Keep in mind that I was in the midst of typing out an email to one of the staff members I've privileged to serve with. Her query couldn't have been better timed.
"Do you believe you're doing what you're doing?"Right now I am walking in the humility of having a new, front row seat to what God is up to in our area. Granted, that's a faulty metaphor because my role isn't to sit but to kneel; and not just to kneel, but to run; and not just to run, but to be still; and not just to be still, but to be.
I smiled... I knew what she meant.
"No... and I hope I never do. You know what I mean? The second I do I think I will be in trouble."
Or in less poetic terms, I was at a seminar this past weekend and someone asked, "So you're the new lead pastor at Connection Church in Medina?"
I nodded and smiled, saying, "Yeah... somehow."
It's funny because as much as that sounds like something in itself I should be "established" about I find I'm more in awe of the journey that brought me here and the one I am currently engaged in. The second I find myself losing touch with how amazing it is to communicate Christ, champion His redemptive cause through a local church, move toward lost people so that they move toward God, deepen existing Christians into new levels of connection, and unleash others into their own soul-stirred up ministries... wow, I think I will be in real trouble.
We tend to live for the benchmarks, but I'm finding life is best lived in and revealed in the transitions.
Here are a few of mine.
- A steady church community to be a part of and invest into... people who have been amazingly welcoming, giving a good balance of invitation and space. My family has intentionally met that with gratefulness that we're not "the pastor, the pastor's wife, and the pastor's kids" but can truly be "Tony," "Katie," "Joshua," and "Daniel."
- I get to serve with a group of five people who are not only amazing at what they do but have quickly become good friends whom I get to do life with and serve.
- Our neighborhood is a mix of the relational cul-de-sac we live in and the apartments behind our backyard... we've already gotten to know several of the households, been blessed by one couple coming to visit our services, found out another are Christians who lead worship in their church gatherings, and see continued evidence of many, many boys (who all seem to be about our boys' ages) that all live down the street.
- We have a house to live in... something we can put holes into, repaint as we'd like, play tag in, and so forth.
- I am discovering the ways God has groomed me in the past two years and given me several tools to guide things forward here into the next chapter. For instance, I've written two books that train staff members in a church, a whole school year worth of material to train leaders who want to invest into students, a 30 day devotional for teens... and find myself leading a staff, looking for someone to invest into teenagers, and wanting to give something to the teens we have. Nice timing, God.
- The blessing of building into our lives as a family a rhythm of work and restoration.
Whenever we make a switch from one thing to the next we are often in what is called the "Honeymoon Stage." Personally, I think this short-changes the concept of what a honeymoon is in marital circles - as if there is a period where you have thick feelings for someone and everything is awesome... as if you couldn't work to maintain that over the long haul.
That's bunk... I'm over 12 years into my marriage and am madly in love with my wife.
So could I be the kind of guy who is still in love with God and appreciative of all these blessings in a year? Five years? Ten years?
Again, we tend to live for the benchmarks, but I'm finding life is best lived in and revealed in the transitions.
I followed God who challenged me to move here... whether in a year we have 1000 more people or close up the doors doesn't matter because my role is to be faithful and his role is to be God. I signed up for a revolution... not a spiritual business. My goal as a Christ-follower, husband, dad, and pastor isn't self-preservation but of Kingdom living and revealing... and however God chooses to use my energy bursts in that direction is His call.
I deserve none of this... none. I know many people who are happy for me and see how this "makes sense" because of "all I've been through." Thank you... honestly, thank you. You may be right, and I'm grateful you would think that God would bless me somehow after some of the trials we've been through.
But, um... I don't see it that way.
Entitlement will rob you of your joy, and so I'd rather remember I'm entitled to nothing and celebrate whatever God gives me with giddy and geeky laughter. I don't have a problem spiking the football, mind you, but I don't ever want to forget the coaching, blocking, passing, and carrying my Savior has done in my life to get me in the endzone. If I do a little dance - which I have, by the way - it's only because I keep looking around and am in awe of how freaking awesome God is.
And speaking of gifts, can I just celebrate my wife for a moment?
They say that Ginger Rodgers did everything Fred Astaire did... yet what most people miss is that she did it backwards and in heels. Kind of reminds me of my wife - as we have transitioned from our last chapter to our new chapter, I have been unbelievably blessed by her and the things that come out of her heart. She is truly a "helper" to me in the way that I think God intended, and hopefully I am to her the same. Everything I'm doing is better because of her thinking and sharpening... I mean, I'm actually amazed sometimes when she talks - I feel like everything just went up a notch.
So in summary...
If/when you ask me how the transition has been, would you please ask me the same question in a year?
And then the year after that?
And then the year after that?
And so on...
and so on...
and so on...
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)