Why Am I Still Running? (confessions of a reluctant, upcoming leader. I think I would get along with Jonah.)

One of my favorite things about writing is that sometimes you go back to read things you wrote a few days, weeks, months, or years ago and see how it’s changed. I enjoy reading entries from my journal when I would write in my car on my break at work back in 2009. I remember, as I read, how much self-loathing I had; how I never felt I was good enough; how I always felt I had to perform well in order to have God love me. I remember seeing issues I had in relationships and seeing how – sometimes just by coincidence and not necessarily deliberate action on my part – those things sorted themselves out. It’s one of the primary reasons I recommend blogging and journaling to anyone – you see how you change.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an entry I called “Don’t Run.” I lamented my own tendencies to waste time, doing the thing I perceived as being “easier” instead of challenging myself to pursue fulfilling the call of God in my life.

Consider this post “Don’t Run” revisited, or perhaps as “Why Are You Still Running? A revisited lamentation of an unfortunate tendency” (because every good title has a subtitle.)

I write this because now I notice my tendency to run from God, but more specifically I notice the alarming frequency at which it happens. What’s this look like? Fortunately for you, reader, I have many examples to tell you about.

A few years ago, I agreed to be an “apprentice” in a life group. I did this with the intention of leading a life group in the future and being able to shadow my leader, learning from him in the process.

 

I took attendance.

I didn’t do anything else.

 

I was younger then, and I’ve done some growing since. But that is one example of how I chose not to step up and ask things like “what can I help you with? How can I serve the group? In what ways do you want me to take up responsibility for this group?” Instead, I just got comfortable keeping my mouth shut and not contributing. This is a microcosm of a bigger problem I have, and reason number one that I run from God’s call: I shrink in the face of leadership.

Somewhere along the line I got the idea that what I have to say isn’t important and isn’t as powerful as other people in leadership. “Nothing you say is insightful,” I convince myself. “You don’t know the Bible well enough to hang with the big dogs in leadership.”

Here’s the problem with that thinking: it puts all the pressure on me. Now, hear me well here. Knowing the Bible is important, and I admittedly have discipline issues when it comes to reading the Bible and knowing it. I know exactly where this comes from, too: when I was first becoming a Christian, I remember thinking, “I can’t read the Bible early in the morning. And I think that’s okay with God – I think He’d like me to read it when I’m a little more coherent and can focus more.” To a point, that’s okay thinking, but the most notable flaw in that is twofold: First, if you wait until you’re ‘in the mood’ or ‘have the time’ to read the Bible, you’ll never do it. There are endless excuses not to (which I’ll get to in a minute.) Second, do you have a better plan? Often times in our walk with God (or at least in mine,) we discount things as a bad idea because it just won’t work or because I don’t have to do it to be saved. Personally, I’ve done that with evangelism – when I think about sharing my faith, I automatically discount the idea of street evangelism because, I tell myself, “that just doesn’t work.” And God’s response is this: “Okay, do you have a better idea?” (again, not proponing street evangelism as a universal strategy, merely pointing out that we often think things are bad ideas when we don’t really have a better one.)

I think that there’s room in the Kingdom of God for new, innovative ideas for things such as evangelism, small groups, etc. But I think that an idea is necessary before we automatically discount tradition or the preexisting idea. That is, replace a “bad” (what you think is bad) idea with a good one (it doesn’t matter if you think it’s good if it’s not really good, therefore there are no scare quotes there.)

I do this with people, too – for a long time, God’s told me to be proactive in greeting new members at our church. As someone who aspires to church leadership, I feel it’s important to greet new people and make them feel welcome at our church. Basic, right? Say hello, introduce yourself, maybe ask what brought them to our church, and see where the conversation goes. But instead, my second form of running from God: I make excuses. In large part, this goes right along with the last points. Sometimes they are excuses involving what I believe is my own natural condition, such as “I’m not creative,” “I’m just an awkward person,” “I’m not quick witted,” or “I’m just naïve.”

Problem with that: I’m criticizing one of God’s creations and one of His sons. I’m also (again) putting more stock in my own condition than I am in the enabling, equipping grace of God.

But here’s perhaps my most embarrassing one: I just don’t feel like it. HA!

Who am I kidding? Who are we all kidding? In our culture, we “feel like” a lot of things.

“I feel like the Patriots are underachieving.”

“I feel like I hear this song every time I turn on the radio.”

Unfortunately, “feel like” has snuck its way into our behavioral vocabulary as a subtle way of saying “I want to.”

“I feel like having a drink tonight.”

“I feel like going out.”

“I feel like seeing a movie.”

And we, of course, use “I don’t feel like” a whole lot.

“I don’t feel like saving any money.”

“I don’t feel like staying any longer than I have to.”

“I don’t feel like going to work today.”

And I’ll be honest, half the stuff involved in ministry is stuff I “don’t feel like” doing.

I lead a Bible study on Tuesday mornings. I often have the time to prepare for it, but I “don’t feel like” doing it.

I am on worship team practically every Sunday morning. We have to be at practice at 8:30, but sometimes, since Sunday is my day off, I don’t feel like getting up any earlier than I have to.

When I’m at home on either side of going to work (be that before I go in or after I just got off) I often don’t feel like doing the things I need to do: reading a book on ministry, reading the Bible, preparing stuff for my life group, doing my life group homework, praying for my church, pastor, missionaries, campus ministers, etc. But here’s something I’m learning about the phrase “feel like” (and listen up, reader, you may want to write this down:)

The majority of the time, the very thing you don’t feel like doing is the very thing you need to do, irrespective of how you feel.

As people, we would do well to pick up on that pattern. And we like constancy, don’t we? We like that indicator that is a sure-fire thing. Maybe we can all pick up on that and catch ourselves when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t feel like it.” We’d do well to recognize that in any context – when we don’t feel like reading the Bible; when we don’t feel like praying; when we don’t feel like eating vegetables; when we don’t feel like making a meal at home and feel like eating out instead; when we don’t feel like exercising, the list goes on.

By the grace of God, I’ve been able to see some of my own despicable (and illegitimate) reasons for not doing the very things I need to do, many of them relating to ministry. Consider this an open repentance, but I hope that it also does the reader well, and that my struggles can be identified with, resulting in encouragement. God is gracious, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few weeks, it’s that He gives grace to do difficult things, and when you’re concerned about protecting yourself, your money, your time, or your energy, it’s best to leave that sort of thing up to Him, because He can and does provide all of the above.

Seasons.

I don’t know about you, reader, but I find that my life can change drastically in the course of a year. Actually, it can change in much shorter courses than that.

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends (or so it feels) for something like a week – I worked last Monday, babysat in Berea on Tuesday, and worked Wednesday-Saturday (for the sake of frugality and practicality, namely saving money on gas, I stayed in respective cities for extended periods of time. For example, I stayed in Berea after life group, so I was in Berea from 5:40 AM until about midnight. I stayed with my sister in Lexington Wednesday and Thursday nights to save the commute to work since I worked early.) Sunday, as per usual, hardly feels like a day off, as I spend it practicing for the worship team and sometimes, like this past Sunday, teaching Sunday school. I worked yesterday morning and finally find myself on a Tuesday, which means no work.

I’ve not written for a long time now, and I was searching for what exactly to write about, as my head was swimming with a million different ideas. I realized that the constant had been change (ironically) among all the things I’d been thinking about, so I’ll go forward with it…

A year ago today, I was newly employed at Purdy’s Coffee Co. in Richmond, KY. It was my second coffee-related job, and my first experience working for a small business. I loved it, and that job was heaven for the first little while. I felt that I enjoyed an unprecedented degree of freedom and autonomy to create drinks, try my own, wear whatever clothes (while still remaining modest and appropriate) at work that I wanted, I loved working with my bosses, loved the customers, etc. It was especially great because they worked with my school schedule. It was my senior year of college, and I’d tailored a schedule for while I was still at Starbucks so that I could work 5:00-9:45 every day. The job came about rather suddenly and I didn’t think to remake my schedule for a later-opening coffee shop (unfortunately for me, Purdy’s didn’t open until 7 AM) so we had to work with smaller chunks of times, which meant sometimes in order to get the necessary hours, I had to open and close in the same day, returning after class.

I had my friends I met with to study at various places – and I was a really good student (as far as studying, anyway; I don’t think “studier” is the right word, is it?) so I got the chance to help my friends study for tough exams while myself preparing for them.

(I confess that, at this point, I don’t remember much more, as I am going off my journal to remember exactly what was going on. One thing you younger readers may not yet understand is that as you grow older and your life experiences add up, it’s harder to remember when one thing ended and another began. But with time, you’ll learn that, you may only not remember when.)

Fast forward to today. I am still dealing in coffee (since caffeine is a legal drug, then I am, by definition, a professional drug dealer) working at A Cup of Common Wealth in Lexington, KY. I’m so blessed by it – first by how I got the job which was, again, through their own initiative (as in, they asked me if I’d like to work with them) but also by the nature of the job itself. It occasionally requires long hours, lots of them early (to open, we arrive at 5:30 AM, and to close, we leave at or after 10:00 PM, not to mention commuting to and from Richmond, which is 30-40 minutes) but to make those hours workable, we are blessed with coffee on the job, and an incredible community of people in which few (if any) people are expecting a rushed experience associated with the get-them-in, get-them-out mentality our culture practices. Instead, it’s a place of genuine hellos, how-are-yous and high fives. Employees have fun together, customers have fun together, and employees and customers have fun together. It’s a unique job, unlike any I’ve ever had. While I anticipated hating working in Lexington, it turns out that the commute is easy (though admittedly it gets costly) and I often times lament the fact that I am not a part of the actual community in the sense that I don’t live there.

Compound that with the fact that when you’re a fresh graduate, everyone’s asking you what the future holds. Here’s the answer:

I don’t know.

A part of me loves where I am now and wishes everything could stay the same. I’ve got a fun job, I’ve got great friends, I’m young and I have tons of energy, I do a lot of things I enjoy and I enjoy a lot of the things I do, and I wish it could stay the same.

But that’s just it, isn’t it?

More and more, I’m realizing that life happens in seasons. It is a good thing to enjoy things – I feel as though I’m slowly drinking in every bit of the current season, and each sip is as sweet as the last. But eventually things will change. I won’t always have great bosses or great co-workers. I won’t always be able to drive my younger siblings home from soccer games and buy a pizza for dinner. I won’t always enjoy having a phone that is rarely if ever called. I won’t always enjoy free time in the afternoon to go for a run. I may not even always enjoy having all my time to myself to do whatever I want!

At risk of sounding like a humanist, I’ll say this: enjoy your life. Those little things you find that are (metaphorically, but not excluding this literally) like cold water on a hot day – those things you just feel you could drink in: do it (presuming they’re not sinful)! My second-to-last blog was about this, but I write this presently because I realize that some things are seasonal. Few (if any) things last forever. Some of the things we enjoy are things we can only enjoy for a time, for a season. By the grace of God, learn to embrace the season you’re in—the good and the bad—and enjoy it for what it is before seasons transition again.