The day was March 9, 2015. I had traveled seven and a half hours, and I had no idea if it was even going to be worth it by the end of the week. I reflect on the Spring Break of 2015 more than I probably should. There are so many adjectives I could use to describe it, but we’ll just use “amazing.” It was the first week in about a year and a half that I actually felt like I belonged somewhere. (Don’t worry, this blog post is not going to be whiny. Stay with me.) Up to that point, I was just going with it. I was in my Sophmore year of college, and college has a way of making anyone feel lonely, overwhelmed, and like they’re a misfit in their community. You’re just hoping that you become a productive member of society, get a good job, meet the man or woman of your dreams, get married, have kids, and teach them the importance of Jesus Christ. That whole week changed a lot about who I am, some for the better and some for the worse. Aspects of it would destroy me, but aspects of it would also encourage me and teach me. The person I had traveled to see ended up changing me, my world, and how I see things. She was part of the process. (More on that in the next installment of this series.)
When I look on my past I find myself thinking of certain people and saying, “My life would have been a lot simpler if you had never been in it.” (Like I have some sort of control over who came into my life and when they came into my life.) In all honesty, we want to act like we have some sort of control over who does come in and turns our world upside down, becomes our friend, or does us wrong. The fact is, the ones that God really wants in our lives… there is no stopping them from being in our lives; whether they are meant to encourage and help or test and (possibly) destroy. There is a people of the process.
And we know how frustrating people can be, even the ones we love and consider family and friends. It’s even more frustrating when those people are constantly hindering, pushing your buttons, backbiting, and humiliating you. Those are the people that we say, “My life would have been a lot simpler if you had never been in it.” We don’t control it. We don’t control, often, who we like or love. I can’t help falling in love with you, no?
I’m reminded of a man that I was once very close to and considered a mentor. This has been almost three years ago. He invited me to his house. He took the youth of our church to places and hung out with us. I thought he was an outstanding man, and, admittedly, he probably was at the time. Under him, God revealed to me that I was called to ministry. This man gave me my first real shot at preaching. I can’t thank him enough for that, to be honest. I mean, our church grew exponentially while he was head of our youth department. The youth of our church was totally revitalized and set ablaze with the Glory of God with him as our youth pastor. People gravitated to him. So…. Where’s the catch? He was full of himself. I don’t know what happened, but I can kind of pinpoint a time when things began to change.
**WARNING** I’m about to get into some topics that some people cannot get their feelings and emotions out of.
In 2013, I started dating a girl. She’s now my best friend because it didn’t really work out. Anyway, I started visiting her church almost every Sunday. The way they did/do things at her church was/is amazing. They’re so organized, have the right balance of hymnals and contemporary, and they influenced me to find a way to make things better in my own church. It was going good, but we had plateaued. My church did, almost exclusively, southern gospel and hymnals at the time. The youth pastor was also our drummer, and I started introducing some songs to our music director that were “modern,” “contemporary,” or “praise and worship.” (choose your description). Well, he and his family (which comprised the majority of our musicians) were openly against the “new” stuff. They tolerated it at first. We weren’t going exclusively to “new music.” That was ludicrous to suggest, and we told them that that was not going to happen.
So, they tolerated it for awhile. I was 17, almost 18, at the time. I tried working with them and getting them onboard. This is where it all seemed to change. After this, the same man that I considered outstanding and a mentor turned into someone that seemed to get enjoyment out of my humiliation and failure. Worse yet, he disguised it with friendship. I believed he was just trying to be of help at first. Then, I believed that he was just getting a little frustrated. But, it suddenly became clear to me he was not trying to help. He began criticizing me but offered no suggestion to remedy the situation. He formed a little clique and turned those people against me, my dad (Associate Pastor), and eventually my grandfather (Senior Pastor).
You may ask, “Why did you even try offering to help add anything to the system?” You have to move forward. Trends… people change. We had plateaued, and I wanted to keep climbing, go deeper in God, and get better as a group. People, however; sometimes have a gift for egotism and being self-centered.
What my former youth pastor taught me was that everyone is for you as long as you’re doing it their way. Start changing things up, trying a different approach, and forging a new path? People get disgruntled, because you’re tampering with their system. Distribution of the Gospel can come in many methods and mediums though, and some just aren’t willing to see such a thing happen.
“We were all happy with the system until you started changing it.”
False. Your group is happy with not changing the approach, system, or method.
How did this people of the process make me better? I judge character much better. My mind and vision have expanded to look into approaches that have never been presented to our small town because I am no longer worried of what someone will think about the approach. People will complain when there’s an approach that just doesn’t seem to be the way they did things. That does not mean you become insensitive to those people, but you weed out the truth in their complaints from the arbitrary statements. You do not have to validate the complainers, but if there is any truth to their complaints we must be sure to evaluate how we can change ourselves and the approach to be better.
Sometimes God only uses people in your life for a short time to carry you to the next step. Be patient with people. Be patient with the process. Rome wasn’t built overnight. Great men and women must encounter difficult times and negativity to prove that they are who they say they are. Be patient and trust God knows what He’s doing.
Also, for those Star Wars fan… May the Force be with you. 😉 Thanks for reading, guys. Stay tuned for the next installment! Be sure to subscribe to our blog!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the JNN crew!