I was 34. I had just woken up from another terrible night sleep on the couch at a college friend’s house. It was 4:45am and I had to get to my 2nd job by 5:30am driving taxis. My wife & I were separated. I had two little ones, a seminary degree, a failed attempt as a pastor & very strained marriage to greet me in the mirror that morning. Nothing but broken relationships surrounded me & it was the beginning of my rude awakening in my 30’s.
I came into my 20’s with guns blazing, looking to make my mark, leaning on talent, skill, looks, intellect, physical prowess, determination & will power to move forward. I had a lot of ministry responsibilities for the young adults at our church in my 20’s. I recall an older man pulled me aside and asked why I was so demanding and thankless with my other small group leaders. I remember responding in an unguarded moment, that no one took care of my heart so why should I treat my leaders any different. Like many young leaders, I was unaware of how much brokenness infected my good desires to serve God. I was not awake to the fact that how you treat others is the litmus test of your relationship with God. “For anyone who does not love his brother,whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen“- 1John 4:20
During my 20’s and early 30’s, I thought I had everything I needed to change the world.
The world’s problems, the unreached people groups, the injustices done to oppressed people all could be impacted by me. I was idealistic. I had the passion to make a difference & thought I had all that was needed (intellectually, emotionally, relationally, etc..) to make an impact and that the opportunities would come easily.
The world was not daunting because I thought it was a lot smaller and simpler than it actually was. I thought I was a lot larger and ‘more together’ than I actually was. You could say my view of the world was all about me and what I could do. Much like this picture.
As Micheal Thompson of zoweh.org
says “if the story is all about you, then you are living in way too small a story”.
I was surprised/stunned when life did not go as smoothly as I thought it would. I see that same surprise in younger men when I talk with them. When I finished Seminary, I was in for a rude awakening. I was so full of dreams fueled by missionary biographies and the miracles of provision and opportunities that surrounded them. I thought I’d leave seminary and BOOM it would just happen. Well, I was unaware of how much pride & brokenness/ambition I had mixed in with my good Godly desires. I was in for some long years in learning about humility and the importance of relationships over accomplishments.
As an older man, I have sought out community vs. being the lone ranger. I have started to notice guys in their 30’s started showing up at Men’s retreats like Heart of a Warrior event
, Men’s bible studies with older guys vs. just all their peers. They start to ask important questions. Like ‘where has this been all my life?’ They start reaching for books, going to seminars or churches open to some new ideas, asking questions like how did you do that? Perhaps their actions and questions are saying “Maybe the way I do life is not the only way to do things. The way I view others & myself is not 100% accurate. In short, maybe i could learn a few things from others.”
My personal view guys in their 20’s and early 30’s, tend to be self absorbed and avoid real consequences of that behavior in the near term. Yet when they start to take that same cavalier approach with a pretty young lady who calls them hubby, or children who call them daddy, or in growing roles of influence at work, church, the ball field, or other social settings….the way they do life all starts to catch up to them. They start, all of a sudden, looking in the mirror beyond their own self-importance, rugged good looks, abilities, desires, etc… to see the ugly side of themselves that is negatively affecting others. They start to wake up. No one is immune.
My view of the world is quite a bit different from when I was younger. From where I sit today, I still have all my idealism but I have been sobered in the best sense of that word. I have dropped my naivete. I have come to believe the scripture that says without Jesus i can do nothing. The below picture best captured my view now.
The world is far more complex and vast than I understood in my younger years. My ability to impact it is so small but I have come to experience a GOD that is SO BIG. Im not talking about having a ‘grass hooper’ mentality (See Numbers 13:33
for more on that). A quote I heard I think captured my heart best…”True Humility is standing as tall as you can only to realize how small your tallness is in comparison to God’s Greatness”. I am all about the dignity of the individual and their unique God given gifts, talents and abilities. But all of that must be viewed humbly against the backdrop of a amazing God who can accomplish so much more than the best we can do, even with all our God-given gifts, talents and abilities. I have heard that referred to as God’s anointing on a life. God does not anoint the proud but the humble.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize more and more my own weaknesses, limitations, inabilities and sins. But I also know a God who is bigger to me now than ever before. More capable than my greatest plans. I am more dependent on Him than I ever was as a younger man.
My God in my 20’s was too small because I thought I had it taken care of. But I have learned He has it taken care of and I don’t know as much as I thought I did. I love being in that position.
I am free now to follow God as he directs knowing God truly has the ‘whole world in his hands’ and that his promises will be fulfilled regardless.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.-Habakkuk 2:14
It is honor to be called to partner with my BIG God to extend His kingdom vs. believing I had to do through my own strength and ability.