I started scrolling through my list of blog drafts (about 55 or so posts —click here to read about why I don’t post) and came across the following that was written around April of 2010
I don’t remember his name.
I must have been 17 or so at the time. Having just finished teaching a class, I distinctly recall having a conversation where I was boldly declaring my vision for life the universe and everything (as I’m prone to do, even to this day).
After trying to convince this older gentleman of the hope that was still to be unearthed under the deep layers of time, he looked me in the eye and said, “David, don’t ever become cynical.”
I agreed with him. Of course I wouldn’t. I knew all about the bad things in the world and I knew how they were going to try to steal my joy and passion and zest for life. I was ready, baby! Bring it on!
Even now, I’m still relatively young and inexperienced, but recently, I have had moments when I encounter the big, bad world as it is and wonder, “Is this really how this works?” I’ve been having those moments a lot recently –-from a whole bunch of different areas.
Suddenly, the many admonitions of, “David, don’t ever become cynical” are starting to make sense.
Last week I asked, “If you could send a letter back in time to your 3-years-ago self, would you?” and several of you chimed in. Here’s my answer: If I were to send a letter to myself three years ago I’d list out –very specifically– what I needed to do to position myself and refind my joy.
But if I did, that probably means I’d rip a hole the space/time continuum and destroy the cosmos as we know it (wouldn’t that be an awkward moment –walking towards heaven only to have St. Peter come tearing out of the pearly gates screaming, “What the heck was that?!)
In lieu of that unfortunate event, I’d write myself something like the following:
Life is sucking pretty bad right now, huh? I get that.
I know what it’s like to have things pile on top of you so badly that you think you’re going to buckle at any minute. I know how deeply painful it is to be thoroughly bombarded by constant and unrelenting failure that you latch on to any potentially successful endeavor, no matter how off-course or how time consuming.
I know how embarrassed you feel at your own spectacular failings, so much so you’re not even sure who to talk to about it.
Your emotional exhaustion keeps you from mustering up enough feeling to cry the way you need to cry. And trust me, man, you need to cry.
Since the fabric of the universe is on the line here, I can’t tell you what I think you should do next, but I can tell you this: it will all be worth it.
If I tell you where you going to be in two years, you’ll be supremely disappointed and stubbornly resolute. If I tell you where you’re going to be in three years, you’ll laugh in my face.
Neither of those sounds particularly appealing to me, so let me just say this: of all the stuff that is piled on top of your already burdened shoulders (and what on earth are you thinking, anyway?) you will not be doing any of it 36 months from now.
Except school. Sorry about that.
In light of that, let me tell you you a few things and I’m begging you to listen to me with both your cloth ears:
1. What matters is what you take with you.
You may not recognize that line, but that’s because you’re going to say it to a group of highschool graduates next month. So here’s what I mean, everything you’re up to your eyeballs in is going to hold you back from pursuing a deeply spiritual life.
Oh yeah, you’ll have flare ups of spirituality, but it’s your consistency that’s going to produce growth. And you’re not consistent because you’re embaressed. Please, just tell God what’s bothering you right now. He already knows.
Your God is not a corporate shill. He does not look down from this thrown of judgment saying, “When you bring me your problem, I want you to bring me 3 possible solutions, too.” He just wants you to talk to Him. He is not anywhere near as embarrassed about you as your are about you. Just start by saying ‘Hi’ and then tell Him the truth.
I know, in your more rash moments, you would just rather curl up in a hole and die than have to do that. But here’s the thing you have to remember: He already did that for you.
There is no amount of self-abasement or punishment you can inflict on yourself that will match the tragedy He inflicted on Himself so that you don’t have to.
Stop trying to be more just than God. You’re bad at it. Pursue Him the way He’s pursuing you.
2. Just do the next right thing.
You know what it is. You’ve considered every angle you can possibly consider. You’re not moving forward, not for lack of answers, but because of fear. You can first-guess yourself to your overly-analytic head’s content, but you will second guess yourself to death.
Be honest with yourself. If you know the right thing to do, just do it.
3. Don’t Get Pushed Around
The above notwithstanding, beware of the noise. There are a lot of people around you who think they know what you should be doing. Feel free to listen to the ones who are right.
Just because someone has a voice doesn’t mean they get a vote. Larry Osborne says “Opinions should be weighed, not counted.”
And you should read that book.
4. Get Over Yourself and Love People
Here’s the deal: sometimes you see things. On those occasions, you see them and understanding them with a level of clarity that is uncomfortable.
But your shame in your own failings, your lack of confidence in your own understanding and your fear of what other people will think of you makes you retreat. At the tiniest hint of push back, you amputate yourself from the body of Christ and justify it by saying, “Surely, this body has no need of me.”
That is the most selfish response you could possibly have.
You will find your confidence when God loves people though you so deeply, you forget you’re in the room. Your shame, doubts and fears will completely evaporate when the love that God has given you becomes the love you give to them.
And, by the way, you don’t have to be militant to make a difference. That’s not you. Don’t try to be a warrior. Be a nurse.
That’s all I’ve got for you. Trust God. You are not capable of plotting your way to the place that God is taking you. So don’t worry about it. Just do the next right thing.
-Someone who wants the best for you