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Pushing the Reset Button By Mark L. Vincent

Pushing the Reset Button in Three Clear Steps

When we make major life adjustments, really reset or transform something, it involves three steps:

  1. Stopping the direction, we are going.
  2. Re-orienting to the new direction, we believe we need to go.
  3. Moving in a corrected direction.

A Practical Lesson in Pushing Reset

A couple of years ago, Patricia and I were in Arizona and spent a day hiking. We started near Phoenix but decided to get further out of town and up into the trees. We drove up to Pine, Arizona, thinking we would make a five-mile loop trail up along a ridge and back down to our car. It got colder and wetter as we drove, and I did not have a proper coat. We stopped at a bargain store and picked something up in case it rained or snowed. That was the extent of preparation.

We parked and set out in mid-afternoon. Four or so miles in, we were not near our car and did not seem to be going in the right direction. Somehow, we had left the loop and were headed higher and further into wilderness. We found out later that if we stayed on the trail, it would have been a hike all the way to Flagstaff. So, with no provisions, evening coming, and a storm threatening, we turned back to retrace our steps, hustling to get back down from the ridge before dark. What we thought was the hike ending became our half-way point. As we turned, cold rain began and then a full-on thunderstorm. Patricia, in her usual quiet manner, bounded along happily. Dry warmth was in front of us. Me, I gritted it out, burrowing down into myself and enduring until we were back in our car. For Patricia, it was an experience. For me, it was something to survive.

Both of us needed to stop, re-orient, and go in a different direction, but I needed to do it with my attitude also. I needed to understand that hiking is excellent in and of itself, rather than seeing it as a project to complete. I needed to stop seeing the need to return the way we came as a failure. When I made that change, I could begin to see our time on that trail as something fun and enjoyable rather than a trial.

And so often, this is what is required as we enter a transformation journey. Not just a change in behavior, but an adjusted frame of reference. A trail rather than a trial. A different language for ourselves that reinforces our new understanding.

God’s Way of Pushing Reset

In Isaiah 58:1-9, you will find a story underneath it that invites a whole population to stop going the direction they are traveling, re-orient themselves, and then to begin moving anew. Some scholars think this was written after the Hebrew people were in exile. They could no longer sacrifice at the temple, but they could fast and pray and resume their religious observances. If this is accurate, they seem to have done so, expecting that God would honor them for their piety. Other scholars consider this text a specific indictment about fasting — a religious observance in the years before the exile. Either way, we get the sense that religious practice was for show, perhaps with a sincere desire to foster a relationship with God, but completely disconnected from the pious life that was to lie underneath.

God did not respond as they expected, and they want to know why. The prophet’s words give answer.

  1. STOP. Stop fasting and praying, thinking that these actions in and of themselves constitute a relationship with God.
  2. RE-ORIENT. Re-orient to what piety really is. Hebrew religious observations made it possible to care for those who need caring for. Sabbaths and tithing and Jubilee were to provide time, inclination and resources to offer this care. And, it set the context to thank God for God’s provision for those who were living this righteous life. If lived this way, when people entered the temple with offerings and prayers, they would already be aware of God at work. They would be in a position to witness it again, rather than having any reason to wonder why God was not answering them as they prayed.
  3. MOVE. The divine provision they sought tied to the divine provision they sowed. If they broke this cycle, they could not expect to think that their prayers and sacrifices would mean anything.

The Psalmist further describes this righteous lifestyle:

They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.

~ Psalm 112:4 –7

Seasonal Resets

Somewhere in the first half of life, a young adult has to transform their perspective, or they will suffer and bring suffering to others. They have to stop living as if short-term, high-risk, why-worry-about-tomorrow ways have no implications. There are implications! Once re-oriented to what it means to build for the benefit of others instead of living in entitled ways, a person can begin moving to their highest and best selves, rather than remaining an adolescent trapped in an adult body.

Later in life, our perspective has to be transformed again if not already. We have to stop living as if we are in control as if we can know everything, as if everything we do needs to succeed as if we can make the world conform to how we would map it. Or, perhaps, because of the blows we’ve suffered, we have to stop living as if we have no control, as if other people are to blame for our stuck-ness, or as if we are a complete failure.

At the end of life, our perspective needs transformation yet again, if not already. We have to come to terms with our mortality, that we take nothing from this world and can influence virtually nothing from beyond it. To depart in peace, grudges have to be given up, amends need to be made, confession offered, and regrets expressed.

I once knew a prominent attorney. He had abandoned his faith until his fatal cancer diagnosis, at which point he reconciled with God, his church, and members of his family. He sought me out for coffee in the hospital cafeteria when he was in for treatment, and he knew I was there because my now-deceased wife was again hospitalized. Many family members and friends remarked on his transformation when I talked with them at his funeral. His one wish is that he had understood what mattered so much earlier in his life.

Your Personal Push to Reset

  1. What does stop look like for you? And what does the re-orient look like?
  2. In what new direction should you face? How would you describe it? What, if anything, is blocking you from turning?
  3. And, what does it look like to move again? What should take place for you to build momentum?

Here are three questions I find most helpful in moving toward the God who chooses to transform me, rather than stuck in forms and patterns that block this relationship. These three questions reflect STOP, RE-ORIENT, and MOVE.

  1. Where are you going, God, and how can I join you?
  2. What wisdom might I gain in going where God is going?
  3. What can I next do that blesses those who come after me?

If you take a moment and breathe and get in touch with yourself in your current circumstances, you don’t have to dig very far to get in touch with something you need to stop doing, where you need to get re-oriented and then to move forward differently than you have been. Here are three more questions to ask yourself:

  1. Where is God going and how can get in step with God (stopping so you can see the different path)
  2. What wisdom is there for me (re-orienting so that you perspective changes)
  3. What can I next do (moving anew)

One Final Story

From the 1970s and the congregation I first served, but before I got there. It was an inner-city church, actually the place where the city rescue mission was birthed. Several of the church members were builders, putting up housing additions in new suburban communities and making quite a lot of money. The time came when the church had to decide to renew its inner-city facilities or rebuild in the suburbs where a number of its people now lived.

After a period of prayer and discernment, they decided to keep the building where it was, freshening it for another generation, investing in the retirement of refugee families, and creating one of the first latch-key children programs in the city. Coming to terms with what was next required them to stop just going in the way they were, to re-orient themselves around a mission, and then to begin traveling to where they discovered God was going.

Sort of puts new meaning into the phrase “go with God,” doesn’t it?


Mark L. Vincent is the Founder of Design Group International, an organizational development company he co-founded in 2001 to help organizations and their leaders transform for a vibrant future.




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