I feel like I came out of hiding in 2011. My mentor and friend, Maxie Burch, spent the first part of 2011 in Canada and then moved to Arkansas this summer. We spent a week or so together in Zambia, but beyond that, this was the first year in our friendship that we haven’t lived in the same city. It was also the first year in my season at North Phoenix that I was on my own. We both knew that I was living in his shadow here and that for me to come into my full potential, he would have to move on. That’s not why he left and I was incredibly saddened to say goodbye to him, but his departure did open the door for me to come into my own.
Tackling the teaching responsibility at Crash by myself intimidated me at first. Like most things I have not done before, I did not know how it was going to work out. But looking back on the biblical themes we explored (a theology of Risktaking, the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, the foundation for Lent, Heaven Hell and the End of the World), I am surprised how far my expectations were exceeded. God stretched me and grew me.
I probably gave some horrible talks along the way, but I also had some moments where I felt God’s presence tangibly as I wrote and gave my messages. In light of my experience in 2011, I have been reflecting on why I hid for so long before now. I see now that what was difficult and painful also became the process through which God transformed me, preparing me for future plans and purposes.
That’s the greatest thing we lose when we hide – transformation that doubles as preparation. When we hide in places where we are safe, when we hide in places where we minimize risk, when we hide in places far beneath our potential, we insulate ourselves from the very power that God uses to transform and shape us for things that are far beyond our imagination. In those moments, our fears get in the way of our dreams.
Part one of the solution to this problem is keeping the path to our dreams uncluttered by moving toward our fears, not away from them.
Preparing and giving a message 3-4 Sunday nights a months as opposed to 2 Sunday nights a month was a difficult shift, especially when I was still working a second job at Starbucks. Yet, that constant challenge gave me the constant opportunity to evaluate past performance, ask for specific feedback, and make immediate changes for future improvement.
When we stay in a place that is overly safe or familiar, we begin to perceive change as unwarranted risk. The unknown becomes the home of fears instead of the path to our dreams. My dream is to one day pastor a local church. Not only to teach and preach, but shepherd, guide, strategize and cast vision. For too long, I shied away from places where I would be challenged or stretched. While I cannot say those times were wasted, I can say they were not fully engaged.
Part two of the solution in this area is to go public, so you can get encouragement and accountability.
In 2012, my intention is to seek opportunities where I come out of hiding and expand. Where I reject fear and choose courage. Where I refuse to let my fears get in the way of my God-given dreams. I am apologizing less for the calling I feel in my life and striving for more focus on the issue of stewardship. The opportunities I have, my gifts, my talents – they are all a temporary gift from God, the use of which I will be accountable for.
The same goes for you too. So, if you feel a God-given dream growing inside of you, you have a stewardship over that dream or idea. The first step is probably not blogging about it, posting it on Facebook or tweeting it. However, you should share it with those you are close to and ask that community of people to begin encouraging you and holding you accountable for that.
When you do this, you give others the opportunity to help you move forward in this cause. Consider the Lord of the Rings storyline. When Frodo decides that he is taking the ring to Mordor, Sam and the others have the chance to fall in with him. Until Frodo made his intentions clear, they had nothing to hold him accountable to or encourage him about.
If your fears got in the way of your dreams in 2011, I believe something different can be true in 2012. But not in a magical way that requires no work on your end. Making your ideas happen is the hard part, but it is part of the great work God created us for.
So, join me in the new year as we reject our fears and move forward with faith, hope and courage.