Use The Difficulty

NPR interviewer Terry Gross once interviewed British actor Michael Caine. Caine remembered a rehearsal where he was supposed to come in a door. “One of the actors had thrown a chair at the other one. It landed right in front of the door where I came in. I opened the door and then rather lamely, I said to the producer who was sitting out in the stalls, ‘Well, look, I can’t get in. There’s a chair in my way.’ He said, ‘Well, use the difficulty.’ So I said, ‘What do you mean, use the difficulty?’ He said, ‘Well if it’s a drama, pick it up and smash it. If it’s a comedy, fall over it.’ This was a line for me for life: Always use the difficulty.’” (All I Did Was Ask, p. 80)

In ministry today, you could make a long list of the difficulties:

  • Pandemic recovery
  • Reduced giving, or fear of future reductions
  • Political polarization
  • Younger families haven’t come back
  • Exhaustion, physical, mental, and emotional

I’ve talked with people over the last three years about all of these challenges and many more.

What would it be like to use these difficulties? This doesn't mean you minimize them--we all know they’ve been a lot more than a chair in the way. As Michael Caine said, “Use the difficulty” is a “line for life.” I’ve talked with so many clergy and church leaders about the ways they have worked to do this in their own lives over these last years. Congratulations on all you have accomplished!

One more thing: an ongoing and at times overwhelming difficulty is not enough time to do what needs to be done. A way to use this difficulty is, paradoxically, to block out some time to think through what’s most important to you right now. If you are crunched for time, it’s more important than ever to take time to be clear about your purpose and priorities. Join me for my next online What to Do Now retreat.