Chutes and Ladders
I tend to be a very methodical person. I like to make a well thought out plan that will allow me to be as efficient and effective as possible when it comes to completing a task. I’m not a big fan of just waiting around when I can be working towards a desired outcome or just flying by the seat of my pants when I don’t know what the future could hold. At this point, you are either thinking I’m a sane and logical person or you are thinking I’m absolutely insane and fighting a losing battle. The first group are my people but the second group is more likely correct. Life is not orderly and methodical. It’s not a flat path that allows you to see every step along your journey but rather it’s hilly and sometimes even mountainous. Recently, I heard someone describe life as being like a game of “Chutes and Ladders” which is why we get frustrated. This analogy had never occurred to me but, man, is it true. Think about it…
You’re climbing the career ladder, you get your dream job and BOOM, a recession hits and your company begins laying off employees, including you. All you saw was the upward moment and then all of the sudden you feel like you are sliding down. You spend months looking for your dream house and the perfect situation appears. It’s exactly an answer to your prayers and yet if falls through… what now? After 15 years of marriage and being a stay at home mom, your husband decides he’s out. Overnight, you have to find a job, a house and a way to support your children, emotionally and financially. These moments can leave us overwhelmed, heartbroken and breathless.
We can plan, prepare and pray, all of which are important, but we CANNOT control when we will be knocked off our feet and go sliding down that chute. We cannot stop those moments. The Bible actually promises that you WILL go sliding down that chute. “I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) So, what can we possibly do?
First, climb the ladder when you have the chance. Prepare for your life. Make good decisions. Don’t chase temptation. Be intentional in your spiritual growth. Use those moments of opportunity to expand and rise because those chutes will come and that’s okay. How we use the ladders we come in contact with can drastically change the way we react to the chutes we fall down.
Second, be open to learning while sliding down the chute. Those mountain top ladder experiences are great but I know that some of my most impactful moments of growth have come at the bottom of a chute. Don’t waste a lesson and set yourself up to fall down the same chute on a future roll simply because you are too stubborn to listen or vain enough to believe you won't face troubles again.
Finally, might I suggest taking a peek at the board game again. Do you notice that there’s not one chute that takes you beyond a ladder? There’s always another chance to get back up. As the actress Mary Pickford so wisely said, “...this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Getting back up can seem impossible but don’t stop. Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and that’s okay but don’t plant a flag at the bottom of the chute and never move again. This is when your ladder climbing experiences can benefit you the most. Who have you chosen to surround yourself with? Is your heart in the habit of praying or are you now ashamed to come to the Lord in need because you haven’t talked in ages? Is your faith regularly bolstered by what you allow to pour into you or are you finding you only have emptiness to draw from? Where is your perspective focused? All of those things can grow in the chute moments but if we’re intentional we can create foundations before we fall.
So, I pray that if you’re climbing you are doing so in a way that is God-honoring and intentional. If you are sliding, I pray that you won’t allow yourself to be buried at the bottom of the chute but will start up again with the hope that only the Father can provide.