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Use Your Checklist

"Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭NIV

The offensive center scanned the line from left to right. One three-hundred-plus pound defender stood up and shuffled to the left as another bear-crawled to his right. The strong-side linebacker daringly scooted up and back to the line like a hyena making a move for a lion’s prey. The quarterback yelled out his cadence but the center heard nothing in the fog of battle. Suddenly chaos ensued all around him. Bodies collided and whistles blew, but the center didn’t move. He had failed to use his checklist.

Life’s Checklist

How often in life do we face a similar circumstance? The car breaks down when we are heading to a big meeting. You are blindsided by an issue at work. You are are angered by your spouse or a friend. How often do we simply react (or even overreact) rather than respond?

In the book, “Thank You Coach; Learning How to Live by Being Taught How to Play”, Angus Reid describes a similar circumstance on the football field and the impending reminder from his position Coach to “use the checklist!” For Angus, an all-star offensive center for the BC Lions in the Canadian Football league, it was the simple practice of identifying how many down-linemen were on defense and whether or not he was covered by someone. This, when followed as the first steps of the checklist, gave Angus and their offense the fighting chance of making the right blocking call.

In life I believe in using a similar checklist when facing chaotic or stressful situations. My first step is to go to the Word of God. For me, as a Christian, I believe God’s Word is intended to set my heart and spirit in line with that of my Creator. So for example if I’m upset with someone, I may first try to be “slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). If the conflict with them continues I may remind myself to “go and tell [them] their fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15-17). Lastly I will want to remember to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).

This response is much more productive than what might often be my natural reaction which includes overreacting, inflating the issue with others and becoming bitter. It’s hard to see a way the “natural reaction” would provide a better outcome than starting with God’s Word.

Batteries. Batteries. Batteries.

Next on the checklist I will often go to mentors and advisors I trust. In Angus’s case it was going back to his coach for his analysis and in many cases breaking down the issue on film. Mentors and a replay of the issue provide other angles and reminders of what we might have forgotten. Perhaps we forgot to consider another possibility or we didn’t prepare adequately for the situation. Mentors can often see what we forgot and instruct us on how to be in a better position should a similar circumstance occur.

In a similar way the army teaches this. Pre-Combat Checks or Pre-Combat Inspections (PCCs/PCIs) are required where leaders must check their subordinate’s equipment, weapons, rations, etc. to ensure soldiers have what is required for operations. Even something as simple as batteries.

While on patrol, if say the NODs (night optical device) for example, were to go dead because a soldier forgot or his leader forgot to check for spare batteries the entire patrol could be at risk. If that were to happen the leader either has to stop the patrol to find him batteries, or that soldier goes without and can’t see his sector of fire. As my good friend in the army shared, “It always happens.”

Sound familiar? What batteries do you often forget when faced with a stressful situation? Find a friend or mentor you trust and who knows you well and ask them. Enlist them to do your own personal Pre-Combat Check before your next unexpected battle.

Go to Him

The last and possibly most vital step of the checklist is to go to God. Meaningful time in quiet prayer can bring both peace and clarity during difficult times. Often we can’t stop mid-event to do this but I try to spend around thirty-minutes each morning in prayerful meditation and reading scripture to prepare me for what’s to come. By going to God and seeking His wisdom I am more centered when the next unbalancing event takes shape and can withstand it better.

Going back to the example where I may be upset with someone, I seek God and His will in the situation. I also try to pray directly for the other person and for their peace and prosperity. Even though this might not be an easy task it is a helpful one. Often God will begin to soften my heart for them. He may also point out where some of my frustration is coming from, for example pride, fear or even jealousy.

Remember the Checklist

The next time you encounter a struggle, remember the checklist. Read and soak in the wisdom of God’s Word. Seek out mentors and coaches who can see your blind spots better than you can. And take the time to pray each day and especially when faced with difficult situations. Use the checklist and you’ll never forget your personal batteries in future battles to come!

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