As the sleet and snow descend upon Texas, and I sit down with a cup of green tea steeping for maximum enjoyment I find myself looking forward to the year ahead. 2017 was a tough year full of its own struggles and difficulties. From the stresses of start at Chick-fil-A, the endless hours of school, a devastating hurricane, and changes to life and habits presented a challenge unlike most. I questioned what was I suppose to be learning through this season that I was walking, and I still have yet to really see where the lesson lies. By no means was 2017 a bad year, and in fact was one that was full of memories and experience that are unforgettable. The new year presents a metaphoric yet quite un-ironic opportunity for change. Reflecting back on the previous year and where I am now I’ve see where I’ve been drawn to leave behind some of what needs to be outgrown and a strong desire to gain some more skills that will benefit me as I continue to progress through life.
There is some importance in setting goals for ourselves as they assist in providing motivation, spurring commitment, and brings about a sense of fulfillment upon completion. So what is it that I’m seeking to accomplish, well, first of all the one each and every one of us need, a deeper relationship with God. The second is to learn how to cook, which is not only a vital life skill, but is a bonus when it comes to hosting others! Thirdly, I wish to be able to love on others better, or more effectively. This goes hand in hand with my desire to be a leader. A leader being someone who takes the initiative, who’s goal is not performance or achievement but rather the development and building up of others! These goals purely benefit in helping to make in being a more well-rounded person. So what do each of these goals entail and how am I seeking to achieve these?
Let’s begin at the end and work our way back to the beginning. What does it mean to be an effective communicator? What does it mean to love people? How does one go about accomplishing that? These are, despite the meta-quasi-author posed hypotheticals, valid questions that must be asked if for the sole purpose of providing narrative and outline. I recently sat down to read the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, while this book is swayed in the direction of (romantic) relationships it provides insight into the means in which people, both in romantic and plutonic relationships, experience love and the role it has in stirring something within them that results in what C.S. Lewis describes as Phillia (Greek) or the Friend Bond and/or Agape (Greek) or the Unconditional “God” love. Each of these types of ‘loves’ have a purpose and a means by which they are experienced.
For myself, my love language is words of affirmation, followed by both quality time and physical touch. Each of these means by which love is expressed are vital to loving others. So what do I mean by wanting to love people better? Well, specifically within the workplace, I seek to build others up. To develop a sincere, genuine appreciation of what they accomplish as individuals, as members of a team, and as members of God’s creation. Therefore, I seek to find ways in which to best express a friendly form of love to each individual member of my coworkers. Knowing best how I prefer to experience love from others, this places myself in position to see and understand how others experience love or appreciation. In many ways, this really has less to do with making myself greater or the better than others and more to do with loving others in the way in which God has communicated his love for us. Consequently, this leads us to the second aspect of loving people better, and that is being more like Christ.
Christ loved the sinner and the saint, he ate with those who were despised, and with those who were adored, he corrected the religious elite and taught the everyman. The life of Christ was God living in the flesh and displaying to all who encountered him what love looks like. Everything in Christ’s life was a display of love that was fully culminated on the cross where he was hung as a sinner to be, like the sacrifices of the time, an atonement for sin. Having knowledge of who Christ, who God is causes within us a reaction. A dismissal of God or a yearning to seek answers. Being a follower of Christ, being a disciple, I am called to live a life that bears evidence of the work of Christ in myself. Therefore, how can I reflect the love that God has for me to those around me? How can I be a living testimony to the testimony of God who loved us first, from the beginning of creation, through the fall, through the period of reconciliation, and through the ends of eternity? How can I, even in the smallest fraction, share the love of God to those around me?
This is a huge question, one that is not so easily answered or experienced. The goal, as I’ve said, is not to bring attention to myself but to point back to the source that has freed me from the chains of sin that weigh me down. To cause others to be drawn to God for the love and freedom that has been given to me for absolutely nothing, yet costing everything of Christ. The nature of this desire to be a better disciple, to be faithful to the calling that God has placed upon all of his children. Thus, as I continue to pursue the calling of ministry that God has placed before me, how can I better love the students in our youth ministry? How can I better love my peers in our college ministry? How can I better love those whom I work with? The answer is simple, and that is by devoting myself discipline. To further build and grow my relationship with God, which is the first goal that I listed and will be addressing later on.
The second goal I have for myself is one that is rather simple, but has a greater importance than it probably should, which is to learn how to cook. At the moment, I am fairly proficient in using the microwave. I make a mean quesadilla, and can patiently wait for the perfectly golden grilled cheese. Not to brag, but those are the few culinary achievements that I’ve been given (by myself). However, over the last year I’ve sought to be more adult, which was largely formed out of discontentment in my current stage of life. My perspective was largely decided by what achievements or checkmarks of life I had accomplished versus my peers. This was inherently wrong and decidedly influenced my perspective, which caused quite a bit of discontent over the last year. Yet, despite my own faulted perspective, I’ve come to a place where I understand that life isn’t a game of checkmarks, accomplishments, or keeping up with what society states as being the norm. And for myself, I’ve come to a place recently where I’ve accepted my spot in life and seek to own it. Perhaps my sense of confidence is higher because I’ve behind a computer, yet I am excitedly seeking to pursue life without comparison to others.
So why learn to cook? Cause why not? Really, the idea is really take on more responsibility and to, again, be more well rounded as a person. I understand that the premise of cooking is not difficult, if you can read you should be able to cook. Well, I know how to basic half decently and should be able to transfer some of those skills to cooking. Anyway, its a basic goal, but it has real world reward and fulfillment.
Finally, I wish to better develop and strengthen my relationship with the Lord. As I’ve gotten older, the more I’ve realized the innate need I have for God. He brings not only peace, but joy, and understanding, and fulfillment! All of these, and more, are vital to life and my sense of purpose. Like hunger and thirst, I have need of sustenance which spurs in my subconscious a response telling me that my systems are out of sync. Furthermore, growth only occurs when we purposefully and intentional practice something and are disciplined in some skill or trait. Therefore, spending time with God and engaging in study if his laws and dominion ought to be easy. And it is, yet it is perhaps the most neglected thing in my, somewhat busy, life. Admittedly, there are plenty of other things I’d rathe do or that are more entertaining. Yet those things are not life-giving nor are they beneficial to my overall wellbeing. This, then, is indicative my own selfish tendencies and a reflection of my outlook toward both God and spirituality. I see a problem with that, and I’m intent on addressing it. Though I am with many fault and deficiencies, I am capable and determined to address my own shortcomings. Fortunately, I am not alone in this. From friends to family, I have people to keep me accountable for these things. Like the rest of life, this is a process. It’s not something that we busy and apply once for immediate results. Its not like a steroid which instantaneously effects the body. No, this is a process which requires both dedication and energy to complete. Yet the results of such discipline award results which only reveal the inherent goodness that is only found in God.
Grace and Peace be Upon you,
Terren It Up