I like to wrap up every year with an introspective look at the last 12 months to see where I developed. 2014 was the Year of the Prodigal. 2015 was a Year of Renewal. This year I’m not sure what to call it. There was growth in a few areas, but what was the dominant theme?
It began with thinking about how our experiences can help people, with even something small making a large impact. For awhile afterwards, the problem of evil kept coming up, throughout the whole year actually.
On a personal level I was growing more comfortable around people. Last year, I had struggled with loneliness and it was good to see I was working through it. Opening up, sharing life, and loving it.
The Book That Wouldn’t Go Away
I began a book called Your God Is Too Small that I would read and revisit multiple times throughout the year. It sparked quite a few posts about the reality of God and our faulty concepts of Him.
The Search Begins
I began to wonder what my purpose was after a sermon on your dream. Feeling like I was in a holding pattern, waiting to land. The sense that I got was I am being prepared for something.
I didn’t know what it was though, not like Daisy did with GriefShare. Until then, I would question, search, and follow my mentor’s lead. In my search, I was presented with an opportunity.
Help lead GriefShare. It had grown four times its usual size. I already did set-up, but not speak or lead groups. I had wanted to before, with visions of me counseling and helping because “I’m so smart.”
Knowing this wasn’t the right attitude. I had to prayerfully check myself before I wrecked someone else. Before coming to a decision, I had to make sure my motives were right, and my ego in place. Then I came in during the middle of the spring cycle, not as my purpose, but to help a friend do good however I could.
While the search continued, I began writing on passages that came to mind. I would get the impression that I should teach on them. A philosophical whirlwind erupted, throwing topics like Jesus’ politics, creating your own god as a thought experiment, how to stand for God, etc. Then I focused for weeks on one question; “why do people reject Jesus?”
Into The Valley
At the start of another GriefShare cycle, I lost two friends that hit pretty hard. From it, I did a post on using your past to help others, and decided to revisit my own past.
I still can’t explain the spiritual divide I felt afterwards, but I hated the empty feelings. He came back with a GodQuake.
Then Someone Posted Something On Facebook…
I got philosophical again, going back to the book Your God Is Too Small, asking if God was real or a concept to people (again), and sharing my experience with Him. Then I explained love in the Bible after a Facebook meme popped up. Another Facebook meme on the evils of religion prompted a post arguing that everyone is religious.
Too Much Time At Work
Overtime ramped up, orders were pouring in that only one machine could fill. I began to get angry since it was interrupting my ministry work. It was a slow boil inside. I looked to Daniel on how to handle it.
One point I prayed with a prayer pastor to end overtime. Not the oddest thing God’s been asked for. It didn’t end, but the next day I had another supervisor offer to work all the overtime I didn’t want.
I think not. He’s not known for overtime.
This did reveal what outraged me.That can be an indicator of what your dream is, if it is to set the outrage right. On the optimistic side, it may be more about my personality. When I commit to anything, I stay with it, taking extreme ownership of it.
Or I was just throwing a temper tantrum.
While continuing to look at my experience for clues, I decided to write my testimony, amazed at the difference. At the time of this writing, it’s the fourth most popular post of 2016.
In Florida, a gay nightclub was shot up, people hurt and killed. I couldn’t let slide some of the responses I saw from fellow Christians. I broke it down to how we’re supposed to act, with love, because every soul matters to God.
Where To Go From Here?
I began to streamline my life after reading the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. At one point, I considered quitting my job if I could figure out a way to serve full time and not starve. Even considered selling ad space on here, but it cut against the grain. I quickly dropped that idea.
The search for purpose continued.
Hate erupted across the nation. Where racial divides began, I gave an example of races and cultures coming together to help the poor and homeless. I taught how to check people’s motives. Finally, in frustration, I asked what was wrong with people.
We don’t value life anymore. Going from that, in light of the lives they led, I asked what would it mean to people if God existed, or not. It led to digging into the Bible to see the relevance it still had today.
One night, tired of a person’s attitude, I wrote a post on how a Christian’s attitude at work should be. From there I tried to help a friend through his own spiritual divide. My next target was ill-prepared spiritual authorities who didn’t have answers to the questions kids were asking. In a post, I said if they walk away, it shouldn’t be for a lack of knowledge. I have at least one friend that left at least partially because of that.
A light bulb went off. I knew where my heart was now. My purpose, my why, was to help the broken, the challenged, and unsure to live for Jesus. After that, my Biblical teaching posts were kicked up a notch, like the one explaining the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (my editor’s favorite). How we deceive ourselves with people is the number one post of the year.
I had to pause briefly to figure out these growing relationships in my life. For someone who thinks he’s pretty head smart on social dynamics, I am pretty heart dumb when it comes to relationships and feelings. My heart was growing.
As was my fixation on only a certain aspect of my personality, which was taking away from the rest. Particularly my inner-detective, for which I blame my binge watching Sherlock causing. I had to fix that before going back to my Bible teaching.
After a much needed trip away from everything in Florida, I came back strong, challenging lukewarm Christians and politics, and writing about protecting oneself from false teachers. Then after a question in class, I decided to reconcile James 2 and Ephesians 2, faith and works.
I began to notice how my desires had changed from before, reflecting on what I wanted to do then and now with my free time. It led to me reposting a First Samuel 12:24 blog post on sanctification.
Then we found out we were pregnant. Our brief joy became worry after a grim prognosis. A week later it was confirmed that we had lost our second child in a missed miscarriage.
We grieved, questioning, yet trusting in God. It was during this time of suffering if everything I wrote would be validated or not. Would I practice what I preach or walk away because it got hard?
I’m staying the course, staying on mission. Grief and I are well acquainted, much to my displeasure.
The Patterns Revealed
Through the year, I was looking for my exact purpose, while my posts fell into three formats; commentary, philosophical theology, and Bible teaching. Three themes that came up during my search was helping others, integrity, and relationships. Oddly keeping to three, the philosophical areas I kept tackling was evil, the reality of God, and the mindset of unbelievers.
While I served various ministries on weekends, and worked through the week, that was where my mind went.
The books that had the biggest impact were:
- Your God Is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike
- Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World
- Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism
- How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination
- The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods
- Fascinate, Revised and Updated: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation
- Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
- Christianity in Crisis
- Systematic Theology: Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
- Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How The Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith
All This Leading To…
I started the year becoming more certain of God, His reality, and what it meant. I gained, and deepened, relationships as my heart grew. Searching for my purpose, I had to get my heart right. It’s not about me, it’s about others. It’s about Jesus.
Then I found my purpose. Teacher, counselor, mentor, showing why following Jesus works, why it’s true, and how to protect your faith.
A year of joy and loss, a faith grounded, tested, and proved. It’s been a year of searching and growth. Next year I will dial in on that purpose to guide others to a thoughtful Christianity.