Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coin-flips and Choices: Who I Am

It almost feels like a guilty pleasure to say that I like the work of a guy like Bill Hybels. You know, in that, big church-look up to big church pastors-what is missional and attractional- who has the best ideas- too many people steal from Hybels, Stanley, and Warren- get some original ideas kind of way. But he is awesome.

Sure, at times he makes me cringe. Specifically, a few years ago at the Leadership Summit he made a sexist joke, got called out on it, and then in "apology" made a worse one. I hated that day. I wasn't a fan of him for those few minutes because it's an awful way to do ministry and, really, life in general.

But then there's other times when that rawness is fresh to me ... like the talk I just listened to from Catalyst called "Courage."

In tracing his own story of finding Jesus as a teenager at camp, detailing the times in life that he has "flipped coins" over things that became a big part of who he is, how he does ministry, and how God has used him and his church, I was struck by the feeling of how true it is that one decision that stands at 50-50 determines the outcome of so much of what we do in life, in ministry, in general ...

I chose to leave a job I loved a little more than six months ago. In all honesty, I wake up a lot of mornings with a deep sadness of the relationships I left behind - a desire to know and be known like I was in that community. A selfish hunger to be recognized everywhere I go, have people hang on words, and my opinion valued greatly; a want for the times I was the best innovator and thinker in a room. But that's why I left: I wanted to be challenged to become better at the things I'm good at; to be the person being poured into and taught. I wanted mentors and people that are better at their job than I probably ever will be - and I found it here.

In missing the things that I had, I remember the things that got me to where I am. The decisions that were either made slowly over time as I reformed my theology and, eventually, my behaviors, or quickly as I decided who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in life. God has always been where I walked, which is an obvious statement in some ways - but, to me anyway, also very profound. Because the streets I walked down in El Cajon or Santee or Littleton growing up where no thought of God was present - no desire to care that it might be real even - He was still there. He was. And I missed it, at least to the extent that I wasn't an active participant. I see now, years later, things he was up to in my life that are huge, but I missed them.

Hybels' talk brings me back to the places where I discovered God as an 18 year-old for the first time, through to today as I refine my character and theology and try to get things right as best I can. I remember a dank church basement in Greeley where I felt his presence for the first time, really, as I learned what youth ministry was.

I recall my dorm room that has since been razed, the place where I couldn't sleep and read the Gospel of John through tears and knew this stuff was real.

I think back to a random conference room at a crappy hotel in Silverthorne where God relayed to my 20 year-old heart, soul, and spirit that full-time ministry was the calling for my life and I knew something that day that I couldn't have comprehended before it. Or the club room at Crooked Creek when God called me out of hiding when I tried to leave that calling five years later.

I think back to an empty warehouse that got transformed into a 5,000 square foot skate park with 100 kids a night that were just like the 13 year-old me ...

And to the Country Inn and Suites in New Orleans that housed my life being wrecked, healed, repaired, and rebroken over and over again.

Each one was a coin-flip. I could have watched TV instead of reading John. I could have ignored God at Crooked Creek or in Silverthorne. When I felt the call and need to do something in New Orleans after Katrina, it would have been a lot easier to ignore it like I have with so many other altruistic ideas and yearnings. I could chalk all of it up to emotionalism or sentamentalism or mental illness.

But God did something that I can't explain in so many ways - but can go on and on about in so many other ways.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world ..."

I was made alive, and although I choke for air sometimes, I am alive still. I was a dead man walking, walking those streets where a present God always called to me, and I finally listened. And that coin flip was a winner like none other for me.


Anonymous said...

I like who you are, who you have been, who you have become. You are a tool of the Lord that has cranked many screws and hammered many nails. including my own.

Layne said...

I'm glad I was in that conference room in that crappy hotel with you. What a great trip it's been, no?

Ed said...

Great post, our walk is filled with choices and many times, it is the minor decision that can have major consequences. I sure am glad that you have made the choices that have lead you to today. You are a wealthy man in all the currency that truly matters and is eternal in nature.