Faithful and brave.

“God doesn’t ask us to be famous, he asks us to be faithful.
God doesn’t ask us to be big, he asks us to be brave.”
-Jen Hatmaker

I spent the weekend at the Belong Tour. That’s where I heard Jen speak that little nugget of wisdom. Aaron’s mom offered me and my friend tickets and I snatched them right up. With Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist and Patsy Clairmont (who I wanted to put in my pocket or adopt or something) on the roster, I knew it was going to be a great weekend and then I just about left earth when JOHNNYSWIM took the stage. Do you guys even know about this gorgeous husband and wife team yet? Because the first thing you need to do immediately, if not sooner, is buy their album and listen on repeat until you go home to the Lord. Aaron tried to tell me about them several months ago but I didn’t really listen until this weekend because I’m obviously a fool. I mean you will just want to live the rest of your life in their harmonies.

So it was this really great two days of speakers and music and talented women sharing their hearts and splitting themselves open about hurts and hard things and overcoming and living our purpose. Jen’s words that I quoted are so wise and speak right to the heart of our culture. We think if anything is going to be worth doing at all, then it has to be big and on a grand scale right from the start and affect whole cities and countries and the world. Matt Chandler said in a sermon recently that we have all been “stunted by a desire for the spectacular.” Go big or go home has really rooted itself in our hearts. It has cozied up to our dreams and then held them hostage so we’ve all decided to stay home in our jammies. I think this is especially true for perfectionists. If we can’t do it right and perfect and exactly how we’re picturing it in our heads, then we’re not even going to start. I can say this because I am one, but I like to say that I’m a recovering perfectionist. I don’t want to let it drive my actions anymore but it’s a slow learning process.

I really clung to what Jen said because it’s where I was before I started this blog and I think it's where a lot of people are when it comes to chasing dreams. We get so caught up in all the ways it won’t work or isn’t big enough or won’t earn us any money or will cost too much or doesn’t matter, so we tuck it away for another day. But the thing about dreams and the thing about our calling is that we can't forget about it. It'll keep bugging you and asking you to shine some light on it. Asking you to pour some time and energy into it. Tapping you on the shoulder and asking for a place in the front row right after you just packed it a lunch and gave it a pretty cozy seat in the nosebleeds. So we think it doesn't matter, that thing that really lights us up, because it's not spectacular, but I’m here to tell you, it does matter. Every little talent and ability you have was put there for a reason – for you to tap into and spend time on and share with others. Even if the only person it affects is you or the only person that appreciates it is your mom, it matters. And then if it does happen to minister to someone else in some way, that’s only secondary to all of it being about you being faithful to live out your calling.  

Jen also reminded us that we aren’t in charge of outcomes. We’re not. If God wants you to be big and famous because of your talent, that’s on him and is no concern of yours. And that’s what gave me the greatest hope. That’s what gives us a lot of freedom to pursue and chase the crazy things he set in our hearts. Two of my (five!) nephews started school last week and my sister made that little board you see all over Pinterest and Instagram where it lists their name and age and some things about them. Well she asked them both what they wanted to be when they grow up. James is five and he said he wanted to be a pilot and his brother, Eli, is four and he said he wanted to be a scuba diver. Two boys who are twins in almost every way – they look the same, share the same clothes, have the same parents, are being raised in the same environment, but with such different dreams in their hearts. Why? Who or what put those dreams there? Where did they come from? James has never even been on a single flight in his life. Sure, he’s seen some books, but I know I’ve read a lot of books and being a pilot is still on my never list. And Eli has never been to the ocean. He’s seen the jellyfish at the zoo, but that’s about it. And yet the thing he thought of first, the thing he wants to be when he grows up, is a scuba diver. Two deeply different dreams and desires in two little boys who can speak freely about their dreams because they know almost nothing of the ways in which adults talk themselves out of things. Two vastly different interests put there by God who wired them up uniquely and specifically to serve others and bring him glory.  What did you want to be when you were growing up? Does it tell you anything about the dreams you should be pursuing today?

Before I started this blog I had a lot of ideas about how I liked to write but I took zero steps toward those thoughts and dreams. Questions like, “Well how would I even start?” and “Who would read it?” and “Who do you think you are?” filled my head and caused me to sit at home and fill journal pages with endless ideas and musings instead of share a single thought with anyone else because what if they don’t like it and what if they don’t get it and what if they talk behind my back? First of all, who is this they we are so worried about? And second of all, who cares! I honestly had to come to a point where I wrote in my journal, “So let them talk and let them think I’m dumb. This is what I’m supposed to do and I know it.” So I just started. And I realized that it’s not going to be perfect and I’ll stumble and I’ll probably look dumb at some point, but the most important thing is that you start.

And the next important thing is that you get yourself some cheerleaders and then also be one for your friends. When you see someone following their dreams, cheer them on! I always wanted to be a cheerleader anyway so maybe this is my big moment because I know that when you have people cheering you on – when you have people in your corner encouraging you and loving you and pushing you toward your goals, it’s like this extra energy shot just when you think you’re spent. I was telling Aaron the other day that all I really care about is that we’re all taking steps toward being the healthiest version of ourselves. And I think part of reaching that healthiest version of ourselves is tapping into the way God has wired us up and chasing after those dreams with a ferocity that only he can sustain. What he has called you to and gifted you for is good and right and we need people to encourage and support us along the way, so find your cheerleaders and let “them” – that mythical they we worry about too often – let them talk amongst themselves and waste their days worrying about you. Who cares. You’re doing what God has called you to and that’s all that matters – that’s all you’ll have to give an account for one day.

I hope you watched the Olympics. I didn’t watch a lot because Aaron was home from Hawaii and we filled our time with lots of friends and family but I did my best to catch up on the world wide web the next day. One thing that really stuck out to me was this photo of Michael Phelps beating out his rival, Chad Le Clos. I’m sure you saw it. The quote that the people of the internet almost instantly stamped on top of it was, "Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners." Whether or not that's what's happening in the photo, it really throat punched me. And it’s so true and it’s so applicable to this very thing – this idea of staying in your own lane, chasing your own dreams, using your gifts and not worrying about what other people are doing. I’ve been caught up in that a little too much lately - worrying about other people and what they might have or what they might be doing or how they might be succeeding when I’m not. And then I saw this photo and I was left thinking, Dang. I’m the other guy. I’m worried about who's winning, who's ahead of me, or who might be coming behind me with the same ideas, rather than focusing on what I’ve been given and the ways God has wired and gifted me and called me to use them.

So I want to do two things. Jen finished this same talk by saying, “We need to listen for clues and pay our dues.” Figure out where you're talented and then take the time to help those talents flourish. We’re not going to start out being amazing at everything – even the things we think we’re gifted and talented in. Everyone has to start somewhere and, generally speaking, it's not at the top. There’s a little saying I’ve seen around on the interweb that says, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” This is true in career, in relationships, in pursuit of dreams. It’s like starting a new job which, by the way, is one of my least favorite things. Like if I don’t know how to do everything immediately within the first week, I feel defeated. God knows this about me – which is why he allowed me to feel like an idiot every day of my current job for the first six months and even still I leave sometimes thinking, “Did I do that right?” Eeek. He teaches us when we don’t even want to know. Like, God, I didn’t ask to learn that one right now. Thank you. Back to the blessings if you don’t mind. I think that’s how I feel a lot of times when he tries to speak to me about one thing or another. I know I felt that a few times during the course of this weekend. It's how I felt when Jen spoke that truth to my heart. 

So I don’t want to compare and I don’t want to stay stagnant for fear that it won’t be immediately life-changing for other people, but the other thing I want to do is to stay open. Stay honest with yourself about why you’re doing whatever it is you’re chasing. You can’t do it just to please other people or to prop yourself up and make yourself look better. Someone told me one time that they wanted to inspire people. That was the whole goal in all that they were doing -  just to inspire people. I don't think you can aspire to inspire, you just have to live and let your living be the thing that lights the fire in other people. You have to do it because it’s the dream and the desire of your own heart regardless of the opinions of others. And if you’re following your own passions and using your own gifts and not letting the voices stop you and turning the use of those talents into the reason you worship all the more, then God will be in it with you and you don’t have to fear because he’s in charge of the outcome. He just calls us to be faithful and brave.