Worst Case Scenario

My directing professor in film school, Dr. Katherine Stenholm, taught me three lessons I’ll never forget. One  was that people like what they know, so the more you learn, the more you enjoy the world. One had to do with a “red thread”; and any student lucky enough to sit under Dr. Stenholm reading this, just imagined a grey-haired and spry old lady clawing the air for emphasis and pulling out that imaginary, but ever present red thread that draws a great film tight.  And the last lesson was about worst case scenarios.

Been there, done that.

Punching the air for emphasis or clutching her brow with eyes shut , she’d explain.

Plan for every eventuality. Imagine the film shoot from beginning to end, and then imagine it if your cinematographer doesn’t show up. Can you take over  the shot list? What happens if the power fails and you can’t use the lights? How will you get the images? What if your actors are sick? Is there another scene you can capture? Always have a Plan B, and a Plan C and then a backup for Plan C. Work through how you will get the job done during the worst case scenario, so that when you find yourself there, you can say, “Oh, I’ve been here before. I know what to do.”

Just in case, I’ll throw in the duct tape!

I tell you the truth, if there is one Bible story that infuriates me, its the Parable of the Ten Virgins. The gall of those stupid virgins asking for extra oil! The wise girls had thought to themselves before setting out, “Hmmm, the groom is supposed to be here at midnight, but it is his wedding night after all and things may get delayed a bit, so I think I’ll pack another pint of oil, just in case. Then I don’t have to stress out, in the dark, in case he’s late.”

My father, a bush pilot on the Amazon river in the 60’s, learned to be a worst-case-scenario thinker. His survival often depended on it.  He had a cardboard box in the luggage compartment of his float plane stocked with odds and ends that he could “Macgyver” into fixing most worst case scenarios he’d thought of. Inventorying its contents gives insight into his worst fears: fish hooks, matches, plastic tubing, mosquito net, a medic kit, and of course, a roll of duct tape.

Preparation for the worst eases fear.

The wise woman in Proverbs 31 was also worst- case-scenario lady. Verse 21 says that she didn’t fear the snow, a rarity (or worst case scenario) in ancient Israel except on the highest mountains. Simply preparing a winter wardrobe eased her mind about her worst fears of freakish, frigid temperatures and hypothermia.

In my life, I often fight anxiety by blowing them up; not with C4, but with fancy. I ask myself, “Okay, what is the worst that could happen?” Imagining that extremity, I explore my attitudes and actions. Then I ask myself if I can do anything now to prepare myself for my worst fears? If its not something that will disrupt the normal rhythm of life, then I plan on doing it…just in case.

A few years ago, I experienced many a midnight panic attack over going into a large amount of business debt. I had to face my worst fears concerning that debt by imagining the worst-case-scenario: in debt up to my ears and living as a pauper. Wrestling through that, I realized that the worst case was in the Lord’s hands, and there was no magic duct tape that could fix it. Only frugal diligence and forbearance awaited me in my worse fears, and once imagined, it lost its terror. I began to prepare my heart and desires to match my worst-case-scenario, so that when the business DID fail, I could meet the challenges of paying off debt as an old friend. “Oh, I’ve been here before. I know what to do.”

Thanks for the lesson, Dr. Stenholm.

4 thoughts on “Worst Case Scenario

  1. Dr. Katherine “Katie” Stenholm. Just cannot think of a word or phrase to express how blessed I am to have been in her vast group of personal friends or groupies as I like to call us. I had never experienced true radiance in a person until I met her. Her smile could change your day or even your spirit! Her common sense approach to biblical lessons mixed with day to day human experience served as my umbrella on many of my stormiest days. Well, I could say many more awesome things about her!



  2. I just rented “Sheffey” from Netflix this past weekend, and watched Dr. Stenholm in the “Special Features” section. Wow! She just have been quite a teacher, I can’t imagine sitting under her tutelage. I’d like to see if I can find “Mount up with Wings” or “Wine of Mourning,” I believe she was behind those as well. Enjoying your blog!


  3. Some might call that pessimism. =) I have a husband who thinks this way, and although I sometimes call him a pessimist (he calls himself a realist), he’s taught me much about planning ahead.


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