4th November 2016
Today makes it thirty years since I cluelessly and choicelessly began my earthly sojourn.
From the innocent baby cry, through moments of pleasure and pain, through friendship and antagonism, through mentors and tormentors, through hope and despair, through wins and losses, successes and failures, through learning and unlearning, a few themes especially stand out to me.
I thought I could share a few of the key thoughts life and living has brought me after these thirty years.
I think it would have been really cool and apt if I had thirty life-changing and life-defining, stand-out lessons to share with you. Sadly, I don’t. But here are a few thoughts I think are worth sharing:
FIRST, AGE IS A NUMBER
So much for all the talk about being thirty. Special, but really, nothing special.
I heard the gospel of ‘age is just a number’ quite often growing up, especially when a guy spots a girl he really likes, and then finds out she’s older than he is. He’d usually become an Award winning Evangelist with the gospel message ‘c’mon, age is just a number mehn’. These days, I believe the gospel a lot more than ever.
Growth doesn’t come merely by a duration. Really, nothing apart from corruption comes by mere duration. Maturity is not in the length of days, but I think in the width of days. The length of each day is twenty-four hours, but the value of each day changes from one day to another, based on the extents of width each day is stretched to.
In ten years’ time, I’ll be forty. That’s merely a headline that speaks nothing of whether I’ll be stupid, productive, impactful, resourceful, trustworthy, frustrated or anything at all. Just forty.
So it never boils down to how old you are. It boils down to how deliberate you are- about life, about learning, about living, about growing, about moments, and so on. I’ve met more than enough children homed in elderly bodies, and enough strikingly impressive minds housed in children bodies.
The questions of who I’ll really be are based on how I engage each of my days, opportunities and processes in becoming a better person.
LIFE IS PREGNANT
I use the word ‘engage’; because I’ve found that days are pregnant. It’s never really just about the surface values. Moments are heavy. They can be left to roll along and pass by, or can be confronted to ‘offload’ the value within them. Engage life. I like to remind myself that on my most ordinary and miserable day, God is at work in me for a huge purpose!
Don’t merely interprete occurrences with a people-focus; interprete them with a ‘God-is-involved’ perspective. When you learn that, you’ll find that what you tag opposition can come out as training; what you tag delay can come out as preparation; what you tag stress can come out as the building of capacity, and so on.
There are so often these two sides to every occurrence, and I think maturity and growth is in being able to pick the right side and live in it.
LIFE’S FOCUS IS MAINLY ONE-SIDED, AND MAINLY WRONGLY SIDED
Thirty years have put quite a lot on the plate for me, and very importantly has afforded me a little time for objectivity in perspective.
Now the joys of fatherhood I enjoy seem a lot more evident and pronounced than the pains of sonship back then; the joys of being your wife’s friend today seem more noticeable and celebrated than the difficulty of being a friend’s faithful friend back then, when you really didn’t have to be. The world celebrates every beautiful platform and expression today, but somehow never seemed to notice the preparation processes you went through that led up to these platforms.
It’s the world’s one-sided focus.
Leadership is seen and celebrated in what you control and the shots you call, but few people realize its true strength lies in what and who is controlling you.
Nobody teaches young people to aspire leadership by being great followers. They’re taught about fighting for fame and spotlights, rather than believing in their God-given spots and lighting it.
We are taught to dream big, rather than simply see life right. I believe it is more important to be right than to be big. Fortunately, God blesses the right with ‘bigness’, but that’s in His own way and in His own time. Whether he does or doesn’t, the right is the right and is the right thing to do.
This is why a generation of poorly taught young people look at a life in God and ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ That’s silly. Jesus calls us to lay down everything to follow Him. The start point is surrender, not gain.
Truly, we might arrive at the same end, but one more thing I reckon I’ve learned is that the journey I travel to get there is as important as the destination I get to. There’s no justification of the means by the end.
STOPS AND STARTS
When I committed my life to Jesus as a fifteen year old, I thought of many things that were going to be ended. That’s the way society has trained us to think. I thought of things I must not do anymore, places I must not go, words I must not say, habits that must stop, and so on. In an extreme sense, I felt like my ‘life’ was really being stopped.
That’s ridiculous though.
Imagine emptying your savings account to take your four year old son on a crazily expensive vacation and you get these shocks: First, before taking him out to see one of the seven wonders of the modern world, he’s rolling on the floor crying and agitated, saying his ignorance and lack of exposure is going to end; then before taking him for a dinner date with a world leader, he’s aggressive and fighting saying his hunger is going to end.
I think the world is right. My life was being stopped- my life in its silliness and emptiness. My real life was just starting. Jesus isn’t a cool addition that adds value to life. He’s the start of life. He is life. He’s the line between existence and life.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate more and more that every Jesus nudging, every God-moment isn’t really about a stop as it is a start, and I can’t do life without these starts.
And to chip in for many young guys who cringe at the thought of stopping bachelorhood. Well, if it’s the start of a life with a God-given #supergirl like mine, go for it, silly!
CONFUSIONS AND UNCERTAINTIES
No denials- being on a Jesus journey doesn’t mean uncertainties don’t rise. It’s cloudy in some seasons, and this comes with its share of confusions and questions.
Sometimes, I think we overrate certainty and work too hard looking for certainty, rather than simply staying faithful to Jesus. It’s okay to have a dream about life and the future that’s crystal clear. It’s not fatal if you don’t.
I think what’s important is how we stay faithful with the everyday here and nows.
Why does everyone talk of Joseph having a dream as a reason why we must all have a clear picture of life? I think Joseph just happened to have a dream- he didn’t go looking for it. And I don’t think Joseph ever followed his dream anyway. He never looked for authority. He lived faithfully in his here and now and then came to his dream.
Why don’t we talk of every David, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ruth, Rahab, Deborah, and so on, who didn’t have dreams?
Most of life isn’t about following a dream, it’s about following God in the everyday here and nows. Here and nows are sometimes very dark moments when you can’t even see that far ahead. Sometimes you can’t see more than the next right step.
Of course, live with a strong sense of hope and belief, don’t suppress the expressions of faith- but don’t buy into believing in a dream, more than you believe in God.
Don’t overrate the absence of momentary clarity. Don’t follow a dream more than you follow God.
FINALLY, ENJOY LIFE
You enjoy life because you choose to and tell yourself the right things, not because of the circumstances that surround.
Enjoy your seasons- some come with evident blessings, some with huge lessons. Choose to enjoy it all.
Be joyful in where you are. The only thing worse than being in a bad season is being sad in a bad season.
Value right. Value the awareness that you’re in a God process. Value what you’re becoming over what you’re achieving.
Value the amazing fact that the greatest gift in all the world- life and eternity- heaven and earth- is freely given and freely received. This is an assurance that even on my worst and most disappointing of days, I have free access to do life with the best in Jesus.
May the Lord be the God of your life journey.
With much love,
PS: In my most quiet and reflective moments, I find myself so grateful for each of God’s precious gifts with whom I have done life over the years, and with whom I do life today. Thank you for being God’s gifts to me, for loving me and helping me along my journey. I’m grateful for my#superwife, my family, my mentors, friends, protégés, my church and each of the people who stand in my world.