I know it’s the middle of October and summer was over many months ago, but I’ve really wanted to share some thoughts from this summer and I’ve unfortunately let time get away from me.
So here are a few things I learned from the summer of 2018.
I went back home to intern at my church for two months and although I think I had an idea about some of the things that I would learn, I’m not sure I could have ever fully anticipated what it takes to work in ministry. If nothing else, I learned it requires a lot of patience with people who are resistant to change.
But here are seven specific things that I learned (and that I’m still learning):
1. I don’t know everything.
This is probably the thing that I’m still learning the most as I venture through life, and that isn’t a bad thing I don’t think. If anything it’s something I’m realizing I need to understand even more. I learned over the summer that “knowing everything” is actually not a good goal to have. The moment when I think I know everything is typically the moment when I actually know the least. Humility is something I want to have in every situation and to think that I know the answer in each situation is not a humble act. To me, having humility does not mean that we have a “Poor me, I’m so irrelevant” type of attitude. It’s more of an attitude that says, “God created me for a specific purpose and with specific gifts that I can be confident in.” Some might mistake that for cockiness, but it’s not. Humility understands that we all have unique gifts that need to be shared with the world, and it also understands from Whom those gifts flow down from. As I start to step back from that old place in my life that thinks I need to know everything I’m realizing that I’m freeing up space in my heart and my mind to truly do the things I’m called to do, and to know the things that God actually wants me to know–first for myself, and then for others.
2. I don’t need to know everything.
This literally goes hand-in-hand with lesson one. Often times I think I need to come up with solutions for people or situations just because I might have helped in the past, or maybe because of some insecurity I have in my life. And that pressure sucks. It sucks the joy and the peace out of my heart because I feel like I have to constantly “be right” for people or I will lose my reputation or my favor in someones life. And it sucks for other people because it gets annoying to have someone in your life who always acts like they are right. This overwhelming pressure is not something I believe any of us should carry, so I’m trying to make a conscious effort to not always “be right” or even have an answer for people in every situation.
3. Ministry/working at a church cannot become a substitute for my personal time with my Father.
This is probably the most consistent thought that I had over the summer. I’ve heard this a few times before, but I never realized how true it is. Or how easy it can be to let my work in ministry become a substitute for the intimate times with God. I think it’s a common thought that because people work inside of the church building their whole day must be full of “spiritual” activities. That reality is true, but it’s not always full of quiet times with the Father, and that’s what each and everyone of us needs on a consistent basis. Now, work in a church can be full of those moments, just like any other job can be a platform to spend intimate time with God, but when we start to think that “doing God’s work” is the same as spending precious time with Him, I think our relationship turns into a religion instead, and that’s not what God created us for. He created us for relationship–both earthly and heavenly–and losing sight of that can lead to a blindness in our life that we don’t even realize.
4. Identity is everything. It is all of life.
Until you understand your identity as a Child of God, your life will not have any purpose. I know that from my own life and from the lives around me. We put our identity into a lot of things in life whether on purpose or because of something that happens, but nothing really satisfies our longing. I wrote about this in my last post, but I think it is so important so I’m writing about it again. Things of earth come and go, and the reality is that if our identity is in those things, it is just as unstable as the changing times. If you have a secure identity in your relationship with Jesus and what His life means, then nothing can ever really crumble. Problems will definitely come, but through the storms your identity can be a constant. And when your identity is a constant, even through the highs of life you won’t lose sight of it. Even when things are going well, which they will, you can simultaneously celebrate life and Jesus because all of you rests in His power and His identity.
5. People are extremely creative and gifted individuals. They are not projects to work on or objects to use.
I’ve been told many times in my life that I should be nice to people because “you never know when you will need their help,” and I think that is terrible advice. Being nice to someone shouldn’t be dependent upon their ability to give back to me. Sort of similarly, I’ve found my tendency is to want to “help” people and that can lead me to think of the people around me as projects instead of people. This is not something I constantly think about within the relationships I have, and I don’t think it is a bad thing to want to help others, but if I look at the people around me through a lens that believes they are in need of my help, instead of just viewing them as God’s children in whom I can have a relationship with, I am not fulfilling the very thing I desire to do–which is to love. Love doesn’t have strings attached and there is no agenda in relationship, and that’s how I want to live my life. This takes slowing down and really processing my feelings within the relationships I have, and either way I don’t think that is a bad thing. We should celebrate people and the gifts that they have more! We are all so, so unique, and together we make up the world, so why not encourage and love on the people around us? Tell people how special they are to you and to the world. Point out the characteristics and gifts you see in people and encourage them to keep growing in them. If we love people right where they are, with absolutely no agenda, I’m certain all of our lives will begin to change, in a major way.
6. You can grow in any season of life anywhere in the world.
And you should. Life is always changing and expanding so growth should be constant in your life. Even if it is small growth every day, discovering new things about yourself or the world around you is an essential part of life. Seasons of life are so valuable! Whether you realize what you are learning (or even that you are learning something) isn’t what matters, I don’t think. What matters is that despite any circumstance, you can choose to find an area to develop. And in doing that your heart grows. So whether you are at the North Pole in isolation by yourself or in the midst of a bustling city with people all around you, you can grow. When you begin to recognize growth, you become more thankful, and self-reflective, and you walk through life more humble and more aware of everything around you. Whether you are a college kid getting five hours of sleep (or more, I hope) or a pastor leading a church (probably also getting five hours of sleep), we can all reflect a little bit more on our lives and recognize that we are growing, even if it doesn’t look or feel like it. Growth starts within, and then it expands out into the world around you, once you start to see the reality of it and trust it’s development.
7. Returning to a place where brokenness used to exist for you can be extremely valuable and I think it is part of the healing process.
This was the longest amount of time I had spent back home since I went to college four years ago. Although I didn’t stay at my parents house, I spent a lot of time there with my family and by myself and I was reminded a lot of the smells and the memories from when I lived there. I was reminded of how incredibly scary it was to move to a new place. A place where, at first, I didn’t have any friends or anyone I could trust. But at the same time I was also reminded of how faithful God was to me and my family during that time. I was reminded of the friends that came into my life and welcomed me with such gentleness. I was reminded of how far we’ve all come and how many amazing things have happened in my life, my siblings lives, my parents lives, and my friends lives since that time. I tell people all the time that I’m so thankful that we moved, but I didn’t always feel that way. Going back home helped me reflect on those feelings and process through some of the pain that I went through, and in doing that it brought everything full circle. My pondering turned into praise and thanksgiving because I recognized that my Father was by my side through all of that. I know He has always been by my side.
These are some spread out thoughts, but it’s what God has been revealing to me through our relationship! And I hope that some of these things I learned can also help you grow in your life, because we are all growing and learning every day.