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Inflection Points

We live in a world with loads of information, mounds of data, and many, many choices. Are we so bombarded with short bursts of information that our grid for sifting the important from the mundane gets shredded, let alone clogged? Does this dull us to the key inflection points in life?

And, to compound matters, we are spoiled for choice. We can educate ourselves through social media, free classes online, access to interesting topics and the best minds on podcasts, and more. Daily we make choices about what to bring into our lives and feel we are the masters of our own destiny. Good choices get easily infiltrated by reels and memes and clickbait, the junk food of our inner life. If we don’t recognize the difference between an everyday decision and an inflection point we will be so satiated by junk food that we miss the big meals of life. Putting it another way, if we treat inflection points as we treat routine decisions, we will fail to take strategic advantage of them.

What is an inflection point? Mathematically, it is the point at which a convex line becomes concave: something in the formula shifts from positive through zero to negative, and the curvature changes sign. In business, it is a significant change in events, a disruption of business as usual through a technology, a change in legislation, or a pandemic (just some examples). Economically, an inflection point refers to a key event that changes the trajectory of some process or situation related to the economy or society.

Often an external circumstance or driver brings about the inflection point. While we don’t simply choose it, this does not mean we cannot prepare for it. I wonder if the malleability of our souls predisposes us towards a better response to inflection points? Let’s explore this.

At the personal level, it seems that the external factor—economic crisis, pandemic, new technology, changes in government, new policies—alights on something that has been brewing in our soul for some time. There is a gradual storing up of information, a layering of presuppositions, and the forming of opinions, whether they be good or bad, which creates a fertile bed on which an inflection trigger lands. Parents, universities, and influencers all play a role in layering our inflection matrix. Whether we realize it or not, that which we choose to expose ourselves to predisposes us towards good or bad responses when the inflection trigger is pressed. This is particularly true of social media where endless browsing of Instagram reels, for example, accumulates layers of opinions on our souls… which become “our truth”, which then sets us up for potentially disastrous responses at inflection points.

There is a passage in the gospel of John chapter 13 which contains an historic example. The question before a small group of people was, who out of the small group of 12 would betray Jesus? This is what the passage says:

 

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I dipped it in the dish.” Then dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

 

It happened in an instant, but this moment had been a long time coming. Judas had three years to observe the character and actions of Jesus up close. Somehow he seems to have formed a differing view than the other 11. Perhaps it was how he thought things should be done, or better ways to accomplish the purpose. Maybe personal hopes for riding the coattails to popularity and fame were dashed when Jesus was so counter-cultural. We don’t know for sure, but something in the complexity of his background, motives, and filter (of life and who God is) laid a layer of discontent in his soul. In addition, he was the money manager of the team and was not without greed. He had been known to put his fingers in the till. When money is a controller of the heart it impacts one’s ability to inflect correctly. When the crunch came Judas was already far gone. “As soon as Judas took the bread Satan entered him.”  The problem was not the bread, the problem was not the offer of friendship, but it was the incessant gnawing that had impoverished the infrastructure of his soul over the years leading up to this.

 

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.

 

The passage goes on to say: 

 

Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

 

Key inflection points in life come disguised as small decisions, comments thrown away, requests dismissed nonchalantly. They seldom come with the urgency of “this is a decision and you must make the right one” but are slipped into the everyday ebb and flow of life. You look back on them and say, “Wow, that small decision made a big difference in my life.” The truth is, however, that the small decisions are formed based on a set of thoughts and principles, and understandings which are constructed in our person over time. So the inflection points are often the outward expression, the skin on the bones and muscles built in our souls over time.

Life is a bit of a mystery and at the end of the day we are not God and He is still sovereign. Some things will still look like chance, coincidence, or Providence, and it appears that we personally have done little to send the trajectory of our lives in this way or that. Yet, the parallel and paradoxical truth is that the worldview and delicate layering of our internal mental and spiritual grid will make us more prone toward either missing or responding positively to God’s choice moments in our lives. If we do not realize that the information bubble of which we are a part is more than just a mental affiliation; if we do not understand how our internal inflection engine is programmed by media and social media; if we do not spend more time with eternal truths and greater governing principles then we are in grave danger. We may well miss it. And this, sadly, is the real threat to those of us alive and reading this today, especially the ones who are biblically illiterate. Cute Insta sayings and pictures and TikTok reels can not only steal our time but neuter our discernment. When the world hands us the bread of destruction and packages it as PC, woke, conservative, progressive, green, patriotic, inclusive, or whatever, we take and eat. And it is night.

Judas missed it, and I am in the same danger. As I write this in July 2022 there are hugely disruptive things happening in the world from technology to recessions to pandemics to World Economic Forum agendas. There are also the indications of revival and hopes of reformation. Am I going to shrink back in fear or double down on my commitment to be a disciple, follow and obey? On which side will I land? May I be rightly wired for divine sparks when they happen so that I may inflect aright.

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