April 3, 2019
I had a friend in Indiana who competed in off-road bicycle racing. He and his wife owned a bicycle store, and he spent an absurd amount of time riding and training for races, many of which were on dangerous courses that required a high degree of skill to ride on safely.
After riding competitively for several years, he had a terrible accident and broke his neck at one of the races he entered. I saw him not long after. He was wearing one of the neck cages to keep his head in place while he healed.
I asked him about the accident, assuming he injured himself while actually racing. I was shocked to learn that he actually had his accidents while riding on a level surface between races. He wasn’t in a dangerous situation or dealing with anything that required significant skill to navigate. It was just an accident that happened in a moment of carelessness.
When he wasn’t engaged in high risk riding, he became careless and got hurt. There is an interesting principle to learn from this event: It isn’t usually the case that disasters happen when dealing with high risk or high pressure situations. Rather, it is usually when we aren’t on guard or paying close attention to our actions that disaster strikes.
This is the case for accidents in every day life, where we are doing things that we’ve done a million times before, and we become careless through repetition. It is also the case for moral and personal failures. I talk to a lot of folks who have struggled with sin and destructive habits over the years.
My experience is that it is usually the case that folks end up there gradually, doing every day activities where they aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing.
One common example is guys who develop pornography habits that could potentially ruin their marriages if their wives discovered them. It starts with little compromises and indulgences while they’re wasting time mindlessly surfing the internet.
Over time, the behavior becomes more common, again usually as a mindless indulgence while idly surfing the internet. Over the years, I have heard many guys who struggle with such problems say that they rarely set out to look at porn. It happens when they’re not thinking about it.
The reality is that when we aren’t on guard to protect our hearts and minds, we can easily drift into disaster. The principle applies to all sorts of other areas of life. Many of the folks I talk to who struggle with eating too much and putting on weight say that they rarely set out to overindulge. Rather, they mindlessly graze throughout the day.
When they are on guard to eat right, they do fine. They can often maintain it for a few days. However, when they let their guard down, they drift into unhealthy behavior. There are plenty of examples of this. We can let our relationships grow cold and die.
We can spend beyond our means. We can waste countless hours staring at our phone or watching tv. On the other side of these things we wonder: “What was I thinking?” The trouble is that we usually aren’t thinking. We let our guard down and stumble into disaster.
There are all sorts of ways to guard ourselves against these kinds of crashes in our lives. Perhaps the best is maintaining relationships of accountability. It’s easy to let our guard down when no one is keeping us accountable for our actions.
However, when we know that other folks are going to call us to account for how we spend our time and our behavior, we tend to be more on guard. This is a hard thing to do, largely because most people lack close relationships where we can be open with others.
Sometimes the place to start this is with a counselor or pastor. It is hard, but it’s worth it to avoid the crashes that we can wander into otherwise.