It’s been a long while since we’ve chatted, or more accurately put, I’ve poured out my heart and mind. Thank you once again for your willingness to read if you choose to do so.
2014 was a whirlwind and a roller coaster to say the very least. There were many harrowing moments in the past year which caused me to have a good look, take action and allow significant change into my life. Of course, most of my troubles were (and are) first world problems and really, if I’m honest, they were about risking my comfort. While that’s not an entirely fair statement, the choices I made were important to my growth as a person, a man and a Christian and they were voluntary. I had a choice in the matter. It was mine to choose in terms of what direction my life would take. I’m so very blessed and fortunate to have the gifts and abilities that I’ve been so very abundantly provided with. I’m grateful to God every day for the many talents and abilities He’s given me. I truly hope I’ve honoured Him in the way I choose to use them and in how they make me feel. I honestly believe that by using our talents, by enjoying and reveling in them, we honour and please God. I’m sure He delights in seeing us use our gifts and abilities in ways that are both joyful and steeped in servant-hood.
It’s been my experience that when we enter a relationship with God, we have to do one very important thing. We have to give our “yes” to Him. What does that mean exactly? I can’t answer that for you, but I can describe what it’s been like for me. When I first accepted God into my life some 30 years ago (this June), I was aware that change would come as a result of my new found relationship, but I didn’t take the time to really consider what that meant. I didn’t take the time to truly learn what being a follower of Jesus was or that I even needed to. I was just a fan! I stood on the sidelines of my faith and did little to engage or encounter God. Sure, I was definitely in love with God and his abundant creation, but I was little more than a kumbaya Christian. Let’s all feel nice and treat each other nicely. While that’s a noble and worthy pursuit that we’d all do well to engage in, there’s an awful lot more to living out this life in a relationship with God (thanks to a very good friend for teaching me this about myself and my journey).
A long story made short, I floundered for some twenty years and then, one day, I met someone whom I confidently believe God used to speak to me and say “OK sonny… enough is enough!” I’m grateful that in his gracious way, He used a kind hand to speak to me rather than grabbing me by the scruff of the neck to get my attention (believe me, he’s let me hit the brick wall a few times too). In this case, my heart was involved because of another of his children but because of that encounter, He and I had the opportunity to get to know one another. I hear myself say that and realize that’s not what I should truly say. God was there and waiting for me the whole time. It was up to me to say hello or at least, to return His hello. I did nothing of the sort because I had my ideas and had locked God neatly away within them. I put God into a storage box and pulled him out whenever it was convenient. How nice for me! That all changed for me one day nearly 11 years ago now and the change progression has been slowly and steadily increasing for the better. I’ve learned that while I still have moments of being a fan on the sidelines of faith, more and more, I’m an active follower of Jesus! If you know me now or are someone who calls me friend, you know that my faith is core to who I am today. It’s been a shaky, scary, bumpy and often frustrating and terrifying process, but I’m still here and I’m still hanging on! I won’t let go and there’s a reason.
There are those who would say… “Hey Tim… that’s just what you believe. I get ya, but I call it something else entirely.” To that I would reply… I’m glad you see it that way and I’m glad you are willing to give me the space and grace to walk out this path that I’m on. I’m just as willing to respect you in your journey too. Hopefully along the way, we can check in with each other to see how each of us are doing and describe what our experience has looked like during the course of our lives. You see, I think that’s how God (in part) works. He lives within us and as we share and struggle together, we get to know Him through one another. That’s not a romantic notion I hold. I truly believe that’s part of our purpose while we’re here. We encounter God (in part) though our interactions.
Anyway, I digress… what I’m here to tell you today is that I’ve learned something valuable in the last few years… this last year especially. Life lies beyond our fears! If you know me, you know that’s quite a statement for me to make. I like my life to be neat and tidy (not just my kitchen counters). Change is not something I do well. Sure, there are some forms of change that embrace well, but for the most part, when it comes to my life, I like things to be exactly where and how I place them. Stepping outside my comfort zone is not something I do or do as often as I should. That all changed for me last year. I decided to shut down my personal consulting practice and join a large software company. It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. It shook me to my core, but something told me that I needed to do it. At the time, I thought it was necessary in terms of dealing with my physical and emotional health, but I’ve come to learn that there was more to it than that. I truly believe that there was a part of my life that needed to change because God has been preparing me for something. What that fully is has yet to be revealed exactly, but I do know that I’m being prompted to change and trust during this season of change because my growth requires it. I can’t begin to describe how uncomfortable has made me feel because in the midst of the process, there is so much self-doubt. Am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right choice? Can I trust what I’m doing? The common theme there is ME. I’ve not been acting with any faith that what I’m being drawn to do can be trusted. I know (and fully believe) that it is up to me to choose what I do from day to day.
Does God hand pick each of my steps? Well, I believe He creates a path for me to follow and that I’m free to follow it. I believe God creates a healthy and orderly path for me to follow, but that path will also be intertwined with what life brings. That’s the tough and challenging part of faith. God is not a puppet master! He gives each of us the gift of choice or free will… but trusting in the path I perceive He’s created for me allows me to put my faith into action and also aligns me with His will. I absolutely believe to my core that God wants nothing but good for me and I also believe he’s not going to put me in harm’s way. It is up to me to learn, to listen and trust to God when I’m choosing a new path. Sometimes, our parents give us a nudge out the door or in a direction that they feel is in our best interests and I don’t think God is any different. I honestly believe I became stagnant in my life. I was waiting for stuff to happen and became entrenched in the sidelines while waiting. During that time however, God has been teaching me and equipping me for the change I’m now embarking upon. He was teaching me that He’ll be there throughout and if I just trust in Him… I’ll be OK. That’s not to say that life won’t get hard or messy, even dangerous, but I can count on his constancy and sovereignty to see me through because I can trust in His love for me and His desire for me to thrive.
Life begins beyond our fears… what a great statement! It certainly does, but what’s even more encouraging and exciting though is that God will be there waiting to help us each step of the way. There’s no place I can go where He won’t be with me and I find that very comforting. While I may have moments where I’m scared and unsure, I also know that my potential and growth will be limited by my fear if I allow it. I don’t for a moment think that living in fear is what God has in store for any of us. Giving my YES to God each day and saying… “I don’t know what’s coming, but I know I can trust you for what I need in the days that are to come”. Stepping forward in faith and living through it is what I’m going to do! I don’t know what life will bring, but I do know that if I trust in what I’ve been taught and am being taught, I’ll be just fine… no matter the circumstance.
Sometimes, being a follower and not just a fan means taking action in your own life as much as it does taking action in the lives of others. Sometimes, we need to take care of ourselves in order to be a bigger part of the Kingdom! Fan or follower? Sometimes, I’m still a fan, but more and more, I’m finding myself to be a follower and I’m so grateful for what that brings in my life. Laying our lives down may seem a tough thing to do, but what’s exceptional about it is that God will give us all kinds of grace in the process. We just need to be willing to let Him in and to learn to trust Him.
For what it’s worth, it’s just like when I let go of the airplane when I tried skydiving, I not only felt exhilaration when I let go, I also felt the peace that followed during the journey to the ground and my friends waiting there. Skydiving started out to be a terrifying roller coaster experience filled with terror, uncertainty and excitement. Learning what I needed to be able to skydive was filled with scary moments which were followed by confidence and then fear again. When I finally got into the airplane to make the actual jump… the reality of my situation became acute and I once again found myself terrified! The coolest part of the experience though, was when I said to the jump-master “I don’t think I can do this”. He calmly said “Just lean forward and let me check your pack and chute and if you still feel the same, you don’t have to go.” From that moment forward, what I’d learned that day kicked in and I just followed what I’d been taught. It was easy because I was able to step out on what I’d been shown with some confidence and faith. I still didn’t know what the outcome would be, but I’d been well prepared for the experience. Life is like that too. All we need to do is trust in what we have and what we’ve been given… and the rest… that’s the journey.
To those of you who’ve been a part of my journey, those brave souls who’ve been willing to listen to me vent my fear or trepidation, thank you for your kindness and support! I cherish each and every one of you! To my Dad… thanks for being such a good example of patience, grace and honesty and for always being there. To Scott… Seriously dude… I think we’re finally getting even J To John & Christine… thanks for always being willing to be there and for teaching me the true meaning of friendship. To Larry & Barb, Brian & Dar, Mike & Liz, Tim & Melissa, Anthony & Jana, Tim & Jo, Don & Chris, Arden & Pat, Barry & Lynda and the countless others who’ve been a part of my growth, words escape me, but thank you and I love you!
Fan or Follower, you must decide that for yourself, but try to remember to be kind to yourself in the process. It’s not easy to follow, but I can promise you this… if you do follow, God will not ever leave you stranded. He’ll always be there for you because I can tell you with certainty… He’s always been there for me!