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windows of opportunity

A few days ago I had a great conversation with a young man who is seeking after God.  He’s in that wonderful spot where God has been working in his life — and he knows it.  He knows he needs to make decisions which will carry consequences for all parts of his life … work, relationships, family.

So we talked about windows.

As I grow older, I have become a believer in windows of opportunity — those seasons of life when God opens a new door of learning and growth for us.  They may come in the form of an introduction to a person whom God has placed in our life for a reason.  A window of opportunity may be a challenge to tackle a new problem or a transition at work.  Slumps and struggles can be a window of opportunity, too, if we press in and press on to see what God is doing.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize the window until we’re well past it.  In my own life, I can see windows of opportunity God opened that I strolled right by.  When I was fresh out of undergraduate, all of twenty-one years-old, there was a window open to me when I could have dove into graduate studies and emerged three years later with a degree.  At age twenty-one, three more years of schooling seems like an eternity.  Once we started a family, the discretionary money used for schooling went towards our children.  I can see the window now; back then I missed it.

Then again, there are windows I have been able to recognize and make the most of.  I believe that ability has improved with age and maturity.  Why?  I’m learning to connect the dots better, to see the big picture rather than getting lost in the fray of details.

So, how can you recognize a window of opportunity?

1.  Learn to think providence rather than coincidence.  People who consistently see life as a string of coincidences are missing windows of opportunity.  I have an assumption about God that dictates how I view life: he is involved.  If I believe God is active in our world (and in my life), then I must look for his fingerprints on the activities of my life.

2.  Learn to ask questions.  Why did I meet this person?  How can I learn from this situation?  What are the implications of making this decision.  What if I go to college here rather than there?  Why did this movie or song or book strike a chord in me?  By learning to ask questions, we’re also learning to think critically — not in the negative sense, but purposefully and intentionally.

3.  Learn all you can about as much as you can.  Not every window of opportunity hits us in our sweet spot.  What is our sweet spot?  It’s the thing that comes naturally to us; what we gravitate towards without even thinking.  Each of us has a predisposition towards certain types of learning or information or communication.  By reading books that are outside our sweet spot, we’re expanding our ability to recognize the movement of God in all areas of life.  You’ll begin to see connections you didn’t know existed.

Rather than wish for a year filled with opportunities, I believe it’s more appropriate to wish for a year in which we recognize more of the opportunities that are already around us!