We started a new series last week called The Circles of Life. You can find week one’s post by clicking here.


Last week, we introduced the idea that sometimes you are sailing through life, and then all of a sudden things get interrupted. Something happens that sort of makes time stop. I gave a few examples last week; divorce, death, or loss of a job are just a few of the things that can seem to make time stand still. We also said that an interruption might be something good – a raise, a marriage, coming into money. Those are great examples, but as I thought through the concept this week, I realized that the picture we have been using may simplify life too much. Thinking about things in terms of one big circle makes me think that I just need to work the circle when something big happens. When it warrants a Latin term like kairos.

But if a circle is when God interrupts our life to teach us something, well, I think that happens all the time.

My life is a series of small circles, with some big circles taking place around the smaller ones. Sometimes I find myself in a circle when I get cut off in traffic and I'm pulled out of myself, suddenly ticked off by a minor rudeness. (This comes to mind since I was cut off on my way to write this very post, and I annoyed myself by ranting about the unfairness of it all before I began thinking, “Here's a little circle!”) Or, I may come across a little circle as I'm scrolling through Facebook, happy in my virtual visiting, and I get to that post. It feels directed at me, or it is different than what I believe, or I'm just annoyed by it. Or, maybe I hop right into a circle when my sweet kids wear on what little sanity I managed to cling to through my work day – and I snap and yell. And sometimes my circles are bigger, like the death of my father last year.

These are all circles that we face every day, and we can invite God into these moments. Once we have this tool in our tool-belt, we can access it in these moments and have a way to step out of the moment and observe what is going on around us. Sometimes, a little mental picture is all we need to get back on track. The circle is our way of snapping back to reality. They can make time start again for us.

As a matter of fact – I think that getting God into the little circles is critical to our growth. The big things need the circle, certainly, but they don't happen (hopefully) every day. But learning to ask God, “What are you trying to teach me?” can happen in the small circles each day. That is a daily opportunity to grow closer to God.


So we have a circle. Whether it’s big or little, the steps are the same. In a smaller circle maybe you whip your crisis around in a few minutes and get right back to living the full life. For mid-size circles, maybe you need to find your safe person to walk through the process, and maybe you need to give yourself a few hours to do that. For larger circles – it may take months, or years. However long it takes, I promise the journey around the circle is the quickest way to get back on track and hopefully avoid repeat loops.

The question we ask is: What God is trying to teach us? We figure this out in three key steps: Observe, Reflect, Discuss.

Observe: To observe is just that – taking time to be cognizant of our surroundings. It is that initial interruption that allows us to invite God into the picture. We can begin to discern what’s really going on and find the answers to our questions. Why are we so angry? Is this as important as it seems to us right now? What is causing this emotion? Is this emotion and our actions in line with who we want to be? Or, in the case of a positive event: How can we use this as a chance to grow our faith and to be a good influence to those around us?

Reflect: To reflect is to lean on our history and our past experiences. Do we often over react or is this atypical behavior? If another person is involved, has something like this happened before? What role have we played in the problem? Or, in a positive event, what are some risks that we can predict may come with this blessing? What do we need to do to guard our heart against pride or any other risk?

Discuss: When it comes time to discuss, we need someone we can talk to. This may not always be applicable for smaller circles, but certainly in the bigger circles it is important to have a trusted advisor. This can be a counselor, a friend, a parent, a sibling, or our spouse. Anyone that we can sit down with and say, “Here is what is happening with me and this is how I'm feeling.” We have to develop a net of people in our life that we can go through a circle with. Having people that we are comfortable admitting failings to is critical to being able to grow. The ever loving shame of keeping secrets is that your secrets breed shame, and shame breeds isolation, and isolation breeds more shame. It is a vicious tool of all that is evil in the world—isolation in our mistakes and shame. Invite someone in.

These steps of observation, reflection, and discussion, done with integrity, will result in a heart of repentance.

Let's talk briefly about the word repent. I had always defined repentance as confession of how horrible I was and a promise to never do it again. “Repent of your sins to avoid the fire of damnation” was how I was lured to a loving God in my youth. This is not a healthy, or accurate, view of the term repentance. We are going to go back to the biblical definition.

Repentance as it is used in the bible means to change one's mind. I love that. When God calls us to repent of our worldly thinking, it is an invitation to change our mind to match His. And while I can get pretty self-righteous in thinking that I live a fairly good life with little to 'confess,' I can never come close to having a mind like God's. This definition puts me right where I need to be – striving each and every day to have a mind like Christ. And I can learn, with every little circle in my life, that I'm to have my heart in line with Christ's heart.

That is the first half of the circle – and you can see how that gets us around to the bottom of the circle. We have taken an honest look at our mistake or opportunity. We have confided in a trusted friend and discussed how we got in the position we find ourselves in. And our hearts have turned to repentance and a desire to get back in line with God's intent for our life.

At this point, there's nowhere to go but up! Next week we will talk about the second half of the circle: What is my response to what God wants me to learn? We figure this out through the steps of: Belief through Planning, Accountability, and Action.

Does this idea of recognizing a circle when you’re in one and taking steps to move around it resonate with you? Do you see how you can apply this to your life? I’d love to hear from you!



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