now we have to choose another path forward.

And then fear hoists its ugly head because we know, just as meds come with side-effects, choices come with consequences—for better or worse.

The good news is that there’s no decision that we face alone, whether it’s one of the joyful decisions in life—where to make our new home or which job offer to accept—or it’s a painful decision such as whether it’s time to cut our losses and move on. The fact is that Jesus is always ready and willing to show us which path to choose, which road to travel—which “way” is the right way. We don’t have to make those decisions by ourselves because there is one who knows the future and sees exactly what lies along every road and at the end of every road.

The Dead End

But sometimes there seems to be no road—we have no choices—the landscape in front of us is simply one behemoth mountain or treacherous, sinking bog or endless, blazing desert. There are no options open and we’re “stuck” in a situation that needs to change but there is no path forward. Perhaps we’ve failed in such a way that we’ve burned all our bridges—an addiction or criminal record or grimy character issue. Maybe we’ve been fired from a job or shipwrecked a relationship or earned an unfortunate reputation that can never be redeemed.

Perhaps no one is willing to give us a second chance.

Or, there might be no options available at all due to no fault of our own. It might be that we’ve experienced some sort of prejudice which has limited our opportunities: sexism, racism, age-discrimination, religious or political intolerance. Or maybe the roadblock is that we don’t seem to have the innate abilities we need to accomplish what needs to be done—we have a learning disability that makes school or college seem impossible or we don’t have the patience to make it through one more day with that difficult child or spouse. It may be that we simply don’t have the money or resources to make ends meet, no matter how hard we try.

Perhaps there is absolutely, positively, no conceivable way to make that impossible dream happen. It’s a dead end.

The Waymaker

I remember many years ago, back in the day after my husband and I had had our second son, we were still living in an apartment—after ten long years. I longed for a house of our own but we didn’t have the resources to get one; there were too many obstacles in our way. And I’m not talking about just one problem—there were three major reasons why no bank would even consider us for a mortgage. First, we had no savings for a down payment or closing costs. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Every time I managed to save some cash, some unexpected expense would pop up: once our car died, never to be revived, and then there were the medical bills after our second son was born. In addition, because of some of unresolved issues with our credit, our scores were less than stellar. Then, on top of it all, my husband was self-employed and the business wasn’t yet showing a consistent profit, so we couldn’t prove that we had the income to repay a loan. In short, we were a “credit risk” and no bank would touch us.

It was a “Red Sea” season in our lives. No way forward—just stuck.

Then one day at the ad agency where I worked, I found myself talked into going to see a house for sale, strongly urged to do so by a client who had no idea of our financial limitations. And being that I was too mortified to explain the impossibility of our situation, I went, more to be polite than anything.

It turned out that the house would have been ideal for us. The two bedrooms that my young sons would’ve used had already been decorated for young boys; the one for my three-year-old was painted blue with Sesame Street characters on the walls and the other for my six-month old was painted light green with teddy-bear border paper. The yard was fenced in and there was also a deck and a pool, not to mention a family room and a new roof. It was perfect, exactly what I’d been hoping for—and I was heartbroken. We could never get a house like that. But the real estate agent who was showing the house didn’t know that and she chattered incessantly about having my husband come and look at it and down payments and closing dates… Finally, I had to stop her. With a red face, I confessed our financial woes with cash flow and credit and banks—and that’s when the impossible happened. She said, “I can help you with that.”

Long story short, she did. I worked on getting our credit issues cleaned up and she worked with a real estate lawyer who rolled over the up-front costs into the loan at a bank they knew of which would work with us. Three months later, on a hot September day, we moved into our beautiful new home.

Sometimes in life there is simply no way—until God blazes that trail—through the starless, black midnight; through the endless, crashing waves; through the smothering, gray fog of life—pointing the way to the shining road of purpose and destiny. As Churchill like to say, “Never, never give up.”

There is a Way.

“Common Sense” Really Isn’t.

Whatever happened to Common Sense? Unfortunately, it’s not so common anymore.  While Common Sense used to be everywhere—courtrooms, classrooms, Congress, and cable—now not so much.  Common Sense is rarely found these days in textbooks, newspapers, judicial decisions or social policies.  In fact, Common Sense is well on his way to becoming extinct.  Instead, he’s being replaced by his six other brothers.  Let me introduce them to you.

Non-Sense

Non-Sense is the eldest brother and has, it seems, been around since the beginning of time.  However, it actually hasn’t been that long.  Non-Sense really came into his own in the late 60’s and particularly made a name for himself at a place called Woodstock.  Since then, he’s been spotted in various places including Hollywood, Washington DC, and in most universities around the world. 

Non-Sense babbles incessantly on some national news network.  I forget which one.  Does it matter?

Get Some Sense

Next is Get Some Sense.  He’s big on education and thinks that the more degrees he gets, the more wisdom he’ll have.  As a result, he’s up to his neck in PhD’s, MA’s and MS’s, MD’s, and whatever other alphabets he can buy.  Unfortunately, while he’s smart enough to know that a tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable, he’s still putting it in his fruit salad.  Furthermore, in his vast acquisition of knowledge, Get Some Sense has deemed entitlement and self-esteem more important than hard work; government regulations more important than parental authority; and “political correctness” more important than, well—common sense.

N.O. Sense

Then we have Common Sense’s third brother, N.O. Sense.  (N.O. stands for “No Originality”.)  NO Sense is, basically, a follower.  Whatever’s popular or the current trend or whatever the crowd is doing, NO Sense will be found doing, too.  Needless to say, he has very few independent thinking skills and even less interest in developing any.  He’s the soul of every sort of mob mentality from bullying to gang activity to drug use and crime.  Tragically, he’s never been known to be the source of any good deed.

Dollars and Sense

Somewhere in the mix there’s Dollars and SenseDollars believes everything is about money.  The only two questions he ever asks when making any decisions are, “How much will it cost me?” and “How much will it make me?” For example, since vacations generally cost money rather than make it, he’s never taken one.  He did fly to Aruba once but that was just to deposit money into a “non-existent” bank account.  (He wrote it off as a business trip on his tax return.)  Dollars is also a big fan of insider trading.  But you didn’t hear that from me.

Who Needs Sense?

Who Needs Sense? is a twin. Who Needs has been—not coincidentally—knocked around by life’s experiences.  He’s not very open to listening to advice; in fact, he’s a do-it-yourselfer.  He has to find out everything for himself.  The hard way.  Like the time he told Sister Mary Catherine Margaret Rachel Francis that she should get a life.  They warned him not to do it…   And the time he bought that fruity computer stock from some guy out of his garage and Uncle Milt told him to hold onto it.  But he didn’t.  He needed beer money.  Sometimes Who Needs Sense? is a slow learner.

Nota Lotta Sense

Next is Nota Lotta Sense.  (Who Needs Sense? is his twin. They hang out together frequently.)  Nota Lotta has the ability to think for himself; he just doesn’t.  He tends to rush into actions and decisions with not a great deal of forethought.  He’s often late to work (when he’s working), drives too fast (license optional), and spends money like he’s got a tree in the backyard.  He is, however, really good at video games.

Rare Sense

So—since Common Sense’s six brothers have taken over, Common Sense has become rather rare.  He’s found in few places these days: old books which no one any longer reads, the minds and hearts of an “obsolete” generation—the “Greatest Generation”—and in original, unabridged copies of sacred documents like the U.S. Constitution and the Holy BibleCommon Sense has become so endangered that I now suppose he’s better known as—”Uncommon Sense.”

I will miss him.

The Psyche Shift

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is corporate-giant-1.jpg

In the contest for which principle of success is the most crucial, it would have to be that having—or not having—the psychological advantage is the key to determining success or failure.

But what’s a “psychological advantage”? It’s that feeling you get when you know you’re winning and you feel better, smarter, and more capable than any obstacle you may face. It is, in short, when you simply have no doubt that you’re going to win at anything you might attempt.

That Psych Momentum

We all know the principle of psych advantage. In sports it’s often known as “momentum”. The moment momentum shifts in a game, you know it, the team gaining it knows it, and the team losing it knows it—and they know the other team knows it. For example, the other night during a college basketball game, one team was significantly ahead; they had the momentum. However, at one point the other team went on a scoring run. After about three unimpeded field goals—during which the winning team scored nothing—everyone could feel the momentum shift. Granted, the winning team was still ahead, but the losing team was gaining. And here’s the key: the winning team was no longer certain they were going to win the game and, at that point, the losing team suddenly felt that they could win it.

That’s the psych advantage.

You may have heard it expressed this way:

  • “You can if you think you can, and you can’t if you think you can’t.”—Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
  • “’As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.’”—God (Prov. 23:7)
  • “Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success”—Dr. Joyce Brothers
  • “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”—Winston Churchill
  • “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big”—Donald Trump

I’ve even heard this one: “In every relationship, there is the alpha dog and the beta dog. I’m the alpha dog.” (from the comedy What To Expect When You’re Expecting)

There are many other adages illustrating the need for the psych advantage in order to win. The point is that that advantage is the one thing, without which, we won’t succeed. We may not initially have the opportunity or money or education or support of others or any other thing that we might need to succeed, but if we believe that we will have them, then we have the psychological advantage.

So—how do we get that psych advantage?

Identity

Knowing our identity might be, by far, the most essential thing needed to attain the advantage because this is the one thing no one can take from you. In other words, know who you are. You have to believe in your own identity which includes your capability to achieve your goal—no matter how impossible that goal may look or how many times you might have failed. You have to believe that, because of what’s in you, you have the talent or the resources to succeed.

Here’s the challenge: you may not feel like you have what it takes and if you let those feelings dictate who you are and what you do, then you’ve lost the psych advantage.

As American citizens, for example, we have an identity backed by the irrefutable authority of the United States Constitution. This means that because of our citizenship—our identity—we have certain “inalienable rights” that no one can take away from us. The right to life (meaning we can’t be executed on someone’s whim), the right to free speech, and the right to “due process” are just a few. And, as American citizens, we can never lose these rights—regardless of the current chatter to the contrary.

In the Christian context, the Word of God says that “God seated Jesus in the highest position in the universe, at His Own right hand, and made Him head over all things” (Eph. 1:22) and that God has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . . .” (Eph. 2:6). Interpretation: Christ defeated death and the powers of darkness and then sat down, meaning “work done.” Moreover, He’s chosen to seat us with him—above the enemy and all of his minions.

As Christians, we’ve already won.

The problem is that many Christians don’t believe this because they don’t feel like they’re winning. But if we were to focus on our identity rather than on our feelings, we would feel the shift to that psych advantage—and it would never leave us.

Persistence

Another critical thing that we need to give us the psych advantage is the mindset that we won’t quit. You know the drill:  “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” It’s all true. But why would we quit? Lack of preparation, lack of resources, and lack of personal support as well as a mountain of emotional cement shoes: discouragement, fear, insecurity, fatigue, boredom. Any of these can shipwreck our psychological advantage—if we let them.

So how do we fight those? First, if we’re lacking resources, we continue working on getting that prep or money or support until we have them, and if we can’t bring ourselves to keep going until we get them, it’s because we’re being tripped up by our emotions. If so, we need to deal with those first. And that goes back to identity: Who do you believe you are? If you’re talented and passionate about doing “that thing,” then just keep doing it. Period.

 Think about it. What would you do if you quit? I’ll tell you: you’d be miserable.

Success

Odd as it might sound, the only other thing that can nuke our psych advantage is achieving success—and then thinking that we can never lose it. If we quit being hard-working and diligent, and quit giving it our best, then our momentum might shift to the person who is giving it all they have. We’ve all seen sports’ teams who get sloppy, believing they can’t be beat and then they are. Avoid that.

The bottom line is that if you don’t have the psych advantage going into your challenge, then stop what you’re doing and think about where you lost it. Thing number one: make your momentum shift happen.

No one succeeds without the psych advantage.