Pitfalls of Purpose
The Dictionary defines a pitfall as a lightly covered and unnoticeable pit prepared as a trap for people or animals, or any trap or danger for the unwary.
There are moments we will feel in full stride with our purpose, humming or whistling along our path of purpose with our purposeful shoes tied on purposefully. And then there are times we will not. There are times we will feel as if we have fallen into a pit.
There are two reasons we stumble into a pit – either the space is so cleverly covered we are caught unaware as what we assumed was a solid ground gives way, or, a hole not well disguised, becomes a trap due to a lack of awareness and observation on our part.
Let’s look at the later first. This is the space you have volition. You chose your level of vigilance, you set the pace of your preparation and the tempo of your journey. If you had been looking, you would have noticed the ditch directly ahead, but you were distracted, or hurried, so in you fall. Purpose is the same. As you journey along the path God planned you can easily be distracted. The characters that would vie for your attention along your path will be all too familiar, comparison and pride.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Comparison’s technique is a real head turner, literally.
Through coveting, measuring, and judging you find yourself looking to the left and right, seeing how other’s pace, resources or acknowledgement compares to yours. As one of the siblings in God’s Kingdom family you begin to cry out about fairness and merit. Which is exactly why the pit barely covered will pull you in. You weren’t even looking–too busy paying attention to paths that did not belong to you, assessing what you did and didn’t have against God’s journey for someone else.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
These words of wisdom come just a few before, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16) Where as comparison has you looking to the left and right at the paths marked for others, when it comes to purpose, pride has us looking straight ahead, but heading straight for a mirror.
Ever ventured through a mirror maze? Two things you will notice at these attractions, one, they ask you to wear gloves. It helps with fingerprints. That’s a lot of glass to clean. And two, there are signs placed all throughout reading something along the lines of “Move through the maze with your hands extended to help with balance and orientation. It is easy to run into one of the mirrors.” When you are so busy looking at yourself an upcoming pitfall is easy to miss. As a highly valued part of God’s family, when your insistence on your timing, your agenda, your sequence, your plotted progression – overshadows a release to God’s calling and commands in your life, grab your gloves and watch your face, a pitfall may be approaching.
What about the well-covered, difficult to see pitfalls of purpose? What about when the ground seems to disappear, when the rug seems to have been dramatically pulled out from under your feet? These types of pitfalls are unavoidable. In fact, we would be so bold to suggest that if you journey toward purpose and you never utter “I did not see that coming,” you might be off track all together. We cannot control what life throws our way. In 2020 most leaders did not predict the impact of a global pandemic. Most expected a difficult season of a few months at best, but well over a year later you hear story after story of struggle, transitions and key pivots leaders had to made to navigate COVID-19. We collected dozens of stories of Austin leaders during this time, during this pitfall for their business or organization. As you listen you will notice how their story shaped their response to the challenges they faced, but there is a theme woven throughout:
When they found themselves in a ditch, their priority was to find a way out.
When we fall into a pit, as we begin to pick ourselves back up we tend to look around. How did I get here? Who put this pit here? These are good questions, items that should be explored to avoid future pitfalls. Every fall should also be a teacher on our journey. However, we might be better served to focus on a way out of the ditch before we allow the who and how to consume our energy. If your company is in trouble, aim for a solution. You will have time to analyze data later. When you have a relational conflict, agree to find a way forward, allowing space for revelatory reflection to do its work rather than playing the blame game. Get out of the ditch, don’t decorate the ditch with “what if” fixtures or “if we had only” artwork. Catch your breath. Look around. Find a ladder. Climb on out before pondering long enough to get comfortable.
Still, there will be times that blame or worry aren’t what’s keeping you in your ditch. Keeping you stuck is often the objective of a pit. While climbing out may be the priority, that does not simplify the struggle. The Psalms take us through a journey of pitfalls:
Psalm 40: 1-2
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
Do not confuse your pitfall location with God’s. You may have fallen, you may be in mud and mire, but God’s presence remains. God is in the lion’s den, the fiery furnace…all the way to the cross. Our circumstances or current scenery are not indicators of His position toward us, even as alone and exhausted as we can feel.
New York Times Best Selling author and motivational speaker, Jon Acuff puts it this way, “God found Gideon in a hole. He found Joseph in a prison. He found Daniel in a lion’s den. He has a curious habit of showing up in the midst of trouble, not the absence. Where the world sees failure. God sees future.”
On your path toward purpose you will encounter pitfalls. Be vigilant, be aware, but most of all remember you will never fall alone.
Feeling trapped, or patiently waiting during a “pitfall” season? Check out the ABBA Shop for some of the latest books for encouragement, inspiration or pit-climbing-out-of strategy! If you are waiting to get out of the ditch, might as well do some reading.