Transformation Tips

Delbert W. Baker

is vice-chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa near Nairobi, Kenya.

Handling Life’s Holes

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Are we doing the same things and expecting different results? That’s insane. Or are we in tune with life lessons and learn from them? That’s sanity.

In There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk* Portia Nelson shares a remarkable poem, An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, whichimplies how we can choose a life of sanity over insanity.

“Chapter One of My Life. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. . . . I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It still takes forever to find a way out.

“Chapter Two. I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place! But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

“Chapter Three. I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit! My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

“Chapter Four. I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

“Chapter Five. I walk down a different street.”

People use this poem in a variety of ways. It has been applied to personal growth: how can I improve my life and help others improve theirs? Others see it as a spiritual analogy about how the human race fell into sin, and how the plan of salvation can provide a way out. Still others argue that it outlines the anatomy of temptation and how to discover the way of escape (see 1 Cor. 10:13).

Whatever your perspective, believers can gather seven practical insights about how to handle the holes of life in a careful manner. Here we go:

  1. Be Conscious. Life is full of pitfalls, detours, roadblocks, dark holes. Don’t be surprised or shocked. Expect them.
  2. Be Aware. An evil enemy is deliberately, systematically creating holes for us to fall into and never get out of. Avoid them.
  3. Be Responsible. Our actions have implications. A ripple effect impacts our lives and futures, and those around us. Protect them.
  4. Be Efficacious. Through the combination of our will with God’s we can successfully avoid holes and be champion hole avoiders. Facilitate it.
  5. Be Faithful. It’s not about how we feel about holes, whether we like holes; it’s about giving glory to God and avoiding debilitating holes. Resist them.
  6. Be Useful. With the grace gathered from dealing with the holes of life, become an expert on hole avoidance. Advocate it.
  7. Be Loving. Holes can make us compassionate about the hole proneness of life, and give us grace and strength to be saved from it. Share it.

Hence a sane way to handle life’s holes. What will be our response?


*Beyond Words Publishing, 1993.


Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

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