In the blur that has been the month of May it almost escaped my mind that on May 11th, 2002 I graduated from Duke Divinity School. Ten years ago. That seems so long ago yet also just like it happened yesterday. Ten years ago I turned 25 in this picture, two weeks later I got married and then a couple months later moved to Mossley, England for a year. Since then I have had two children, got ordained and I’m finishing up my second appointment in the Western North Carolina Conference.
Looking back I have learned more than I can write about ministry and life in general. Yet I also would love to reach into this photo and have my 35 year old self talk to my 25 year old self. As one who is about to start his journey in ministry I would give myself the following advice…
Be Yourself – you are a child of God who has been given gifts in ministry, leadership, and preaching. All you need to do is stop being someone you think you should be and start being who God created you to be.
Causalities WILL Happen – not everyone will like you but that does not mean you are bad person. You cannot please everyone and most of the time when people are upset it usually has to do with them not you. Concentrate on the people who build you up and love you, not the people who would love to see you fail. If something calls for you to say you are sorry, than apologize and ask for forgiveness. If you did the right thing and people are not happy, that is them not you.
Take Care of Yourself – find time to disconnect and revive yourself. Yes, you are good at taking time off, but you are bad at finding things that fill you back up. Find hobbies, habits and activities that are fulfilling, exciting, and make your soul fill up and overflow. This will make it easier to give of yourself in your ministry and not feel empty.
Yes You Are a Preacher – growing up reading out loud, talking in front of people and public speaking sent you into a cold sweat but it gets better. You still get nervous every Sunday but not as bad as it was in 9th grade English class when you were asked to read a major part in a play and you kept stumbling over words. It is hard work and it takes lots of practice but ten years later and after preaching over 350 sermons you are getting the hang of it. Keep it up. You start to realize that preaching is an art form and you enjoy the creativity side of trying to keep people engaged, focused and coming away learning and feeling something. Work on being as transparent as possible. Preaching is not about you but God working through you.
You Can’t Spell – yes you will enjoy writing but you still be the King of Typos. It is okay. You can surround yourself with people and technology that help you out with that. Don’t make your limitations or weaknesses be so scary that you don’t peruse writing as a spiritual discipline and way to connect your ideas with people.
Enjoy Life – you will meet some incredible people in these next ten years. Enjoy getting to know them and do not be afraid to make deep and meaningful connections. Those connections will serve you well in the future. Also every so often step back and look around at where you are and who is around you. You are blessed and give thanks and praise to God for that at all times.
Stop Worrying – One last thing 25 year old me, stop worrying about the future. Attempt to remember you are not in control, God is. Ten years from now you will celebrate your ten year anniversary with your wife who you love more deeply than you do now. You will have a son who is smart, funny, and so caring it brings you to tears just thinking about it. You will have a daughter who adores you and who’s laugh, eyes and smile makes your heart skip a beat. You will be use to moving because after this picture is taken you will have physically moved 7 times and be in the midst of your 8th. It is crazy, but it will all be okay. Not all of them are to new appointments, they are just all to different apartments/manses/parsonages. Remember you are called by God and learn to live as your favorite piece of scripture says, Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Oh yeah, those people around you in this picture. These are some wonderful friends, many of whom you still see or talk to on this thing called Facebook. And one last thing, yes you can wear contacts. Ditch those god-awful glasses already!