Do you ever wonder where the time went?
Someone once told me that time moves faster the older you get for two reasons. First, you have more and more time behind you and less and less time in front of you. Second, you’ve lived from one birthday to another, from one Christmas to another – and you know how quickly the next one comes around.
While I’m generally a nostalgic person who likes to look back the past, I’m especially reflective lately. I turned 32 last week and this week I’m packing up my office as I transition off the staff of my church this weekend. I’ve been attending this church for 14 years and on staff for 10, so there’s a lot to look back on and ponder.
10 Life Lessons from the Last 10 Years
While the time has gone quickly (in the moment, some seasons seemed to last forever), I’ve learned a ton. I sat down over the last few days and wrote down some reflections. These are my 10 lessons from the last 10 years. I think there’s plenty of insight here for all of us – whether you’re beginning, in the middle or ending a season in your life.
Earn the right.
We are not entitled to anything. And when we act as if we deserve something, we most surely show we don’t. Earn the right to be trusted. Earn the right to be heard. Earn the right to stand on the stage. Earn the right to be given a shot. In a world dominated by skepticism and cynicism, we have to earn the right. Everything is built on trust. Trust is like the gas which powers our cars. Without it, we cannot go very far. With it, we can conquer the world.
Root your identity in an unshakable place.
In a few days, I’ll change my social media profile to no longer include “pastor at North Phoenix.” For a few weeks, I won’t wake up and go to the office. For a couple month here, I’m not getting up on a Sunday morning with a sermon to give. If my identity was rooted in my role, certain activities or responses to me online, then I would be a mess. Insecurity is a battle we all fight. Transition and crisis shake up our sense of identity and show us places where we’ve rooted our identity in shakable places. The only unshakable place to root your identity is the unconditional love of God found in Jesus Christ. Knowing I am a son of God, loved for who I am not what I do, sustains me as I let go of a role and place which has defined me for a decade.
One of the areas I’ve grown the most in 10 years is how I walk around a room. I was in a conference where Pastor Rick Warren said, “People need a word, a look or a touch.” While I’m not perfect, I’ve tried to discipline myself to walk slower than I normally would and see people. I try to listen for God’s leading in my heart. While I have an agenda of things to do everyday, walking slower means I stay open to divine interruptions and re-direction to my plans. We all have the ability to change someone’s life by the words we share, the love we give or the time we take with them.
I’ve attended several “good-bye” gatherings this month. In one, a friend encouraged me, “Don’t stop challenging people and making them uncomfortable, in order to help them grow.” In my context, I’ve been known as someone who pushed the envelope, embraced creativity and challenge the status quo. While I received pushback on a regular basis, I’ve been surprised recently by how many people who shared appreciation for my boldness. While it is uncomfortable, we need boldness.
People > _________
A former staff member at my church once told me, “People will remember how you treated them and made them feel far longer than they remember what you said.” This person embodied the idea that people are more important than programs and everything else. Sometimes, it is easy for progress or achievement to surpass people in importance to us, but I’m reminded that it’s people, not any program or event I led which will last long after I transition.
Watch out for cynicism
In Proverbs 4, we read these words, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” This is one of my favorite proverbs because I’m a a recovering cynic. Several years ago, I let anger and frustration transform into cynicism and I’ve spent the meantime processing the pain and chasing after hope. I learned nothing good comes from cynicism. In my first ebook, The Greater Than Challenge: A Guide to Reframing Your Life, I wrote, “Our cynicism protects us from being wounded again. While it may protect us, cynicism also prevents us from making a difference in the world. Cynics do not change the world.”
We will all be hurt and wounded. It’s one of life’s guarantees. We will hurt and disappoint others and they will hurt and disappoint us. No one escapes unscathed. But as universal as hurt is, forgiveness can be universal too. Contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not based on a sincere apology or a change of behavior. Forgiveness is personal choice to give up the pursuit of revenge and uproot the poisonous root of the of bitterness. In my second ebook, Forgiveness: From Myth to Reality, I wrote, “Bitterness is toxic and when it is cultivated over a long period of time, it warps a person and damages every relationship in their life.” For the sake of all the current and future relationships in our lives, we must move toward forgiveness today.
Take care of yourself.
One area where every leader can improve is delegating, so he or she can focus on their strengths and best offer to the team. However, there is one job you cannot and that is taking care of yourself. No one can be equipped or empowered to do this work. In a recent piece for ThinDifference.com’s series on self-care, I wrote, “the way we do our work can work against our most important work – being healthy, whole people.”
Anticipate defining moments.
What is a defining moment? A moments which changes everything. Unknowingly, you’ve been preparing for defining moments and when they come, seize them! Author Pete Wilson once wrote, “The opportunity of a lifetime has to be seized in the lifetime of that opportunity.” Like a gallon of milk, it will expire and be gone.
Character > Talent
One of the saddest parts of the last 10 years is watching people up close and from a distance stumble and fall. People I admired and respected made critical mistakes which cost them more than they could ever imagine. I’ve learned that I’m capable of making the very same mistakes.
Our talent will take us further than our character can keep us. The people I’ve watched fail rarely did because they weren’t gifted or talented. They failed because their character collapsed under them. Sure, these were reminders that people are imperfect, need grace as much as I do and will always disappoint me. But these moments are also a reminder to pay as much attention to our character formation as we do the development of our talent.
I’m grateful for all of the experiences and love I take away from the last 10 years on staff at North Phoenix Baptist Church. I’m excited to begin as the Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona in July 2016. And I’m passionate about continuing to write here each week. If you’re not subscribed to my email newsletter, scroll to the bottom of my site and enter your email so you don’t miss a single post. Thanks for reading and going on this adventure with me!