The Confidence to Go Toward the Unknown

  • Jeff Denton
  • Good News Column published in papers of CS Media Texas on July 23, 2020.

I remember learning to ride a bike in my early childhood. I kept making a mistake that frustrated my parents. I kept looking backwards.

I was compelled to look backwards to make sure my dad was still holding on. I was depending on him to provide balance so I wouldn’t fall over. My theory was obviously correct because every time I turned around and discovered he had let go – I would begin to weave and crash.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how my compulsion to look back was actually what was causing my imminent crashes. Learning to focus forward was what I needed to do to stay balanced. Turning around caused me to veer off course.

“Keep your eyes forward and watch where you’re going,” my father would say. That advice served me well as I eventually learned to drive a car, look for a job, struggle through loss, and even to take a leap of faith by moving to Texas. It is a concept I understood even better after I had my own children who needed help navigating the unknown stages of life.

Our past helps shape our future. It can also hold us back. If all we do is look back at where we’ve been we’ll never get where we want to go. It’s impossible to steer straight ahead when you’re focused on what’s behind.

There’s comfort in the past. Memories are where I always get what I expect. I know the end results. I know where the journey led. However, I need dreams to get to the next good memory point in my life.

A pinpoint on a map helps me determine where I’m going. A goal is what helps determine the steps to reach it. Without those things that help me look ahead I don’t have a purpose. I’ll tend to wander aimlessly. I’m more prone to begin to wobble and eventually tip over.

Fear is one of the primary reasons one can refuse to face forward. Rarely do we see where our next steps are going to lead. There are too many unknowns that could hinder our journey. An imaginary obstacle can be just as lethal to future goals as a real obstacle. The blockades in our mind can be harder to overcome.

Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders did a lot of research into why students get overwhelmed with moving forward in their lives. He discovered the following three reasons teens and young adults are “stuck in the past”:

  • They are victims of time. They can’t seem to break free of old patterns.
  • They are victims of relationships. They stay involved with people who hold them back.
  • They are victims of comfort / nostalgia. They fear that their best days are in the past.

We overcome those obstacles when we become deliberate about replacing comfort with curiosity. We need to let go of the trophies and expectations of the past. We need to let go of circumstances we can’t change and embrace. Then, we look forward and set our sights on the unknown of what’s ahead.

How appropriate as we try to balance life in the days of pandemics and cultural shifts and shut downs. No business person, educator, administrator, politician or pastor knows with certainty what the next weeks and months look like. No parent can be absolutely certain about how the future unfolds for their child.

I’m suddenly back to my childhood learning to ride a bike. I want to be assured everything will be alright. I want to know I’m not going to fall over. I want someone to promise me it’s safe and smooth as I go forward. Those are unfortunate demands because no one can make those promises.

It may be time to put our eyes forward and keep pedaling.

Posted: July 23, 2020 
Filed under: Deep Thoughts with Pastor Jeff, Jeff, Leadership, Pastor Jeff, Spiritual
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