Tomorrow I turn 30.
Given the long process God has been leading Ann and I through over the last year, I don’t have any sort of major existential angst about this, but my guess is that is mainly due to the fact that my tank of existential angst is tapped out already.
The last year has been filled with God breaking into my life in profoundly significant ways. I’m still working through them, learning how to ‘walk them out’ into my life. So, as part of that, I thought I would share some of the ‘lessons’ God is dealing with me on as a way of marking the last day of my twenties. Here goes…all this is in process. I invite you to reflect with me on the process God is working out in you.
I’m realizing that…
- Being offered ‘big’ roles/responsibilities is like a drug to me.
I’m ‘Mr. Responsible.’ Always have been. As such, I’ve gotten used to being tabbed for roles that are bigger than what you might expect a person my age to have. I’ve grown accustomed to being someone everyone else thinks ‘can handle it.’ Truth is, in most of the measurable ways, I can ‘handle it.’ I don’t know exactly why this is, but it seems to be true. God has been showing me though that, over time, I have unintentionally allowed this reputation (is that the right word here? I’m not sure) to shape much of my sense of ‘who I am,’ to the point where far too much of my self-worth is dependent on my capacity to hit ‘home runs’ in clutch moments.
As a result, I have an affinity for big situations. Like a moth, I guess, I’d rather be where the light is shining. Over the last few years of living as a pastor, God has started to show me that very often his Kingdom is not taking root where the spotlights are fixated. His Kingdom isn’t stealing the show and making the cover of the movement magazine. His Kingdom is far too often unrecognized, so small (like a mustard seed?) that I have a tendency to walk right by it as the limelight sucks me in like a tractor beam.
God has been doing a major renovation of my character in this area over the last year. I have a long way to go, but I’m thankful for the (lets face it) painful process I’m going through on this.
2. I’m realizing my limits.
Richard Rohr refers to this as the death of a person’s ‘infantile grandiosity.’ Others might call it a ‘messianic complex.’ Whatever you call it, I’m realizing that I have lived much of the last 10 years believing that I would succeed at whatever I set my hand to do. I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of friends who find themselves in a similar line of work as I and I am starting to see that I’m not alone on this either. I suppose you have to call this arrogance and pride, but it doesn’t feel so sinister when its at work in you. It just feels like a quiet belief in your ability to think, speak and act in the right way and that those actions will produce results you would deem successful.
God has been dismantling this foundation that I’ve used to prop myself up. I’m seeing that the combination of my gifts, passions, charisma and vision won’t actually usher in any form of utopia anywhere. There is a world full of things I WON’T ACCOMPLISH in my lifetime. The record of my achievement will, in the long run, be extraordinarily small. However long it may be, it will certainly be shorter than my record of failures.
My friend J.R. Briggs convened a little gathering a couple years ago called the EPIC FAIL conference. An open, safe, and honest space where pastors could talk about failure (as opposed to the plethora of conferences that celebrate the big, bright and beautiful amongst us). I loved the idea, but as I reflect on it, this also uncovered a deep fear in me. I’ve realized that one of my greatest fears is that I might become a perfect candidate for the speaker list at the Epic Fail conference.
There is deep incongruity there and I’m thankful that God is revealing it and beginning to work with me on this. I’m convinced that the recognition of my limitations will be one of the most freeing things for my life. I can’t do everything, but I can do the work God has given me to do.
3. I can’t have a mission shaped ministry life if my family life isn’t mission shaped, because they are the same life.
I started to write here that If I have a successful ministry but my family life is broken, its all a waste. I stopped when I realized that the statement reinforces the ugly dichotomy between family and ‘ministry’ that God has been teaching me about in the first place. As we are stepping into a new phase of ministry that is so focused on equipping churches and Christians to have a life that is shaped by the mission of God in the world, I’m learning just how critical it is that family and ministry not be compartmentalized.
My friend Ryan Flanigan has been teaching me about this a lot. I’ve been struck by how he is processing the way in which his participation in God’s mission is rooted in the way his family lives in the world. He isn’t making distinctions between home and ministry, instead, he is modeling for me what it looks like to integrate the two. The Flanigans are a family on mission. Each person has distinct arenas where they work that out but it all takes shape in their life together as a family.
I sense that a major part of our next phase as a family is a season of abiding in this, allowing God to prune us and work this reality into the Gustines.
So there you have it, 3 lessons, one for each decade thus far. I come into this next chapter with a great deal of gratitude for the clear hand of God at work in and around me and with equally great expectation for His continued work.
I’m wondering, does any of this strike a chord for you? What is God working out in your life?