Stuff I’ve Learned, Part 2
Last week I shared the first half of a stack of lessons I’ve learned over the years as a pastor. Before I share the last half, I want to help you smile a little. (We pastors need to smile a lot more!) Years ago somebody sent me a cute article from some newspaper. A class of fifth graders had submitted the things they had learned in life. Here is a sampling from their gems of wisdom:
• I’ve learned that you don’t have serious relationships with boys until you’re . . . 15.
• I’ve learned that if you eat cheesecake and laugh hard enough, it will come out your nose.
• I’ve learned that even the smartest person is not always right.
• I’ve learned never to take a picture of a baby on a table because it will roll right off (and cry a lot).
• I’ve learned life is not fair.
• I’ve learned not to eat tons of chili and play bowling.
• I’ve learned that hamsters can eat through a paper bag.
• I’ve learned that batteries are explosive when dropped off a bridge.
• I’ve learned if you don’t feed a bird at least every week it will die.
• I’ve learned to stop at corners on my bike because once I was six inches from a car.
Some of those are worth remembering!
Okay, now let me continue with my stack of life lessons.
I’ve learned that perception overshadows reality. I hate that . . . but it’s a fact. How people perceive things is, to them, more convincing than a truckload of evidence. Unfortunately, most draw their opinions from the shallow stream of perception instead of the deep reservoir of truth. I find that strange and disappointing.
I’ve learned that time spent with my family is a good investment. The older I get the more I treasure those early-morning talks with my wife . . . the friendship, love, and counsel of our now-grown “children” . . . the acceptance, hugs and kisses of the grandkids who call me “Bubba.” God did a winning thing when He came up with the idea of moms, dads, kids, and their kids. Home is still my all-time favorite place to be.
I’ve learned that grace is worth the risk. I know, I know . . . rules, regulations, policies, and procedures are helpful boundaries—and necessary—at times. But the freedom of living by grace is still the lifestyle to pursue. Grace relieves guilt and removes shame. Grace smiles, You’re forgiven. Grace helps me sing and skip through life with hardly a care. It also reminds me to release others from expectations. But won’t some take advantage of it? Yep. It’s still worth it.
I’ve learned to stop saying “never” or “always” when it comes to the future. Change happens. Detours and unexpected curves and dead-end streets and quiet rest areas are all part of this journey called life. Your map may seem both infallible and indelible. Don’t kid yourself. The Lord reserves the right to do reprints.
I’ve learned that thinking theologically pays off, big time. It’s taken me years to stop reacting emotionally and let God be God. Being sovereign, He has a plan that is unfolding whether I like it or not . . . whether I understand it or not. When I interpret my circumstances with that in mind, peace and calm kick in, replacing panic and complaining.
I’ve learned that some things are worth the sweat. Not most things. Often, not the big and bold things. But intangible things. Like telling the truth. And admitting inadequacy. And emphasizing quality. And asking for help. And expressing gratitude. And saying, “I’m sorry.” And being generous. And studying hard. And demonstrating affection. And adoring God.
I’ve learned to give credit where credit is due. We pastors often get the credit when we need to be passing it on to the one or to those deserving it. We give enormous encouragement to our staff and lay-folks when we publicly acknowledge them—and that affirmation motivates them to use their gifts in even greater ways. Also, our families (I’m thinking especially of my wife, Cynthia) deserve a great deal of credit for any success in ministry we enjoy.
Finally, I’ve learned that you can’t beat having fun. Folks who relax and refuse to take themselves so seriously are contagious. They’re easier to be around than those who look like they’re holding their breath under water. One of my great goals for the future is to have more fun, to be less intense, and to laugh louder and more often. Can’t think of many things worse than becoming a grim-faced, old jerk lugging around a big thick Bible, yelling at people from a pulpit. Jesus didn’t . . . I shouldn’t.