By Greg Johnson
So, I’m 47 today, and looking more like the guy from UP than ever (Thanks to all of you that remind me of that daily). In a moment of reflection, I feel the need to go “Mcconaughey” (If you don’t know what that means, watch his Oscar acceptance speech). If I could visit the 27 yr. old version of myself, what are some things I would say to me? Among the short list would be: mullets are no longer “in” (and you’ll go through several hair “iterations” over the next 20 years), piano lessons are worthwhile and after 1995 (spoiler alert), the Cowboys will win exactly 1 playoff game in the next 20 years! But, in an effort to dig just a little deeper…
1. You are not the hero of the story.
Trust me, you’ll try it. But your heroic efforts will look very Shakespearean in nature, so you’ll need to hear this over and over again. People fall victim to “the world revolves around me” philosophy of life all the time. But if you keep making yourself the hero of the story, it’s just not a very interesting story, regardless of what you think right now. Every time you make yourself the hero, needs have gone unmet, people have been disappointed and you’ve exchanged an adventure for a fairy-tale. But bro, when Jesus is the hero of the story, you will be able to relax, play your role and leave the miracle-working to him. Give it a rest, Annie Sullivan! (see Helen Keller)
2. Following Jesus is about FREEDOM and FORGIVENESS, not fear, shame and guilt.
You grew up in a church culture that constantly made you feel like you didn’t measure up. I know you often feel guilty or ashamed that you aren’t who you are supposed to be, which has led to secrets, hiding and falsehood. Come to find out, it was the enemy saying that all the time, not Jesus. He will do that your whole life, so clue in to it. Jesus wants you to live in freedom from condemnation and fully embrace forgiveness. You are a professional “Christian” but you are constantly looking around the corner, waiting to be found out as the fraud you think you are. It doesn’t have to be that way. I promise, Jesus can bring you freedom – the truth will set you FREE. In the words of that old lady in Poltergeist, “Run to the light, Carol Ann!”
3. Choose your battles wisely.
You are constantly ready for a scrap, mostly because of the whole “hero” thing. You get so indignant about righting the world’s wrongs. The problem is, there are too many wrongs in the world to fight. You could literally spend every waking hour in some sort of conflict, but don’t. It’s exhausting, high drama and, most of all, it DOESN’T HONOR GOD. There are things God has “…prepared in advance for you to do.” (Eph. 2:10) In contrast, there are a TON of things he wants you to stay out of because they are not your fight. If you want to know which hills to die on, lose that very large chip on your shoulder, humble yourself and ask God. And then listen – He’ll tell you when to engage and when to stand down.
4. Life is hard.
This is a fundamental truth that will serve you well. Work is hard. (That’s why it’s called “hard work”!) Friendships are hard. Even the best marriages are hard. Jesus even said, “In this life you will have trouble.” (Matt.16:33) Bottom line: there are no short cuts in life, and anybody who tries to sell you on that fact shouldn’t be trusted. The most meaningful relationships and activities in life are going to take hard work to achieve and maintain success. Your ability to hang in and fight in the face of adversity is going to reveal your character. But overall, your ability to depend on Jesus during tough times – and they’re coming – will ultimately determine your long-term success in life (see #1).
5. Love people MORE than you love yourself.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. This may be hard to hear, but you are pretty self-focused, and you need to love others MORE than you love yourself. This will cost you time, energy and money, but it is where life really begins. Be attuned to needs in the people around you, and with the love of Jesus seek to meet those needs. You’ll find you feel so much more fulfilled than living a selfish life, and others will be drawn to Jesus as a result.
6. Embrace the crazy.
As a friend of mine says, “It is in the crazy that amazing happens.” You will find God is in the crazy moments of life. He will tell you to do things that, on the surface, seem to make no sense. Remember when God told you to quit your job at the bank and pursue full-time ministry? It seemed crazy, since you were a newlywed, but, just so you know, it’s worked out pretty well, since I’m still in ministry today. (with a few twists and turns)The Bible is full of amazing stories that started with crazy requests from God and end with amazing results. But to see the amazing will take obedience, and, as I say to our kids (3 of them – GIRLS…YIKES!), “Understanding is not a prerequisite for obedience.” So, if you want amazing, you gotta embrace the crazy.
These are just a few things I would say to the younger version of myself in order to save him, er, I mean, me from some of the avoidable adversity of the last 20 years. And, in the process, enter into an incredible adventure with the true Hero of the story. Oh, and the winning lotto number in 1998 is 20 16 63 72 98 07…
For more information on The David Project click here. Editing and collaboration by Leann Francis.
Tagged: advice, authenticity, communication, condemnation, connection, contemporary worship, David Project, forgiveness, freedom, God, God’s love, guilt, humility, Jesus, leadership, life is hard, listen, listening, love, love people, Religion and Spirituality, responsibility, shame, wisdom