The working title of this one might very well end up as the actual title. There are several contenders. I won’t share them, lest you hate this one. That way you won’t know what might have been. I wonder if I overthink blog titles.
I’m just back from a weekend away with my bride. We’ve spent the last few days in a seclusion of sorts. She found and rented a cabin in the middle of a gigantic piece of property in Bluefield, VA. It was–in a word–sublime. When we weren’t doing nothing (a.k.a getting our fill of HGTV since we don’t have cable at home), we were only doing things that recharged both of us. We both needed it and from all indications the long-planned weekend did all it was intended and then some.
When I have the chance to get away I always seem to become even MORE evaluative than the normal, everyday, over-evaluative version of myself. No joke, I’m constantly in an evaluative mindset personally, relationally, spiritually, and ministerially. (Hmmm. Look at that. You can’t see it, but as I type this blog the words “relationally” and “ministerially” have red squiggly lines under them. My computer wants me to revisit them and correct the spelling. It’s as if they’re unrecognized. Am I using them incorrectly or does this computer not understand the vital importance of both of them?)
Okay, let’s forget that and move on. Seriously, Jerry. Let it go. *Deep breath.* Okay.
So, as I evaluate where I am, who I am, how I’m doing, what I’m doing, and what the ministry I lead is (or isn’t) doing, I find myself looking for a way to pull up the anchor, hoist the main sail, and set a course for new waters.
If you’ve been in ministry for more than a year or if you ever find yourself spiritually waning for any number of reasons, I’d like to walk you through some of my thoughts on how to reset.
Before we do that, let me quickly make the differentiation between simple and easy. Much of what I’m sharing here is simple. All of it, actually. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.
Okay, first you’re going to need quiet. And I say that as a self-proclaimed noise addict. I find constant noise comforting, probably because its the most convenient distraction from the hard work of silence. And by silence I don’t simply mean no noise, I mean distractionless, deep thought and sabbatical type of mental work. That might not sound super refreshing right off the bat, but do the work of quieting life and you’ll be rewarded with next-level thoughts. The way God puts it is: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). What this verse isn’t saying outright but is screaming nonetheless is that when we aren’t still, we don’t easily remember that He is God. And when I don’t declare in my life that God is God, then my default is to make myself (my own direction, ingenuity, ambition, or idea of success) the god in God’s place. Big mistake.
Once you’re quiet, ask big questions. We all have big questions that we commonly suppress. We do this because we’ve bought that lie that the urgent trumps the important. We’ve thrown the most important questions in the trunk and put the daily grind of menial urgency in the driver’s seat. Is it any wonder that we drive a million miles an hour and still feel like we’ve gone nowhere? Big questions have a way of recalibrating us. You’d be wise to formulate (liberate really) your own big questions, but for grins and giggles I’m going to spill mine right here in no particular order:
- Is who I am who I want to be?
- Do I fully embrace the unconditional love of God shown through Jesus or do I still rely on any degree of religiosity or perform-based spirituality, therefore short-circuiting the lavish grace God wants to free me with?
- In the ministry I lead, do I truly lead in a way that reflects a heart of following, humility, and servanthood?
- What have I done in the past 3-6 months that I would label as ineffective, unhealthy, ambiguous, or misled?
- And what have I done in the past 3-6 months that have grown me in the areas of intimacy, spiritual authenticity, ministry effectiveness, and personal testimony?
- If I were my boss would I fire me and why?
- If I were to imagine today as my first day at my job and I know the shortcomings of the last guy who got fired, what would I do differently in order to be more effective than he was?
- Do my kids know me? Do they respect me? Do they like what they see? Will they want to emulate anything in my character in their own lives?
- If every disciple of Jesus had my level of commitment to the grace of the gospel, what condition would the Kingdom be in?
Remember, I didn’t say “easy”, I said “simple”. None of these questions are quantum physics level questions. But as I’ve sat here and rattled them off in short order, they each have a gut-punch quality to them. For me anyway. You’ll likely need to get your own.
Next, as much as I hate to say it I need to confess my lack in adequate reading. An author I like a lot is a guy by the name of Jon Acuff. He’s currently blitzing through a list of books he lined up for 2017 and knocking them off like a madman. And while I fly through books like a—well…like a, I dunno. Like something slow. Man, if I had only read more books this year I would be able to fire off some analogous quip that just conveys my point. The simple truth: Reading fuels my brain. And when my brain is running on empty, I know it. Worse yet: YOU know it.
The next thing I think is necessary to reset is to go back in time. I’m not saying book a flight to Pennsylvania Dutch country (wait, are there airports in Pennsylvania Dutch country? That would seem odd and out-of-place.) And I’m not saying to regress into your past. Or maybe I am. Let’s dig in here for a sec. What is it in your past that you’ve left undone? What is it that’s eating at you because its undone? If there isn’t anything, these words are next to invisible. If there IS anything, these words are a brick wall that you’ve just hit.
What I really mean by “go back in time” is what the Bible (Jesus specifically) calls “first love” living. I mentioned that weekend away my wife and I just had. You know the one conclusion/agreement/commitment we both came away from that weekend with? “Kiss more.” We didn’t arrive at that for the obvious reasons, but rather because each kiss we share is a reset button that takes us back to what we need to remember in order to be in love and stay in love. Plus its fun.
I don’t think it would be responsible of me to talk about the need to “go back in time” and not address our full-blown addiction to mobile devices. I’m no front-porch-rocking-chair, get-off-my-lawn, fuddy-duddy either. But good Lord, are we addicted. You’ve seen it. Go anywhere there are people and watch. I’m fearful of what these small rectangles are doing to us for the long-haul. I’m not saying pitch your phone in the nearest body of water, but I am convicted that we are feigning connectedness while feeding isolation. We are giving ourselves poison disguised as medication. We are slowly handing the art of conversation–actual eye-to-eye verbal conversation–over to the shrine of counterfeit community. I know it’s 2017 and we’re global in our reach. I know that relationships look dramatically different than they did even 10-15 years ago. I know that many, especially young people will label me a codger and write me off. But by God if we don’t get a handle on our overuse of technology and using it as our pacifier, scorecard, and machine gun; and if we don’t temper it with self-control and common sense (remember that stuff?) I believe we’re headed to a land where no one knows how to human anymore.
Resetting our minds, hearts, and direction comes at a cost. For me it takes guts, it takes swagger (the good kind), it takes introspection, it takes releasing my own and others’ past opinions, and more than anything it takes a full reliance on the foundational truth that God is both unchanging and never not moving. I need His unchanging love because I’m going to fail or get prideful or drag my feet or let people down and that unchanging love will be the solid ground under me. And I need to know He’s never not moving because He has hardwired us to yearn. I’ll never stop grasping for the next handhold as I climb with Him. But by definition doing that means leaving what was right where it is. And resetting for what is to come.
Bonus: I sat and stewed for several minutes before clicking “publish” on this one. I just wasn’t sure if it was “done” or if it was going to help anyone. Then I decided to let it fly as is. So, if you’ve read anything here that resonates or if you’ve got some of your own reset advice, I’d love to hear it. Email me and share. My email is on my contact page.