So, even as I sit down to write this, I know that it’s going to seem like fishing. Rest assured, it’s not. I usually try not to bring any more attention to this than I can help it. But this is a day for reflecting so here goes nothing. Today I grow another year older. Rather than our usual meditation on Mark’s Gospel, I thought I’d do something just a bit different and reflect with you on a few lessons I’ve learned over the years. Lord willing I’ve still got many yet to go, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
Worry isn’t worth it. When I was in high school, I worried. A lot. About everything. I mostly just kept it inside, but I was always anxious about something. Looking back now they were overwhelmingly petty fears, but when you’re swimming in that adolescent milieu they seem to overshadow everything else. And it wasn’t good. Then I read and understood for the first time something Jesus said and it completely changed my world. “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) Worry is a meaningless action we take to substitute for control we don’t have. Worry doesn’t accomplish anything except to hurt ourselves. The better path is to trust in the God who is good and follow Him faithfully.
God’s got a plan even when we don’t see it. I remember clearly a time in college when I thought I had my schedule all planned out just like it needed to be in order to stay on track for graduation just before the whole thing got thrown into chaos. I was nearly panicked walking around campus for a few days. Then one morning as I was praying while walking to class, an overwhelming sense of God’s Spirit came over me with a simple message: “For I know the plans I have for you–this is the Lord’s declaration–plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) We can talk another time about the context of that verse, but in my moment, it was just the reminder I needed to hear. God knew what He was doing (and soon proved it in grand fashion) even though I couldn’t see it at the time. The same goes in your life. He knows His plans and will reveal them as you trust Him.
You can’t do it on your own. I have the kind of personality that wants to do it on my own. “It” could be just about anything, but whatever it is, I want to do it on my own. I was the guy in school who never wanted to do group work and would do as much of the project by myself as I could so I didn’t have to rely on the group. Group work may still be a chore, but life is a team sport. None of us can make it on our own. We weren’t designed for that. “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) If you don’t have people around who can serve as your help and support system, you need to fix that. Life is not just better, it’s possible with people in ways that it isn’t without.
You need a community. You don’t just need to have people around. You need a community. One of the most powerful lessons I learned growing up was to love the church. I learned it in a funny way too. I learned it when my family and a group of others left the church I grew up in and the only one I had ever known to that day. This group didn’t leave angry, though, hurt as they were. They left with heavy hearts and only after prayerfully doing everything they could to resolve the issues at hand. Then, they didn’t go and cynically start something new, they planted themselves in other local churches where they kept growing and making a difference there. You’ve got to love the church. Life–especially the life of Christ–isn’t possible without it. There is simply no such thing as a growing, church-less follower of Jesus. It’s merely a pernicious myth that has broken the faith of too many people. “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
A great wife is an amazing gift. While God doesn’t call everyone to marriage, if you have received that call, who you marry matters. When you approach the great adventure of marriage, consider carefully who it is you are setting down that road with as your partner. You don’t want to have to do it more than once if you can help it (although there is grace for that all the same). Choosing a spouse who complements you and is the person God’s called you to be with is a big deal. Treat it as such. For my part, I got it right and am every day grateful for that. “Who can find a wife of noble character? She is far more precious than jewels.” (Proverbs 31:10)
Children are a blessing from God. Parenting is tough. There are no two ways about it. It’s tough. Kids are a challenge and sometimes more so than others. But children are a blessing. There is a richness to life that comes from children that is not accessible by other means. They give you a chance to invest in the future and have a direct impact on what the world will be like. They teach you humility and selflessness and help you understand God’s own love for you in ways that are hard to otherwise grasp. I’ve got three absolutely terrific boys. I’m as proud of them as I can be. If you’ve got kids, give them an extra hug today and remind them of how much you love them. They need to hear that. “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, offspring, a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)
Surely there’s more, but that’s a pretty good place to stop. God has given me 38 remarkable years and prayerfully I’ll see many more. All these blessings and more, though, flow only from a relationship with Him. If you don’t have one, it’s time to fix that. There’s abundant life to be enjoyed. It isn’t always easy, but it is always good…just like He is. Here’s to another year of growing and learning together.