Professor Shoelace…

A few years ago our oldest son had an issue. A shoelace issue.  He learned to tie his shoes at a young age, but every time he went somewhere, his shoes kept untying.  I thought for sure I could teach him again how to tie his shoe. I sat him down, again and again, showing him “the correct way” to tie his shoes.  He never really got it, so I decided to do some research for him. I would help him out. I did a quick Google search and found thousands of entries on how to tie shoes properly.  I kept instructing Shad to double knot his shoes because that’s how I learned to live my life without having to tie my shoes every two seconds.

 

One Google search result intrigued my interest the most, Professor Shoelace.  He has a Youtube channel! That makes him official right? I quickly realized maybe I don’t know everything about tying my shoes like I thought I did.  At the time, I was running long distances training for a 25k race. I had issues all the time with my feet hurting through my longer runs. Professor Shoelace had tips about lacing and tying my shoes that would keep my feet from hurting.  

 

Professor Shoelace instructs people that if you need to double knot your shoes, then you’re not tying your shoes correctly. Shad and I were watching this video together and Shad laughed at me.  I felt attacked by the Professor.

 

Shad and I kept watching his Youtube channel and I kept learning new ways and methods to tie and lace my shoes.  

 

I quickly realized that I had minimal knowledge of how to tie my shoes.  I thought for sure I was going to be proven correct when I did the Google search.  I wasn’t really interested in learning to tie shoes. I was more interested in finding information that showed how right I was so I could show Shad how smart I was.  That’s not what happened.

 

I confused my ability to accomplish a task with reasonable success as knowing all there was to know about tying shoes.  The reality is that the world we live in is changing. Just because we can accomplish something, doesn’t mean we know all about that particular topic or issue.  

 

I believe we are on the verge of amazing potential in our culture, but potential doesn’t necessarily translate into improvement or success.  The definition of potential is having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. So the question is, how do we evolve into something in the future that is great?  Teachability is the key to improvement.

 

Industries that have made America what it is today are changing.  They must change. Careers are changing. If we genuinely want to reach our full capacity of potential, I believe it starts with how teachable we can become and remain.   I have written about my thoughts in previous blog posts about how I think organizations can work among the different generations represented in our workplaces. We must realize why we do what we do.

 

I’m convinced that if we as leaders were to remain teachable, we’d reach our potential and inspire others around us to do the same.  There’s no shame in admitting when we are wrong or when we don’t know all the answers. In the organization I lead, we define teachability as the willingness and ability to relearn something we believed we already knew.  

 

I think the most effective way to become and remain teachable is when you teach others what you know.  At RE.THINK we have a mantra, “You don’t know jack until you teach a 3-year-old ____.”

 

No matter if that task is tying a shoe, potty training or disciplines like cleaning up after yourself or putting clean dishes away.  We might know something, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have to learn or relearn some things along the way. The most effective way to become and remain teachable is to teach someone who has less experience than you that same task.  

 

The culture we live in is changing around us. No longer can we simply say that we know something and never adjust to the changing climate around us.  We must remain flexible and teachable. I believe that will lead us to the best days ahead!

 

 

What are some areas of your job that you believe you know?  

 

What is one task that you could relearn to help you become and remain teachable?  

 

What are some of the changing climates of your job that if you relearned could help you become more effective as a leader?  

 

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash

3 lessons I learned by eating lunch with 5th and 6th graders

When Heather and I decided to start a church in a community where we didn’t know anyone, one thing we knew we wanted our church to be recognized for is adding value to the community.  The summer we moved to Merrillville, I sent an email out to all the principals of each school in the Merrillville School Corporation. One school, in particular, responded. It was Merrillville Intermediate School.  The Principal from Merrillville Intermediate School, Kara Bonin, and I met and started to explore and discuss what it would look like for a brand new church that didn’t even exist at the time to partner with her school.  We discussed what it would look to add value to the staff, students, and teachers.

We started out small yet intentional.  In fact, we are still in those beginning phases.  We started out by bringing snacks for teachers and partnering with the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce to provide gifts for new teachers in the corporation.  We met again after that first school year and started to explore the idea of doing something more intentional.

Kara and her staff identified a handful of 5th and 6th-grade students.  Every Wednesday I drove the five minutes to MIS and had lunch with these students.  The drive might have only been five minutes, but for some reason, it seemed to be worlds apart.   My typical day usually consists of message prep, meeting with adults, casting the vision for what God has given us for RE.THINK and other ‘pastoral duties.’  Each week the distance I felt started to diminish. I walked in thinking I would add value to these students but whoa, I quickly realized how much they would add to my own life.  

Below are the top three ways these students added to my life.  

#1.  The times they are a changin!

I quickly realized that the world and culture these students are growing up in is not the same as the world and culture I did.  

Let’s take video games for example.  Yes, I grew up with video games in my house.  I’m not that old, even though my hair has migrated.  That doesn’t mean I’m that old. There’s no comparison between my Nintendo NES System and an Xbox One X.  The graphics, type of games and the ability to connect with people around the world to play a game together are just a few of the cool differences, and the list could go on and on.

 
The fact that this generation of students has information at their fingertips in their smartphones is also a major difference than when I was growing up.  Think about this, they are walking around with more technology in their phones than was used to propel the first man to the moon and back. Some parents trust these twelve and thirteen-year-olds with that amount of technology unchecked.  A small amount of guidance and parameters go a long way in this area for these students. I had the luxury of not having social media when I grew up. My mistakes are not documented as theirs are. This generation of students has been called the most arrogant generation because of the access to information and at the same time the most insecure generation due to the lack of adult influence in their life.  


#2.  Consistency matters.

Knowing I was going to meet with these students every Wednesday, seemed intimidating at first.  I said “no” to several meetings on Wednesdays from 10 am until 1 pm due to this commitment. In the beginning, I thought I was missing out on ‘good leads’. I also thought that I was missing out because I said “no” to several people in our church that wanted to have lunch on Wednesdays.  After a few months, I quickly realized that holding this commitment forced me to become more efficient in my other responsibilities.

I enjoyed my time with these guys.  They may be crazy at times but think back to your fifth and sixth-grade years.  I can guarantee you did some crazy things. I did, that’s for sure! I walked out of MIS each Wednesday feeling more alive than I did walking in.  

The complexity of most students’ lives these days sobering.  I grew up in an era that divorce and mixed families weren’t the norm.  What was unusual for me growing up, now seems to be the norm. It’s encouraging when you realize the power of a positive, consistent voice in the life of a teenager.  

#3 Every child/ teenager needs six things in their life to mature into their potential.  
Every child needs love, stories, work, fun, tribes and instructional words over the course of their life.  As adults, we need these as well.

Love…helps us understand that we are accepted and known.  
Stories…help us understand that our story is part of a larger story.  
Work… helps us contribute to something using our giftings and abilities.
Fun…who wants to go through life bored and grumpy?  Not me!
Tribes…everyone needs a group of friends they can be their true selves with. Instructional words…we all need guidance along the path of life.                                      See It’s just a Phase by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy


Each week I realize that these fifth and sixth-grade students need to understand those six crucial elements in life to mature.  It’s difficult for parents, teachers or pastors to provide and communicate these six elements on a consistent basis by themselves.  Together, however, we can teach them over the course of time. I think the future looks amazingly bright if we can get this right.

Wherever you’re reading this, I hope you sense the HOPE that is behind this blog.  I find so much hope in the potential of this emerging generation. They might need guidance, but so did we, right?  I wonder what will happen when community leaders, business leaders and you and I start to add value in the life of students as we realize the times they are a changing, consistency matters and every child/ teenager needs six things in their life to mature into their potential.

 

Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Underdog

One of my favorite narratives of all time is the story of the underdog.  Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised in a small Indiana town or the fact that my entire life I have felt like an underdog, struggling with dyslexia, my dad who has been MIA since I was born or the fact that I am built to withstand high winds.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have been a Cubs fan my whole life or a Notre Dame football fan. My sports teams usually have been underdogs for sure.

 

A few years ago, we were in the midst of a transition in our lives.  If I had to be completely honest, I was afraid that I was going to fail in my venture while in the midst of this transition.  It seemed like I was failing left and right. My wife and I had made the decision to move on from our positions with an organization that we had grown to love.  It simply was the right time to move on for the sake of our family and for our careers. As we explored the next several career options, doors were shutting left and right it seemed.  

 

I remember moping around wondering why God was seemingly holding me back from what I thought was my next season in life.  I wrestled through the thought of “am I really this big of an underdog?” I’ve kept a journal since I was 17. Don’t judge me.  It’s a journal not a diary! I’ve never written “Dear Diary…”. In that journal, I’ve told God “I don’t think you’ll ever be able to use me because I’m not qualified.  My chances are too slim. My reputation is pretty much screwed because of the decisions I’ve made in my past. I don’t have enough resources or the right connections.” These statements that I continually believed and told myself literally arrested my potential.  

 

Maybe you’ve told yourself some of those same statements.  If so, I want to give you permission to allow yourself to believe that you are significant.  You can be used to make this world a better place. You have the potential to be used for good.  Someone had to literally give me permission to believe that God wants to use me in order for me to believe it.  If you feel like you’re an underdog, if you feel like you’re not qualified enough or your reputation is screwed because of the decisions you’ve made in your past (even if your past is the last few seconds), you are not alone.  

One of the wisest women I know asked me a question during those ‘moping’ seasons of my life.  She asked me, “Why not you? Why shouldn’t you be considered for that job? Why shouldn’t you be considered for that promotion?  Why shouldn’t you be used to change this world for the better?” As I sat across the table from this amazingly wise woman, I couldn’t come up with any legitimate excuse.  So, I had to challenge this thought pattern that had been part of my life for as long as I could remember.

 

If you google parasite cuckoo bird you’ll discover something remarkable.   The cuckoo bird lays an egg that if undetected will kill the future potential legacy of the native bird and eventually may kill the parents of the native birds.  The cuckoo mamma bird lays her egg in the nest of a neighboring bird. The cuckoo egg hatches and kills the other eggs in some Survivor-style TV show. The parent birds have no clue what happened to their actual offspring and can only think of feeding the cuckoo bird.  If they don’t realize that the cuckoo toddler bird isn’t their real offspring, they will feed this bird nonstop exhausting themselves to the point of death. They will kill themselves trying to feed this bird that isn’t even theirs to feed.

 

Being told we are underdogs can kill the potential in us if we aren’t careful.  If we don’t detect the lies in our lives such as we aren’t qualified enough, our chances are too slim, we don’t have a good reputation or that we don’t have enough resources, we’ll kill the potential in our lives.  

 

At this point in the blog, we usually would go in one of two directions.  I could tell you that everything you need to succeed is already in you. I could tell you that you’re good enough, smart enough and doggone it, people like you.  I could tell you that God has put some amazing potential in you and that all you have to do is pray and seek Him.  That is usually how this goes, but I actually think there’s a different path.  Maybe there is the potential of a third direction. What if God does have an amazing plan for you full of potential?  What if you actually had to respond to God’s leading? What if you need to challenge the cuckoos that have been dropped into your life throughout the years?  Without challenging these parasites, we’ll never live up to our potential. Those cuckoos in our life will keep us from reaching our potential!

 

Cuckoos will usually look like a label that someone gave us.  Some of the labels might be ‘loser, fat, not good enough, wrong, bad person, slut, failure, punk or fired’.  Whatever the label, I’d encourage you to examine that label and compare it to what Jesus says about you. In spite of the label you might carry, Jesus found you worthy of giving His life for you.  

 

God has something amazing for you in store.  He created you on purpose for a purpose. You will need to respond to His leading though.  Life transformation usually doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a series of decisions that allow God to move in our lives to transform us.  It might need to begin with you verbally declaring that you’re worthy or reading a portion of the Bible each day to grasp what God says about you.  It might be that you need to identify the cuckoos in your life and decide to challenge them. Whatever it is, I would encourage you to do something starting today.

 

Several years ago, I was on a trip and had to rent a car.  When the I got to the rental place they gave me an upgrade.  The car had GPS and I was in a parking garage with a very weak signal.  After the attendant showed me how the GPS system worked, I entered the address and expected the entire list of directions to be given to me at once.  I was frustrated because I couldn’t get all of the directions at once in order to determine if I should trust the given directions. The GPS system told me “the map will appear when the car is in motion.”  I had to trust to a degree, but I also had to put my car into motion. The same principle can be applied to my own relationship with Jesus.

 

I don’t know if I’ll ever receive all the directions to my relationship with Jesus at once.  It most likely is going to happen as I follow Jesus a little bit at a time. As I continue to follow Jesus, I identify more and more cuckoos in my life that don’t compare to what Jesus says about me.  As I identify them, I have to determine whose voice I’m going to follow.

 

Photo by Dan Chung on Unsplash

 

Revealing

Several years ago we bought a house.   This was the first house we owned. It was a pretty big deal for us.  There were some changes we wanted to make to it. The beautiful thing about owning your own house is that you don’t really need to ask for permission, you can just do it.  When we purchased the house, there was carpet throughout the living room and hallway. We didn’t really love the carpet and wanted it removed. One day, one of our friends, Aimee, was over.  We were discussing the carpet and she reached over in the corner and pulled up part of the carpet. She was amazed at what was underneath. Beautiful hardwood floors were covered by this dull boring carpet.  

 

We immediately started doing research on how to remove the carpet and how to refinish the hardwood floors.  After doing the research, we decided to move forward with doing this project on our own. I rented the sander, sandpaper and all the other necessary items.  

 

Now both Heather and I knew what to do.  We had watched several youtube videos. The guy at the rental store even told us what to expect.  That makes us experts, right? Well, even if we both understood what should happen, it didn’t prepare us for what happened next.  We removed all the carpet, tarped all the hallways and doorways etc. The rooms were empty. The house was prepared and there we stood waiting for the next move.  We prepared the machines and I stood in the middle of the living room ready to begin. As I started the sander and began the process, I looked over in time to watch my wife walk out of the house.  Even though we both expected it to be loud and messy, she needed a few moments to brace herself.

 

As we started this process, sawdust flew everywhere.  The old layers of stain and polyurethane were removed, revealing the true beauty of the floors.  

 

Even though we knew it was going to be loud and messy, we had no idea to what expect.  It was shocking to both of us.

 

Sometimes as a follower of Jesus, I know what to expect as Jesus begins working in my life.  I know that parts of my life will need to be modified. I shouldn’t return to sinful ways of living.  I shouldn’t click on that website. I shouldn’t rely on substances to get me through the day. As Jesus begins the process of removing my old ways of living, it’s painful.  I don’t like it. I sometimes want to stop the process.

 

Some of us have done that in the past.  We’ve stopped the process of maturity and renewal that Jesus wants to do in us.  The process of removing the old is just the beginning. The process of revealing our potential and beauty isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun. It’s actually messy, but it’s so worth it.

 

Once the process of removing the old is complete, we can begin to put on the new.  There would be no point in putting on the new until the old is gone.

 

I am reminded of a time when I foolishly tried to cover up a huge mistake I made with a tractor while on the job.  I accidentally ran the tractor into a concrete structure that scratched the paint right off of a decent sized area.  In order to not get fired, I decided to find the same color of paint in the barn and repaint the damaged area. My boss, the farmer, came into the barn the next morning and didn’t say anything.  The paint job wasn’t perfect but it was good enough to fool him… that time. I took the tractor out again to get some work done. When I returned it; however, the new paint had worn off. It looked so bad.  It was obvious that something had happened. I returned the tractor to the barn hoping my boss wouldn’t notice. This time my boss asked me what happened. I was caught. He mentioned to me that he thought the tractor had looked a bit odd in the morning.

 

I really tried to think of some excuse that would cover my butt.  In my 14 year-old-life, I had never really had to deal with something like this before.  When I admitted what I had done, he laughed. He knew the whole time. He had watched me run into the concrete structure the other day.  

 

He taught me the proper way to fix a major screw up like that.  The area needed sanding and I had to remove all of the other dust and debris before repainting.

 

That day I learned a difficult lesson.  In order to truly repair the affected area, the old had to be removed.  

 

There are so many kinds of lessons like this, whether it’s painting a tractor or refinishing floors to reveal their true potential.  There are times when we need to realize this lesson in our own lives. This is called discipline. When we encounter discipline, we can either avoid it or embrace it.  I’d encourage each of us to embrace it. Learn from it and mature through it. Avoiding discipline may allow us to ‘feel’ good, but in the long run, we are only going to repeat our foolishness.  

 

What area of your life are you avoiding discipline?  What area of your life, if you practiced discipline, would improve by simply embracing discipline?  Don’t avoid it. Don’t cover it up. Embrace the whole process! Your true potential will be revealed as you do!  

 

Hammock

A few years ago this image came across my computer screen.  I thought it was comical at first, but then I started to realize it was pure genius.  It’s pure genius because it is a perfect example of my life growing up in church. I grew up knowing all the right answers about the church, Jesus, and the Bible.  At times, I walked around thinking how great I was because I knew all the right answers.

 

In seventh and eighth grade I participated in a competition called Bible Bowl.  If you’ve never seen a competition, click here to check it out. It’s an academic competition to see who knows the Bible better than the other team.  I truly believe it started with good intentions, but no one, not even my Bible Bowl coaches realized I was only in it for the fame and millions of bonus points it promised.  I wasn’t even a follower of Jesus yet. I honestly had a desire to prove how smart I was and how great of a competitor I could be. My main goal was to crush my competition with my Bible knowledge.  I’m pretty sure that’s why God wrote the Bible in the first place right?

 

The problem was, I had no relationship with Jesus.  I only knew the facts of the Bible. I could push the button pretty fast, recite part of the Bible and come out victorious.  I really believed that knowledge of the Bible was good enough.

 

After a short career on the Bible Bowl circuit and realizing the promise of millions of bonus points was empty, I retired. The problem still was that I had no clue what I was supposed to do with this Bible knowledge.  I had no clue that this knowledge meant little to nothing in everyone else’s mind. It also did not actually make me right with God. I knew where to find the right answers. I knew the process other people should follow to be made right with God.  

 

I still found myself awkwardly standing, like the dog in the picture, in the presence of God.  I volunteered at my church. I attended church all the time. I read my Bible but still had no idea how to act.  I thought I had to perform for God. I thought I had to go through all the ‘right’ motions and have all the ‘right’ answers.  

 

I was 17 years old when I finally had a real come to Jesus conversation.  I found myself on the back porch on a spring night. It was past midnight on a Wednesday.  My student ministry pastor had just given one of the clearest explanations of Jesus and grace.  I remember my emotional response to the message. I can remember the smell of the building and the feeling of the wind as I drove home that night.  As I sat on the back porch alone, I lit my cigar and cracked open the beer bottle I stole from my step dad’s stash. Still not knowing what to do, I asked God that if all of what I had heard was really true, then what’s next?  What should I do? I was still like that dog in the picture above, trying to be comfortable standing in the hammock, instead of resting in the hammock.

 

After asking God what to do, He simply responded: “Rest in my grace”.  One of the parts of the Bible I read through that night was Matthew 11.  One of the verses in Matthew 11 says, “Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls”.  That night, I finally found the proper way to rest in the presence of Jesus. It wasn’t more knowledge of the Bible or emotionally driven worship songs.  It was simply resting in the presence and grace of Jesus. He bore the punishment for my sins. He endured hardships beyond measure so I could make right with God.  The issue we all need to face is that our personal sin separates us from the God who created us. God so loved the world that He sent his son, Jesus to the world, to save humanity.    

 

My prayer this Easter season is that we will all be able to rest in the grace Jesus offers us. Enjoy the hammock as it was designed to be enjoyed. Don’t just simply fit in it, but rest in the hammock.

That Person. Them. Those People.

Ever find yourself wishing that your life could be like his? Am I the only person who does this? Some days I hate going to the gym. Not because I don’t enjoy working out (I really enjoy working out. In fact, I love a challenging workout). The part I hate is looking around at the guys who seemingly do less work than I do, but still, have the results I wish I could have.

Really, I’m the only person who does this? Like you’ve never made a comment about what she did to get that promotion? Busted! I knew you’ve thought that before.

Maybe the day you dreaded is finally over. Or, THAT day happens every 365 days and it’s just another reminder. THAT day you deliver flowers to everyone else. THAT day you hate but wish you didn’t. You want to be celebrated on THAT day too. Why does February 14th happen every year?!

Granted you might put on a smile in an attempt to be happy for everyone else. When I go to the gym, I don’t walk up and spew my jealous thoughts to those guys. I do sometimes secretly wish they would get fat and struggle to lose those pounds. Don’t judge!

It’s not right, but it’s a struggle. How should we handle and deal with jealousy? Is this a battle we just have to keep fighting or is there hope?

Here are my top 3 tips when it comes to combating envy:

Number 1: Don’t label THEM or THAT KIND of people.

For some reason, it’s easier to label people with titles. The problem is that we don’t actually get to know them before we label them as “THOSE people”. I used to work for a company where this guy would go from department to department. Every two years when he reached a new promotion, he would switch to another area. I didn’t really know this guy, but everyone I worked with seemed to know him. They kept saying things about how this guy kissed butt and that’s why he was getting the promotion.

I ended up working with him on a project. I got to know him and found out a little more about him. A few months after that, I transferred from 2nd to 1st shift and ended up working with the same guy. I saw his work ethic, his personality, and his temperament. He was great to work with. His work was quality work. He didn’t make excuses. He simply did his job and did it well. After a few more months, I got to know more about him and his family. He had three girls and a boy. Growing up, his dad worked in the same industry we were in. His father worked 2nd shift on an assembly line. His father wasn’t there for most of his games because he had to work. His dad missed a lot of the extra parts of his life. He loves and respects his dad, but wanted his kids to have a different experience. So, he set out to go from the assembly line to a position that allowed him to work during the day with weekends off. Eventually, that’s exactly what he did.

It’s so easy to assign labels to people without knowing their story or their motivation.

Number 2: Don’t buy into the lie that it couldn’t be you.

I think one of the biggest reasons we become envious is because deep down we don’t believe that it could happen to us. Think about it. Would you turn down a promotion? Wouldn’t you want flowers delivered to you on THAT day? I certainly wouldn’t turn down the 6 pack abs! If you received the outcome you were hoping for, you’d accept it and celebrate it as well.

Growing up without a father figure in my life, I viewed Bill Cosby as my father figure. He was funny, successful, had an attractive wife, great family, a sweet house and was a great dad! I also remember myself as a kid being jealous of Theodore Huxtable. He had the dad I wish I had. Let’s ignore the fact that I was jealous of a fictional character! I was 8 years old at the time.

I recently read a book “To Own a Dragon” by Donald Miller. He explained similar experiences growing up. His insights helped me journey through the reality of growing up without a dad. One of the biggest insights I walked out with was to view God as my father. Once I started living like that, things in my life changed. It’s not like everything I did turn to gold but my mindset changed.

The Bible describes God as a loving father. Parts of the Bible display God lovingly taking care of His children. It also shows God blessing His kids. The Bible also says that Jesus came to give us the best life possible. Aside from blessing our spiritual life, I also believe blessings include money, success, relationship status, etc. God is FOR us, He loves us. He wants us to succeed. Maybe it’s time we start believing that too. God has more for me than I’ll ever understand. No matter how much I think I know how much God loves me, I’m wrong every time. He loves me more than I can imagine. Same is true for you. God has more for me to experience and mature into and is waiting for me to take that next right step.

Heather and I had been married for 2 and a half years when I discovered a check from our wedding. We never cashed it or deposited it. I debated if I should deposit it or not. Ultimately I didn’t. I wasted the potential of the check because I didn’t take my next right step in time. I delayed and in doing so wasted the potential that was given me.

If we spend time wallowing in our sorrows and wishing things would happen to us, we’ll waste the potential given to us.

Number 3. Fake it until you make it.

At the root of jealousy is the reality that you can’t or won’t celebrate the success of other people. You may not believe that God wants you to succeed, get the promotion, have the six-pack abs or have flowers delivered. If you need to, re-read Number 2 above.

In order to fight envy, however, I have found that celebrating other people is crucial in order to find the hope. You can overcome envy. You can experience the desired outcome you’re looking for. So, if you need to fake it, fake it. To genuinely fake it, start with a golf clap if you need to and work your way up to the full-on loud clap and cheer. I have found this has literally loosened the chains of envy that slipped around my heart. Believing that God will transform my heart for others and help me celebrate others is a great start to making it a reality.

Final thought on envy… Envy is something that we believe will help us feel better. In reality, it’s toxic to us. No one else knows that you’re envious. Being envious is kind of like drinking poison hoping that it hurts the other person. Put the poison down and experience freedom! God is for you and He wants you to succeed!

Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

The List

I was a freshman in high school when I met the woman I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with.  As a 14-year-old,  I had everything figured out… so I thought.  I was sitting at a picnic table minding my own business when a cute, I mean really cute, 16-year-old brown haired girl walked by.  I noticed her right away and loved what I noticed!  She was wearing a simple white t-shirt with red and black checkered Umbro shorts.  

It was the summer of 1995.  Heather was and still is two and a half years older than I am.  After spending a week with her,  I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  I just had to figure out how to actually make that dream a reality.   

We lived two and a half hours apart and the internet wasn’t what it is these days. Dial-up ruled the day!  Napster wasn’t even invented yet. In order to make my dream a reality,  I decided to attend as many events that Heather might be at.  I started attending church camps and other events hoping Heather would be there and …she was.  My plan was working. I finally got up the courage to ask her for her address so I could write letters to her.  We wrote via snail mail for several years.  I still have some of those letters.  

We finally were able to spend time in the same space in the fall of 1999.  I graduated high school and attended the same college Heather did.  The fact that she was there, legit was the main factor in my decision-making process of what college I would attend.  The problem was that when I finally showed up, I realized I wasn’t the kind of guy Heather would want to date, let alone marry.  When I was finally honest with myself, I could see there were habits and characteristics in my own life that I wasn’t proud of.  

At some point during my freshman year of college, I created a list of characteristics that I wanted my future spouse to be like.  This list included characteristics such as loving, caring, maturing follower of Jesus, fun, faithful, funny, and attractive (who wants to spend the rest of your life with someone you can’t stand to look at?).  The purpose of the list was to help me identify ladies who might hold these characteristics.  This list became more important in just a few months.  

Eventually Heather and I started to hang out.  I quickly realized why Heather was the one. I realized that my integrity and maturity or lack thereof would hinder me from ever being the kind of guy Heather would want to date.  

I have journaled my prayers since I started following Jesus.  That list I created was in my prayer journal and during my sophomore year of college,  I read back over it.  God spoke to me that day like never before.  The message was clear.  “If you want your future spouse to be loving, caring etc.,  when will you become those things?”  “When will you start the process of becoming the maturing follower of Jesus I created you to be?”  

After my “conversation” with God,  I intentionally started the process of maturing as a person.  I quit smoking, started reading my Bible and doing more to learn about God.

In order for me to find Ms. Right (pretty sure that’s a myth we’ll unpack some other day),  I had to become the version of Mr. Right my Ms. Right was looking for.  Andy Stanley says it best, “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?”

If not, maybe it’s time you start that process for yourself.  Make a list of those characteristics you’re looking for.  Be honest with yourself. Are those characteristics in your own life?  Here’s the great news, your story isn’t over.  You’re not defined by your dating history. You’re not defined by your past. Allow God to write another chapter in your life.  If you’re married, you might want to do this as well.  You’d be surprised how this might benefit your marriage.  

I pastor RE.THINK Church and 80% of our people are under the age of 30 years old.  Several of these people are single. Some have been married before and are now looking for what’s next, or better put,  who’s next.  I’ve encouraged our people to stop looking for Mr. or  Ms. Right and become Mr. or Ms. Right first.

 

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash