My dream job.

This season of life is, in some respects, my least favorite. As a recent (a year counts as recent, right?) college graduate, the questions have been about my future, and more specifically, my career. When I talk about college with people, they ask what I majored in. When they hear what I majored in, they ask me what I want to do with that.

It’s time for me to make a confession: I don’t know.

I have quite literally never had a career aspiration. When I started school, it wasn’t because I thought, “I want to be a psychologist.” I didn’t know. I still don’t necessarily know. I guess what bugs me the most about all of this is this question that burns in my mind: do we have to know?

 The more I think about college, the more it frustrates me.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I went to school. I wouldn’t change it. I made a lot of good friends, had a really good time, and learned a thing or two about myself in the process.

But what I hate (possibly only because it affects me) is this mindset that people go into college (and come out of it) knowing exactly what they want to do, and are chasing that the whole way.

Maybe I’m just not driven. Maybe I’m just clueless. But I like to think I’m not really alone in this – I like to think that maybe somewhere, someone is as “lost” as I am. Maybe there’s someone in the world who is just as unconvinced of a career path as I am.

But I don’t write this to lament where I am right now. In fact, I’m writing to celebrate where I am.

I’m at my dream job right now.

I’m at my dream job because I’m 23, I’m fresh out of school, I have all kinds of energy to burn, I live in a new city, and this is the perfect job for all of that right now. My job affords me time to relax at my house, time to hang out with my friends, play music, chase my hobby of sportswriting, and it pays the bills. I don’t wear a suit and tie to work. I rarely even wear jeans, unless it’s cold outside.

But at my job I get to see somewhere between 50-100 people every day (at least) that aren’t just customers, but friends. Last night at work I saw a friend I haven’t seen since November, and I got to freak out just a little bit and give her a hug because I was so excited. Every day at work I get a multitude of high-fives. Every day at work I get to have conversations about baseball, soccer, and other things I’m interested in. When I get off work, I get to call these same people I see at work and hang out, enjoy a beer, go see a movie, toss a Frisbee in the park, or grab a bite to eat.

I’m in the people business. Far more important than the coffee I serve are the people I serve the coffee to. And I’m so happy because, while it may not be a “real job,” or it may not be a step in the direction of a “career,” I get to do things I love every single day when I go to work.

I’ve never had a dream job, but somehow I landed a job that’s become a dream.

Necessarily forgiven.

Easter is my favorite holiday. It always has been. It helps that it takes place in my favorite time of year (spring into summer) while for Christmas, thanksgiving, and even my birthday, I’m freezing. But I love it mostly for the spiritual significance behind it. It has always been the holiday that gets me to my knees and helps me see anew the wonder of the Cross and the resurrection.

I’ve searched my own heart and mind for the reason why Easter always “works.” Why is it that in my most spiritually dry seasons, Easter always provides rain? Why doesn’t it ever fail?

Here’s the reason I’m convinced of: Easter shows me time after time that I am necessarily forgiven.

Good Friday service this year was the first time in a while when I left reveling in how wonderful a church service was – how thick the presence of God was, how light I felt afterwards, how beautiful the gospel seemed after this one evening. And I assure you, that’s not because my church doesn’t do wonderful things. We worshipped God much the same as we normally do. We had preaching of the Gospel as we normally do. We responded as we normally do.

But I think what was different was my own posture this evening.

I looked around me and I saw somewhere around 100 people, arms raised and voices lifted toward heaven, all realizing and reveling in the wonder of the cross. In that moment, I was reminded how small I was. I was reminded that there were around me people who had followed Jesus for a lifetime longer than I have, and they were still marveling at the cross and the resurrection. I was reminded that there were people who are newer Christians than I am, who have seen more of life than I have, who have seen less of life than I have, and they are all worshipping God as if their life depended on it.

And then it clicked: in a sense, it does.

I’m convinced that the enemy of the gospel is the mentality that it’s unnecessary. Satan will do everything in his power – meaning he will bend every circumstance and life event to alter our perceptions to fit this agenda – to make us think we don’t need to be forgiven.

We have to be so vigilant about this for a multitude of reasons. If the enemy succeeds in making us think we’re fine, then the whole reasoning behind the Gospel gets undermined. The Gospel says that we are evil, God is good, God came from heaven, lived perfectly, wore our sin like a garment, died, put our sin to death, rose from the dead, and raises us to live with Him, free from and forgiven of our sin.

I believe that those first three words are the most important and the bedrock for everything else: we are evil. In other words, the first part necessitates the rest. If we weren’t evil, then God wouldn’t have to come from heaven and die a sinner’s death in our place. If we weren’t evil, Jesus didn’t need to suffer. If we weren’t evil, then we were never dead and we never needed to be made alive with Christ.

But we are, and it’s important to keep that in perspective.

In Luke 7, he tells about the woman who crashed Jesus’ dinner party with some Pharisees to kiss and anoint Jesus’ feet. Jesus tells Simon (the Pharisee who invited Him over) a parable in which two men are indebted to a moneylender, but are then relieved of their debt. One owed 50 denarii, the other 500. He then asks Simon, “who loves their lender more?” Simon rightly replies, “the one who owed him more.” Jesus tells Simon he answered correctly, and says that it’s obvious the woman has been forgiven of a lot by the extravagant love she poured upon Jesus.

But what I find interesting is the detail that both men in the parable owed. Neither of them were debt-free.

In my sometimes-unredeemed worldview, it’s easy to think that people have a moral leg up on me. If they make a lot of money, or if they are really outgoing and have a big personality, or if they’re braver and take more risks, or if they’re generous, or if they’re more patient, I start thinking they need forgiveness less than I do.

But the necessary perspective is this: they, I, and we ALL need forgiveness. Whether my debt is 50 or 500 denarii, it needs relieved. The Gospel is a leveler in this sense – it tells us that everyone has a debt, and nobody can pay their own. I’m as bad off as the millionare philanthropist who gives 50% of his earnings to charity and feeds the homeless, and I’m as bad off as the homeless people he feeds. I’m as bad off as the guy who works his butt off at his job, and I’m as bad off as the guy who shows up an hour late and leaves an hour early. I’m as bad as the thief, and I’m as bad as the accountant who balances the books. I’m as bad as the criminal and I’m as bad as the judge.

What a mercy that God does not determine forgiveness based on our merit – what a mercy that we are, in the eyes of God, all beggars. The rich and the poor; the lazy and the hard-working; the smart and the less intelligent; the brave and the coward; the liar and the honest – as one of my favorite songs says, “we are beggars all.”

But we are not only beggars – we are people God loves and showed mercy to by way of the cross. The cross, when seen in perspective with the depravity of our sin and our human state, is the most beautiful thing in history, because it gives hope to the hopeless.

This, I’m convinced, is what it means to have a heart that lives in eternal Easter: to see that I am necessarily forgiven. To live in relief that God loves me based on His own choice, not my own merit, and that God forgave me in Christ whether or not I see the necessity.

Coming of age: lessons from life in a new city

A few weeks ago, I finalized my move up to Lexington (Kentucky,) which is about forty-five minutes or so north of Berea, where I grew up, and a half hour north of Richmond, where I lived for the last two years of college and first year after school. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I’m liking it, and my answer has been the same: I’ll let you know once it settles down.

The truth is, the week or two following my move have been incredibly turbulent. My girlfriend of five months ended our relationship (I’d rather not talk about it, so I won’t,) I’ve spent ungodly amounts of money between the deposit, getting our utilities activated (I’m waiting on the gas people as we speak,) eating out because I don’t have dishes or food, and getting stuff for the house that I’ve never had to buy before (ie. Rugs, towels, cleaning supplies, trash cans [why aren’t those pre-installed in houses?!?!])

But things are finally beginning to slow down and I’m beginning to feel a little more settled, so I’m able to look more objectively and less emotionally at how the move has been.

In a word: necessary.

In a lot more words: this has been a real coming of age experience for me.

Learning to Tackle the Bare Necessities

From the moment I was born until April 6, 2014 (that’s a little over 23 years,) I lived with at least one member of my family. All my needs were taken care of, and everything that needed done for me was done for me, usually by someone else. Occasionally my dad would prod me to do things myself, but a lot of times he ended up doing them. But as soon as I moved out from my brother’s apartment, I was on my own. My roommate is no enabler. He had me call our landlord myself to make an appointment to see this place, he had me go to Kentucky Utilities to get our utilities turned on, and he had me call our gas company to set up service. (he doesn’t know my propensity to delay or have other people do things for me, he’s just a busy guy who has his own stuff going on. It actually ended up being perfect.)

In other words, my safety blanket of family has been completely removed. For the first time, I’m completely taking care of myself. Not in a way that indicates that nobody has my back, but in a way in which the urgency that I get things done and taken care of is very clear. It’s a well-needed lesson in adulthood, one I’m learning a lot later than I cared to, but I’m grateful for.

[side note: also in moving, I’ve seen a lot of generosity at work. People have given us so much that I am very grateful for. This does not in any way take away from the reality of the lessons I’m learning.]

Tackling the Question: Who am I?

I mentioned earlier my recent breakup. Now, before you get the idea in your head that I don’t know who I am outside of the relationship, let me assure you that that’s not the reason I’m writing this. I’ve never been of the mind that you should lose yourself in a relationship to a degree at which you lose your identity if that relationship ends. In other words, know who you are inside the relationship as well as outside of it. Don’t invest in a relationship so heavily that you fall apart when it ends.

While I don’t believe that the breakup was the “will of God,” I believe that He’s using my now-singleness to address some things that are deep in my heart. One of those things is the issue of identity. I was talking to a friend recently about how I like it when people are honest and direct with me, and she said “okay, I’m going to be honest and direct with you about something,” (she’s also pregnant and filterless) “what I’ve seen in you, Jeff, is a lot of up and down. One week you’re committed to doing something and the next week you don’t care. I just want you to know who you are.

It was funny that she mentioned that because I’d never dealt with that question until the day before the breakup. I was at the local park in Richmond (where I was spending the day.) in addition to stress of moving and preparing for a life group, my frustration culminated in the fact that I couldn’t score (I was playing soccer) to save my life. Every shot I took hit the crossbar, and that seemed perfectly microcosmic. It seemed around that time like I couldn’t win. Like the things I tried, I failed. It seemed like I was flirting with success, or rather that it was flirting with me, but I couldn’t get the satisfaction of scoring (succeeding.) After another hit of the crossbar, I picked up the ball, sat down in the middle of the field, and asked, “God, who am I? What am I doing? What’s going on right now?”

Last night I met up with a friend for an event called “Pedals and Pints.” Neither of us had done it before, but it consists of checking in at West Sixth (a local brewery/tap room in Lexington,) biking a route (you can choose your own route or use one they suggest) coming back and enjoying a beer. I met a few people last night through this event and we sat down to talk afterwards. Throughout this process, that question plagued my mind: “who are you, Jeff? If someone asked about you, what would you tell them?”

The easiest answer to this question is to resort to professional life. It almost seems logical in this day and age to describe yourself by what you do. Actually, “what do you do” is arguably a more common question than “who are you?” But it’s also a limiting question. To say that I am what I do is not to say a whole lot – I serve coffee for a living. (there are many facets to it that I don’t really understand, but it still isn’t a whole lot.)

But it was in those moments, as I was interacting (even slightly) with a new group of people that my perspective began to shift and my idea of an answer to this question deepened, even slightly. To think that all you talk about with new people is your career seems absurd. What about your interests? Tendencies? Habits? Hobbies? What do you like? Dislike? What drives you crazy? What’s your story? Where are you from? What have you been through?

Somewhere along the line I let my perspective of what makes up a person get shallow to the point of believing it all had to do with work, but that’s bonkers.

I’m learning a lot about the question of identity by thinking about things such as what kind of friend I am, the sports I enjoy, the way I work (not just the work I do,) how I engage people, whether or not I’m shy or outgoing, etc etc. And I think this move has been good for that.

Redeeming Time

The thing that’s driven me the most crazy about my life since about September is that I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time alone. I was always in the car, driving to and from work, rarely spending time with people because it can be expensive unless you go to one person or the other’s residence. Well guess what – now I have a house, and I can host people for dinner, music sessions, or just hanging out! And now I’m in a city in which I have plenty of people I know and whose interests vary in a wonderful fashion. My goal is that now that I’m more centralized (more of my life happens in one place) I will spend time with people instead of just being alone most of the time. And so far, so good.