Saturday, March 7, 2015

Two Ways To Make Better Emergency Decisions – Part Two: A Refresher on Responsibility


The determinist says, "The dominoes, once started, cannot
help but fall according to their pattern." To which I would
reply, "That's probably true, until the roof caves in."
As I discussed in Part One, there are likely some other areas in which your experience leads you to plan ahead. You’ve likely contemplated in advance the decisions you would make and the actions you would take in the midst of an emergency. You may already have a plan to maintain air, warmth, water, and food for you and yours in case of a natural disaster. Your travel kit for an illness, injury, or death in the family may be already packed and readily accessible. The necessary equipment and supplies for surviving an automotive breakdown in severe weather could already be stored in your vehicle. Some of us are careful, some anxious, and some even paranoid, so we plan for any potential calamity, no matter how remote the possibility. And yet, we will still likely face the need to make an unplanned decision, and take hasty action, in circumstances for which we are utterly unprepared. What do we do then?

Accept Emergency Decisions
I believe it to be essential to think through as many potential emergencies as our imaginations can summon. But it is also impossible to think through every potential emergency, to include every possible detail, and to consider all the complicating contingencies that may mitigate our prior decisions in the midst of some very difficult circumstances. The paradox is this: we need to carefully consider our decisions while we simultaneously prepare to take unhesitating action on those decisions, despite the reality that the actual circumstances will almost never match our prior visualizations

Even when we think we know what each part is going to do,
the opportunities for misadventure are incredibly complex.
Here is the result. We will err. We will fall short. We will over-reach. We will do collateral damage. In our judgment, in our physical ability, in our attitudes, or in any number of other ways, we will fail to respond with fully appropriate measures in the midst of an emergency. We cannot do otherwise. And even if we did perform perfectly, as human persons our nature is to second-guess, to doubt, to wonder, and to shame, whether only ourselves or others as well.

We need to accept that we will face emergencies. We also need to accept the decisions that those emergencies require of us. And further, we need to accept the decisions we make and the actions we take may be ineffective, or too late, or over-reactive, or otherwise excessive. But we also need to accept those decisions and actions as being the best we could muster under the circumstances.

So, we are still likely to face emergencies that require the best possible decision under the worst possible circumstances. Here’s what to do with that.

The Greatest Problem in an Emergency
The greatest problem you or I face, whether in the midst of the emergency or in our careful pre-planned policies and protocols, has two tools at its disposal. The tools are these: “Why?” and “What if?” The problem is “Distraction.”

And yet most of us tried doing it so many different ways.
“Why?” asks us to look to the past. Why did this happen? How did we get into this mess? Who messed up and where am I going to find them when this is all done?

“What if?” points us to the future. What will happen if I make this or that decision? What if I make the right decision and fail to carry it out effectively? What if I do everything right, and it still goes there in a hand-basket? What if everyone decides I’m to blame? Both sets of questions distract us from our present circumstances, our limited options, and our inability to predict the many layers of outcomes that will follow.

The Second Greatest Problem in an Emergency
There is a second problem, though. It’s related to the first and, if we will let it teach us, it provides a solution to both problems. Whether the circumstance we face is a consequence (resulting from the “Whys” of the past) or whether it will result in consequences (leading to the “What Ifs” of the future), we often assume that we are somehow responsible for results and consequences, when we are merely responsible for the best possible decisions and actions of the moment, under the circumstances as best we can determine them at the time.

Even the right thing can have unioreseen consequences.
Do the right thing anyway.
For those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, the question we should ask moment-by-moment and day-by-day is “What would Jesus have me do?” The answers to that question are not complicated—until we human persons complicate them, of course. But in an emergency, there is no time for backtracking, for studying a little harder in some class, or reading a passage of scripture more carefully. There is only who we are, what we have been given, and how we need to respond—which is: only the best we can. My belief in God’s work through Christ in my life by the Holy Spirit means I can rest in the moment, even the emergency, because of who He is making me to be—which governs what I know I am to do. “I am responsible for obedience. God is on the hook for the results and consequences.” (Even, I would add, the results and consequences that led to the circumstances I’m facing in the emergency.)

But that belief rests on one other underlying factor. Here it is.

God Never Faces an Emergency
Nothing ever catches God by surprise. Nothing He allows into your life has slipped past Him unnoticed. He has created you, redeemed you, filled you, shaped you, and led you to be His workmanship (the piece He shows off as evidence of His expert craftsmanship—Ephesians 2:10), to do His will, and to speak His word.


When you find yourself in an emergency, remember that the emergency didn’t find you by accident. And remember, too, that you didn’t find the emergency by accident, either. It’s not just that the circumstances enter your life for a purpose. God built you to enter these circumstances for a purpose. Just be who you are, and do what you do. Let God take care of the results and the consequences.

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