I’m 27 years old, and I can’t remember a time in my life that was so simultaneously exciting and uncertain.
(I’m hopeful that some of you will actually read this, so I’ll resist the urge to leave you a 3-page brain dump attempting to fully-qualify that statement. If you want the long version, give me a call and let’s go drink some burnt coffee!)
The summary version is: In the last four years I’ve gone from
poised college graduate with an engineering degree from a great school, a healthy routine, a (fairly) clear vision, and a fruitful life
an excited frontier missionary to a borderline third-world, closed country, on track to be international staff for a college ministry
a somewhat depressed and lonely missionary to a borderline third-world, ice cold, darkness-enshrouded, closed country
a 23-year-old who was recently kicked out of said third-world country who lives with his parents, has no job, and needs 128 dollars to fill up his gas tank (seriously)
a love-struck, head-over-heals 23-year-old who often drove 400 miles in a day in my courtship of the only girl I ever loved
a 24-year-old newlywed who doesn’t know the first thing about marriage trying to work a full-time software job under managers who don’t like me while also trying to be a borderline not-quite-full-time youth pastor at a church plant with some great people but some fundamental gaps
a 26-year-old in the middle of a theological paradigm shift with a whole new (though less clear) vision for life, on the hunt for a safe church environment for my family (which now includes a baby) and for some good friends for myself and my wife (which are MUCH harder to find than I ever imagined earlier in life)
a 27-year-old recovering former fundamentalist-turned-calvinist, in the process of becoming a member of a baptist church (that I’ve known about for years but was too brick-headed to ever visit) with my fourth family member cooking growing in my wife (who is becoming exponentially more beautiful with time)
Suffice to say: it’s been one heck of a roller-coaster.
And this could be the beginning of a book, but I really just wanted to share something:
This whole time – from the moment I graduated from college (where Campus Crusade For Christ did a great job of helping me stay around Godly men I could learn from), I was searching for someone to speak some Truth to me.
Don’t get me wrong: my parents and friends and family are great and they give me great advice. But I was looking for someone who had been down the road I want to go down. Someone I could check in with from time to time to get advice, encouragement, and (probably most importantly) rebuke. I love the “follow your heart” type of encouragement you get from a parent, but I also want someone to ask me hard questions. I want someone to burst my bubble when it needs to be burst.
I’ve heard it said before that a friend is someone who will stab you in the front. I think there’s some truth to that I can’t remember the last constructive criticism I got.
So I was looking for some dudes I could have that kind of relationship with.
And I don’t mean I would sit at Starbucks and pray, “OK God. Send me someone to give me some wise council.”
I was banging down doors.
I was begging people to make time to spend with me.
I called pastors I had never even met and asked if they could make some time to talk to me.
And they said no.
Even when I was overseas and I really needed some training about how to do my job there, I asked our team leader if he could make some time to train me.
But he said it wouldn’t be worth the investment since my commitment was only a year.
I once wrote on facebook that finding a mentor is harder than I thought it would be and almost ALL of the feedback I received was negative. Some people were offended that I didn’t consider them my mentor. Some people said you don’t need a mentor because you have the Holy Spirit. Some people said that you don’t have to spend time with someone to learn from them.
So, eventually, I kind of gave up.
I know that’s weak; but it’s honest.
I figured trial and error (also known as ‘learn everything the hard way‘) would be my best alternative.
And to be honest, I still find myself pretty much in that place.
Even as recently as a couple of months ago I contacted one of the pastors at my church. He was willing to meet with me once and I basically told him where I’ve been, and where I think God is leading me. He listened and gave me some helpful feedback, but I don’t think that’ll become a common occurrence. (I actually had to communicate with his secretary just to get a date scheduled)
So, what’s the point of this post? Is it just a big whine fest?
No. I hope not. I’m sharing all this because of a blog post from Mark Driscoll that I read today.
Celebrating the 14th anniversary of Mars Hill Church by taking a look back, he gives a list of things he learned and things he wishes he had done differently.
First major lesson?
First, I needed more training and should have waited a few more years. Had I to do it over again, I would not have given up looking for a godly older pastor to help sand off my rough edges and help me get ready not just to start a church, but lead it well for a lifetime. I had tried a few older men and each relationship went badly, so I gave up trying to be rebuked, mentored, and trained. But I should have persevered in that effort.
This encourages me for 2 reasons:
1) I’m encouraged to know that I’m not fundamentally broken to the point that nobody wants to hang out with me my experience hasn’t been totally unique. Someone else out there has struggled with the same thing.
2) What do you know, but he actually has some advice (about looking for advice): keep looking.
And I think he’s right.
So I’m going to keep looking.
Can you relate?