Make it your practice to begin working on your spiritual goals by addressing today’s adjacent possible.

Reaching Out for the Adjacent Possible

“Nine chapters, one hundred fifty two pages—how hard can this be?” I thought, as I loaded a well-known Christian classic onto my Kindle.

Slogging through chapter two, reality began to set in.

I had always been an avid reader but felt a need to be more intentional in my reading choices. The holes in my theology needed sturdy patches of truth, and I longed to benefit from the wise words of classic Christian writers.

By the time I reached chapter three, I was seriously discouraged . . . and I never made it past chapter four. Reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy seemed like a great place to begin, but I soon learned a lot of really hard paragraphs lived between all those inspiring quotes I had swooned over on Instagram.

If I had chosen a book closer to what I’m accustomed to, would I have had more success?

Look for Small, Positive Steps

The concept of ‘The Adjacent Possible‘ has changed the way I approach adding spiritual disciplines and healthful practices to my life.

Adjacent means ‘in close proximity’.
If I am looking for The Adjacent Possible, I stop scanning the horizon for a “eureka” moment and begin looking close by for a small positive step in the right direction.

I’m writing more about this process of discovery over at Living By Design where I’m sharing a guest post today! I do hope you’ll come on over and read the rest.

Photo by Olav Tvedt on Unsplash

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

51 thoughts on “Reaching Out for the Adjacent Possible”

  1. Michele, I loved this post! It resonates with my experience. Your quote is so true, “Rest assured that God is willing to meet you more than half way in discerning your next right thing.” A pivotal point in my life…The year was 1996. My husband, Jack, our daughter, Tracy, and I had just participated in a low-impact family ropes course. It included a series of challenges that we had to solve together as a team. There were several times that I personally didn’t see how we would solve the problem. But we worked together and we tried out different ideas until we completed the task. One of us always had an idea that worked. We learned we could relax and trust that we could figure it out together.

    As the challenges came to a close, the facilitator had us gather in a circle, and asked if we wanted the final debriefing questions to be spiritual. We said, “Yes!” That’s when he asked the location, location, location question…
    On a scale of one to five, with five being as close to God as you could be, where are you?
    I don’t remember what anyone else in my family said, but I will never forget what I said, “I’m a one.” It was an epiphany for me, which Webster’s defines as, “a sudden realization, a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.”

    I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as a ten-year old child during a revival. My fingers formed a heart as I sat on the front pew after filling out the decision card. I had been enrolled in our church’s cradle roll nursery at two months of age after my parents adopted me from the Salvation Army hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. I grew in my knowledge of Jesus through Sunday School and missions organizations, memorizing many of His wonderful words of life. And yet, here I was, a busy wife and working mother at age 43 feeling like a “one.” How did I get here? Jesus had not moved, but I felt far away from Him. Later that week, I heard this heart-felt song by Larnelle Harris, “I Miss My Time with You,” as the lyrics say,
    …I miss My time with you, those moments together, I need to be with you each day and it hurts Me when you say you’re too busy…

    I knew in my heart that prayer, time in God’s Word, and worship with my fellow believers were the choices I needed to make to move from a “one” to a “five.” I began to pray this prayer as part of my quiet time each day…
    Lord Jesus, give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. I bow at Your Cross, and I experience anew Your forgiveness, redemption, mercy, and grace, as I sense Your blood dripping over the Crown of Thorns pressed into Your brow, onto my heart, covering my sin, I get up from my knees wearing Your Robe of righteousness as I face the day ahead, welcoming Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning.

    Many blessings to you, friend, for all your encouraging words!

    Like

  2. Michele, I loved your quote, “Rest assured that God is willing to meet you more than half way in discerning your next right thing.” This was certainly true for me. The year was 1996. My husband, Jack, our daughter, Tracy, and I had just participated in a low-impact family ropes course. It included a series of challenges that we had to solve together as a team. There were several times that I personally didn’t see how we would solve the problem. But we worked together and we tried out different ideas until we completed the task. One of us always had an idea that worked. We learned we could relax and trust that we could figure it out together.

    As the challenges came to a close, the facilitator had us gather in a circle, and asked if we wanted the final debriefing questions to be spiritual. We said, “Yes!” That’s when he asked the location, location, location question…
    On a scale of one to five, with five being as close to God as you could be, where are you?
    I don’t remember what anyone else in my family said, but I will never forget what I said, “I’m a one.” It was an epiphany for me, which Webster’s defines as, “a sudden realization, a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.”

    I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as a ten-year old child during a revival. My fingers formed a heart as I sat on the front pew after filling out the decision card. I had been enrolled in our church’s cradle roll nursery at two months of age after my parents adopted me from the Salvation Army hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. I grew in my knowledge of Jesus through Sunday School and missions organizations, memorizing many of His wonderful words of life. And yet, here I was, a busy wife and working mother at age 43 feeling like a “one.” How did I get here? Jesus had not moved, but I felt far away from Him. Later that week, I heard this heart-felt song by Larnelle Harris, “I Miss My Time with You,” as the lyrics say,
    …I miss My time with you, those moments together, I need to be with you each day and it hurts Me when you say you’re too busy…

    I knew in my heart that prayer, time in God’s Word, and worship with my fellow believers were the choices I needed to make to move from a “one” to a “five.” I began to pray this prayer as part of my quiet time each day…
    Lord Jesus, give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. I bow at Your Cross, and I experience anew Your forgiveness, redemption, mercy, and grace, as I sense Your blood dripping over the Crown of Thorns pressed into Your brow, onto my heart, covering my sin, I get up from my knees wearing Your Robe of righteousness as I face the day ahead, welcoming Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning.

    Many blessings to you, friend, for all your words of encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had the same difficulty several times I tried to read a “classic” book to help with spiritual growth. Yes there are nuggets of quotes that inspire, but often the antiquated speech and phrases made trying to read the books a torture and tedious.

    Like

  4. Headed there now! I love this: “If I am looking for The Adjacent Possible, I stop scanning the horizon for a “eureka” moment and begin looking close by for a small positive step in the right direction.”

    Those small steps add up better than waiting for those big moments

    Like

  5. As a runner, I am familiar with the concept (but not the term) of the adjacent possible. I think reading “Orthodoxy” may have been like me trying to run 50 miles after training for a 5K.

    I felt that way the first time I read Paul Tillich. This was before the internet and Kindle made it easy to look up vocabulary I was unfamiliar with and the concepts were far above my head. I stuck with it (and I’m assuming you did too, knowing your fondness for Chesterton) and now Tillich is one of my favorite theologians.

    Heading over to read the rest of the post.

    Like

  6. This is such a good concept. So often we want to plunge into projects or changes and get discouraged – or don’t even get started because it’s so daunting. I was just looking at a book this morning that’s taking a while because it can’t be rushed through – I can only take in a bit at a time for comprehension. I was discouraged wondering *when* I was ever going to finish. But then I noticed I was past page 200 already, making progress just by reading 2-4 pages at a time. Small steps are better than none.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES! I especially see this in my homeschooling curriculum. I look at that big pile in September and think, “No, way,” But showing up every day with a few pages and a few homework assignments, and the next thing you know, it’s May and the books are almost done!

      Like

  7. Yes! This is basically how I live my life, a series of “Adjacent Possibles.” 🙂 One small step in the right direction today can make a huge difference on where we find ourselves a year from now. Great post, Michele.

    Like

    1. Yes, me too. Big steps are too much for me to manage right now. I’m thankful that God is faithful to direct my small steps and I’m trusting Him to keep them on track.

      Like

  8. I had a very similar experience while taking a seminary class on spirituality. Several of the books that were required reading were difficult reading, but one in particular was pure torture. I felt overwhelmed and intimidated and wanted nothing more than to put it aside and forget it. It was such an encouragement to find, the first time we discussed it in class, that EVERYONE felt the same way…even some I considered far more mature in their faith than me. It was such a relief to find that I wasn’t lacking in some vital way, that some authors, while brilliant theologians are not the best writers.

    Like

    1. Yes, some writers just need a slow slog through in order to grasp what they are saying. C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer . . . and now G.K. Chesterton have taught me the value of reading slowly and carefully. We are rewarded for our effort!

      Like

  9. I love this idea of “adjacent possible.” It reminds me of several other ideas- Emily Freeman’s “do the next right thing” and Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development.” It’s kind of like finding your sweet spot. Thank you for your wisdom. I didn’t see a place to leave a comment over at Sarah’s place.

    Like

    1. Yes, those are all tied in to the wisdom that with Christ, all things are possible, and our role in it all is to just keep doing what is ours to do. I keep coming back to the truth that we have a light for our path–but not for our entire hay field!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I think the idea of looking for small steps that take you in the general direction of your end goal is something that can be applied to lots of areas of life.
    Thank you for joining in #abitofeverything xx

    Like

  11. I like the idea of the adjacent possible. It is easy to set unrealistic goals at times, but those little steps we take in the right direction can all add up to significant progress over time.

    Like

  12. This is a perfect concept for me to absorb right now, Michele. My mind is still pretty foggy these days, but as that wears off, I will be asking God to show me the small changes I can make that will move me forward into His next things for me. And good for you for returning to finish the Chesterton book!

    Like

  13. Michele, such a good post. You’re far more disciplined than I. I haven’t been brave enough to pick up many classical Christian writers (though I have read books by Oswald Chambers and Andrew Murray and a rather humbling book on humility). But I love your desire to grow in theology and in understanding how to live it out.

    I liked this: “If I am looking for The Adjacent Possible, I stop scanning the horizon for a “eureka” moment and begin looking close by for a small positive step in the right direction.”

    Those eureka moments seem to be the thing to strive for…until we never arrive at them. I like the idea of looking close by for a small positive in the right direction. Thanks for sharing this, friend!

    Like

    1. Glad you found it to be helpful, Jeanne. I’m always a little timid about taking on those older, classic works because they DO take a lot more effort to unpack. I wonder what that says about our reading and thinking skills in 2019?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Some books are not timeless classics – no matter what the teachers told us. Take Jane Austen for example, I find the writing tedious and the stories a bit of a bore. I don’t mind the movies, but the books are just more hassle than they are worth to me. #GlobalBlogging

    Like

    1. Well, guess there is chronological snobbery that works in both directions. Sometimes we revere books because they are “new and wonderful,” when in reality they are only new. And sometimes others revere them because they are “old and classic” and they just may not be for us.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This was very thought-provoking, Michele.

    As one who is constantly considering the journey Home, I enjoyed your thought “Discipleship is a lifelong process, and Jesus is our traveling companion.”

    Lifelong. Process. This is a difficult concept because we all want to have arrived! I’ve been walking with the Lord since I was 14 and I still feel I have such a long way to go. But then I look back and see how far I’ve come! But each small step, if taken towards my traveling companion, Jesus, will count in the end.

    Like

    1. Yes, He is our traveling companion, and there is always something new for us to take into account on this journey! I so appreciate your coming alongside me here, Jerralea. Blessings to you and yours.

      Like

  16. I love the phrase “the adjacent possible”! We have a phrase with this meaning in early childhood education but it’s eluding me right now (which is of course driving me crazy!). If I remember it, I’ll let you know! Thanks so much for sharing at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

    Like

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