“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
One of the marvels of Europe is the prolific and brilliantly designed train system. It’s incredible how it has been engineered to be easy to use and it seems to flow fluidly every day. Yet even the most seasoned travelers can make the mistake of scrambling down one of the numerous staircases leading to a platform where two trains have doors opened, inducing the panicked question of, “On which track is my train?”
A time or two in my haste, I have indeed chosen the wrong train. As I read this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most brilliant theologians of the 20th century, I can feel the anxiety and frustration that comes with being on the wrong train.
In these moments you must assess which train you boarded, make a plan, and make the needed adjustments...and you hope you’re not on an express train to a distant location! Generally, it’s a matter of getting off at the next transfer station and reversing course.
Flexibility is the mantra of any missionary that intends to survive. Let me say it again: If you’re going to survive on the mission field, you must be flexible! I love that on a macro level—as an organization, we have continued to make adjustments over a rich 100+ year history. It also applies on a micro level, as short-term teams require adjustments and a calm that allows you to get to your desired destination—even if it isn’t according to the original plan.
What can we learn from Bonhoeffer’s words?
Avoid futile, energy-wasting, responses to situations that you can’t control. Sometimes mistakes happen. Sometimes it’s our fault. Sometimes it’s the decisions of others. Sometimes it’s just the flow of life. Have people in your life that will help you assess where you are so that you can get where you want to be.
Stop attempting to run in the “right direction” when clearly you’re on the wrong train. You’ll need the energy and alertness at the next stop to get back to where you need to be.
Enjoy the ride. In your frantic mistake, you might just be riding with the exact person that God intended. Divine appointments can be present in every circumstance. Don’t allow your frustration keep you from being present in the moment. Read the Gospels and you’ll see that there were so many incredible miracles that happened after being redirected.
The quicker you accept your circumstances and begin plotting your new course corrections, the sooner you’ll be back on track with where you wanted to be.
Whether you are feeling the pressure in ministry, family relationships, disappointments, past mistakes, or even an unfulfilled dream—stay calm, assess where you are, and develop a plan for getting back on track. Let the people God has placed all around you enrich the journey and speak into your situation.