These past couple of months have been some of the most interesting yet challenging months of my life. Trying to navigate relationships, full-time study, 40 hour work weeks as well as community life wasn't as easy as my mind made it out to be. The thing is though, I've never felt such a renewed passion for serving and a longing to grow as I have done lately.
The pressure of busy life is producing flavours from me which I've never known to exist before. From the intense learning, I am on fire for God's mission and ready as ever to go out and see soul's won for the sake of the Gospel. My work, although admittedly taxing (both physically and financially), has opened up relationships with people I would have otherwise never met and those have blessed my life incredibly and hope God has blessed them through me too!
So what's different?
Here's three lessons I've had to learn this year:
1. Celebrate the Wins, Regardless of Who Wins Them!
When we get caught up in our lives and our success, it closes our hearts off to enjoying and participating in true community. If we don't allow ourselves to celebrate with others, then we are not tuning in to what Jesus is doing in the world. What God has called us to do is not to be great but to make his name great. God calls us into selfless serving, which means we serve others because we are first secure in our identity before God and fully committed to his mission. When we start to view the wins of our community on a kingdom level instead of personal, we open our hearts to a deeper sense of community and purpose. This purpose then drives not just a single cog, but the whole machine. When we are fully devoted to God's mission, we develop as people! When we position ourselves to react in gratitude and love, it changes our heart for serving from obligation to opportunity and we quickly adapt to living a life that's filled with much more joy and freedom. We must learn to celebrate the unique characteristics that God has given each and every human being. This is the essence of Christian community.
2. Stay teachable, Available and Flexible.
Leaders are learners! If we're under the impression that we have learned all that life has to teach us, we have to change our thinking! It helps no one to believe that we have all the answers within ourselves. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Sometimes we look around and we find pockets of people who think they know everything and have become closed off to the possibility of learning. The funny thing is, this only happens in the Church! In any other sphere of life; athletics, business, parenthood, everyone is looking to learn from others in order to grow. The greatest athletes will watch how the elite play and poach techniques, regimes and routines in order to become the best athlete they can. The only way to absorb wisdom from every situation is to always be searching for ways to grow. Try asking yourself, 'How can I grow?' or 'What can I learn from this?' If you find yourself stuck and frustrated, focus on the next healthy step! Sometimes to live big, you have to start small.
3. Friendship Comes Before Fruit.
The last lesson I've had to learn the hard way is that the mission can sometimes becomes the mistress in the marriage. Although I'm not officially married, I've made the commitment of Frontier alongside my beautiful partner Kaitlyn. At first, I was convinced that we had two very separate missions in Albury and that we would be doing a disservice to each other by getting caught up in our relationship instead of focusing on our individual growth. It's funny how quickly God can change your mind about the things you feel most sure of. When I let the mission of producing fruit take precedence over my partnership with Kaitlyn, all of my relationships suffered. And the relationship which suffered the most was my relationship with Jesus. It's a difficult lesson to learn when you become so focused on harvesting for the Lord that you forget who is lord of the harvest! It is not our mission to make fruit, it is our mission to make friends. In the book of John in the New Testament, Jesus tells us a parable about vines and branches and in it, he emphasises our dependency on God to produce fruit in our lives. Jesus says that without being in relationship with him, we aren't able to produce fruit from our lives. After the parable, he goes on to illustrate what relationship with him looks like. He says that to remain in relationship, a disciple has to keep his commands and his command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Basically what he's saying is there should be an order of priorities in our life and it goes Father, friendship, fruit. If our relationship with Jesus is healthy, our friendships in the world will be healthy and if our friendships are healthy, there will be fruit.