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updated: 9/12/2013 11:17 AM

We only come this way once

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"We only come this way once? Then what did I come this way for?!?"

-- Charlie Brown

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I've always had a special affinity for good old Charlie Brown. My sisters insist it's because, in my younger days, I looked (and acted) a lot like him. Be that as it may (what do sisters know, anyway?), I find that Charlie's musings often echo my own thoughts. I, too, have sometimes shaken my head in disbelief when I have realized what I've gotten myself into.

Most of us probably have had that experience. It may have involved something minor -- a job we started that was more than we could handle, an evening wasted watching reruns on TV, a buying binge that we couldn't afford.

Sometimes, however, our "what have I done?" involved more important things. We realize that we have spent 20 years in a job we hate. We wake up one day and discover that the husband or wife sleeping next to us is a total stranger. Confronted with a doctor's diagnosis of hypertension, we are faced with the fact that our frantic lifestyle has cost us our health. Taking stock of our life, we sadly conclude that there is not one of our dreams that we have dared to pursue.

"What did I come this way for? Life is too short to waste it like this!" Our voice is filled with protest, frustration and despair.

Sadly, for many of us, any attempt at change seems futile; there is just too much for us to handle. Helpless, hopeless, we soon surrender to depression. We no longer have the energy to continue even our normal, day-to-day routine.

Now, it doesn't have to be that way. Our unpleasant awakening also can be the beginning of change. We can work toward a life that encompasses the goals and values we feel we have lost, a life that has meaning and satisfaction.

I see two things we can do to enable such change. First, we have to look at the situation we feel stuck in. What are we contributing to the problem? For example, are we choosing to see just the negative? Are we persisting in patterns of behavior that just make things worse? Are we ignoring changes to improve our situation? More often than not, there is potential for positive change in our present situation if we just choose to look for it.

Sometimes, no matter what we do, our situation continues to be a dead end. Our task then is to have the courage to walk away. When we find ourselves in a meaningless job with no future, our only recourse may be to simply quit. When our marriage is on the rocks and our spouse refuses to work with us to make it better, we may have no choice but to leave. When we have exhausted all our chances to change what we've got, we may have to just start over. Hopefully, we can learn from our mistakes and do better this time around.

Underlying both these strategies is one common idea -- we are in charge of our lives. We can choose to make what we have better. We can choose to start over. We have the power to change our lives and to find the fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives that God intended for us. We do only come this way once.

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