Monday, January 21, 2013

Wade: A Reflection on the Last 10 Years...

I had originally planned to sit down and reflect a bit about my last 10 years when I turned 28 this past December... it's now January and will soon be February and I thought I best get with it, if I don't want this post to turn into the my last "11 years". Unfortunately, the moments when I have clarity about what I might want to notate about life are sometimes in the midst of a work day or a long run or the hustle and bustle of the day and sometimes when I come back to capture it, the eloquence (at least I thought it was when I was contemplating) of that thought has vanished.

In some ways, that's what happens with life - we set down with a pen and a paper or an open heart before the Lord and we aspire to greatness - no ordinary life for me we say and we pour out our desires to conquer through Christ all our struggles, we write our plans to live a life of lasting impact for His Kingdom, we aspire about the lives we'll touch, the relationships we'll mend, the blessings we'll share - and somewhere between the altar of the church and our car when we leave on Sunday morning, we lose focus. If I could characterize my last 10 years in any way, it would be to say that it's been a time of amazing clarity followed by moments of complete lack of focus. Sometimes when I put this in light of Paul's exhortation to "run with endurance the race marked out for us", I'm reminded that if you want to have the best "race", you need to stay focused throughout the race... but also, I'm reminded after my moments where I lose focus, that since it's a marathon and not a sprint, there's a lot of race left to focus on. I mean who remembers the person who is leading at mile 1 of a marathon or even who is winning (or behind) for the first 25 miles?

It's with that thought in mind that I think about my last 10 years - how 10 years ago in December, I was 18 years old - just finishing up my last season of high school football and thinking about thinking about what might lie ahead in life -  if someone was to ask me then what I thought I would do with my next 10 years at that point in life, I would have probably stated some of these high level things:
  • Graduate college
  • Have a successful college football career
  • Marry a beautiful girl
  • Start to work
  • Continue to love and serve the Lord
  • Stay close to all my family and friends
  • Grow-up
I didn't make a list of the specifics of all my expectations for the next 10 years when I was 18... but at a high level, I know something close to the ones above would have been on the list. Interestingly, there's much about the above list that I knew little about what it took to get to do these things or what it would take from me to accomplish them. I live a charmed life - most of my time is spent contemplating first world problems like how to save more money, where to take a trip to this year, what volunteer work to do, how much to put in the 401k, whether to take job A or job B, what to watch on TV tonight, is it time to upgrade to a flatscreen are some of the types of non-problems that I face along with the same really big ones, like am I making the most of this life God has given? It's pretty amazing to me that I've never ever been hungry a day in my life that I didn't choose to be hungry an that I've never been cold wittout the ability to warm up or warm without the ability to cool off in some fashion. I've had struggles and I've faced adversity, but I really don't know hardship. I create most of my problems. When I think about it in context of the world, it's amazing that I had things on the list to dream about at 18 years of age. It's even more amazing that God is His grace helped bring many of those to pass and taught me so much through the process. I still wake up everyday and wonder why I got to have the life I do - I don't know that I'll ever find out the answer besides that by God's grace He wanted me to have it - there's no better response to grace than gratitude and I pray that if there's one word I've spoke more than any other to God it's thank-you. Every day is like Christmas morning.

In the last ten years of those things listed above:
  • I went to College - played football on a scholarship, got two degrees while on scholarship
  • Received a BMW - beautiful, marvelous, wife
  • Started a career with Ingersoll Rand
  • Continued to love, grow, and serve the Lord
  • Stayed close to maybe two handfuls (at best) of the family and friends I thought I would
  • Grew-up... learned how to be a husband, an employee, a teammate, a servant, a grown son
There's a lot more that has happened in my last 10 years than the short list above... but at a high level, you can see that most things turned out fairly close to expectations, with the wife overly exceeding expectations, the football career unerachieving, and the relationships being much harder to grow and maintain than ever expected. They say that for a man, the years between 18 and 25 are called "The Big Seven" - In prior times, in those years, men used to graduate high school, leave home, graduate college, get a job, marry, and start a family. I didn't complete the list, but I got close. Times have changed... I think now, most men delay adolescence to where they complete about half that list in about twice the time period. I don't know all the reasons why most men would rather stagnate than grow and why our world has been so accepting of it, but I will say that as I look around the world we live in, I know it's far worse off for having allowed such laziness. I've often wondered why the Good Lord made it where we only get two sets of teeth (in most cases), shedding our baby teeth sometime before we hit 10 years of age and then having the responsibility of caring for the "big teeth" for the remainder of our lives - but as I look around and within, maybe the reason we shed the teeth when we are young is because it's at that point in life when we are still resolute that growing up is a good thing, even if it hurts - we aren't so afraid of change and the thought of becoming more than we were yesterday. I'm glad that we cut our teeth when we are babies... if we had to do it later in life, I bet many of us would just opt for a technological advancement or a shortcut - or maybe even just go straight to dentures. I've learned in the last 10 years that if you want to grow, you have to be willing to suffer. The only way over is through.

I've learned a lot about Jesus in the last 10 years, probabably more so than the first 18 years of my life put together. Interestingly, I would say that as you grow older, it gets even harder to get those learnings from your head to your heart.... and even harder still to get your hands involved.  I'm  nowhere close to being an expert about the Christian life, about life in general, or even about myself and the deluge of questions I wake up with each and every day. I'm certain I have much more to learn than what I know already. A few of the nuggets I've learned in the last 10 years are:
  • There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going
  • Is easier to never say yes to something than to say no to it after you've caved the first time
  • Character is easier to keep than recover
  • If you are going pray for rain, get ready to deal with the mud
  • One of the biggest temptations is to settle for too little
  • He who kills time murders opportunity
  • No matter what your lot is in life, build something on it
  • Failure is not falling down - it's staying there
  • If you want to work for world peace, start by loving your family
  • I'm poorest when I have more than I need and think it's not enough
  • Consumption without contribution leads to entitlement
  • There's a friend whose closer than a brother... she's called your wife
  • Presence is more than just being there - if your absences doesn't make any difference, your presence won't either.
  • It's easier to smell a rotten egg than lay a good one.
  • Being thankful changes you.
  • When life is sweet, be thankful and enjoy.
  • When life is bitter, be thankful and grow.
  • Keep running the race, no matter how far off course you get, no matter if you are running all alone, no matter if you have to crawl on your hands and knees - it's worth it, so keep running.
More than anything in the last 10 years, I've learned that how you spend your days is how you spend your life. If you have something you don't like about your life - a struggle, a disposition, an addiction, an attitude - it's not going to go away until you not only move it out, but build something worthwhile in it's place. Sin is the number one life killer - "A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste that which on earth is most like God. This is man's greatest tragedy and God's heaviest grief.” ― A.W. Tozer

I don't know how close I've come to the profoundness of thought that I had in mind (or at least I thought I had in mind) when I was piecing all these thoughts together over the last few months with the idea of posting a blog on what I've learned in the last 10 years... but I'm glad I took the time and had the focus to at least give it a shot for so much of life is wasted away on might have beens and at least, this isn't a post that almost happened. However good or bad it is... it is - rather than just another one of those things on my list I'll get to some day. As I write this, I'm already at work on my next 10 years.... so far, I've come out of the gates a bit sluggish, but this introspective look is definately a kick in the pants for me. I know that if one does as he always has, he'll end up where he's always been. I don't want to do that - how often I'm reminded that his one life is the only one I get. No matter how many Stapples commercials I see, I know there's no easy button out there for anything worth having.

In the next ten years, I want to learn how to redeem the time, overcome the struggles and make the most of this vapor that I call my life - I want to keep the focus and I want to be running down that straigth and narrow path each day, I want to learn how to praise in the valley and on the mountaintop, I want to learn how to dare and dream big dreams, I want to fail forward, cause I know I will fail along the way, I want to grow-up... there's a full measure in Christ and I'm far from it, I want to find a way to love my wife more than I ever have before, I want to leave these next 10 years of life better than I found them... I don't so much care to mount on wings like eagles or run and not grow weary - I just want to learn how to walk with Jesus, day by day, and not grow faint.

What do you want to do with your next 10 years?

I'll leave you with a wonderful thought from Katie (Kisses from Katie author):

"Life is not made by lives saved or bellies fed or words written. To adore the One who created the heavens and the earth, to give thanks for who He is and all He has given, to worship and commune with Holy God, whispering in the quiet, clinging in the noise, believing in all circumstances - that is what makes a life large."

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