Failed Attempts at Figuring Out Life

By Kevin B. Howell

I read a study that said the average person has 1,000 thoughts an hour and about 12,000 a day – 50,000 if you’re a deep thinker, whatever that means. I’m not sure where I fall in that range, but I’m pushing plenty through my mind on average.  I have a pretty active imagination which tends to take me on several unexpected tangents at any given moment. Yup, sometimes my mind is like a take-home virtual reality machine. Add to that a Socrates-like analytical side (ok, a little overboard there), and I guess I could top off at 50K tpd (thoughts per day). But I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

Seriously, that type of thought-life can slow you down. That’s why I can only finish a few books a year — every page takes a minute or 20 to ponder…then an extra five to find my way back to the original thought. And movies? Forget about it. I spent two days wondering how I would live if I aged backwards after watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I’ve come to accept these mind games as one of the quirks that make me who I am. I’m a thinker. I ponder and I’m proud of it. Yet, therein lies the problem. In my constant contemplation, I try to figure everything out: Why this happened… what this situation means… what will happen next? It’s almost as if I need to understand the reason — and visualize the ultimate outcome — of every situation life throws at me. But the truth is, no matter how many scenarios I run through my mind, I can’t figure everything out. I’m not sure why certain things happen, and I don’t know the future…obvious concepts, but not easy to accept.

Why? Because we’re infatuated with the idea of fate. Most of us believe that everything happens for a reason. And though that may be true, it doesn’t mean we have to know what that reason is. Just because we have a destiny doesn’t mean the details of how we get there have to be disclosed. And honestly, for me that sucks, because I like to have some sort of handle on any situation I’m in. Like most men, I’m under the impression that I have a solid sense of direction…the only difference is I’m not lying to myself when I say that. I’m confident I can feel my way to any destination if I’m somewhat familiar with the area. But if I have no clue where I’m going, I make sure I hit up MapQuest — I’m a little uneasy with the unfamiliar. Yet, that’s where I find myself in life more often than not. It’s like God sends me out on a journey, I follow His directions, and all of a sudden, bam! I run into a roadblock. It’s at that moment where the 50,000-thought mind kicks in:

What does this mean?

Is this some sort of metaphor?

Am I supposed to turn around?

Does God want me to wait?

Or should I just drive through it and continue the mission?

Should I pray? Speak to it? Hope it goes away?

I rarely know the answers to these questions, and sometimes God doesn’t supply them. This is when we, if you’re like me, presumptuously try to figure it out. We throw around all sorts of hypotheses as to why our lives have taken this sort of turn. After exhausting that avenue, we just settle on the statement “it wasn’t meant to be” — something we say in haste after we don’t get the job, position, relationship or opportunity we had hoped for. That may be true, but I don’t think we should definitively label something that we really don’t understand.

I learned about this a few years back. I was in the middle of a wonderful relationship with the woman of my dreams…then God told me to end it (say what?!). The months turned into years trying to figure out why, and wondering if we’d wind up together again in some fairy tale ending. Well, life’s not a novel, and this ain’t The Notebook. Wracking my brain only made it worse. I never learned the reason for the split, nor was I promised a hotter wife in the future. Neither matters. All I know is I learned to trust God in a greater way and I’m a better man from it.

Do I have this thing down pact now? Hardly. I continue to encounter situations that make no sense, and I have to fight the urge to try to figure it out myself. Because a roadblock doesn’t mean “it’s not meant to be,” nor does it hold the details of my destiny. But I know that I have a destiny, and I’m learning to trust God to get me there, whether I know the road or not.

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