This is a passionate post for me, and in this post I’m building on another post. There’s a great story that happened in the early church that informs everything I’m saying in the words below.
“I don’t know what I’m great at.”
How many times have you heard someone say that? How many times have you looked into the mirror and said it about yourself?
If we’re going to be people who move from good to best, and if we’re becoming gradually convinced that this truly IS the path of changing the world around us for good, then we MUST figure this out for ourselves.
But because the journey is so intensely personal and most often filled with all kinds of pain we didn’t even know we carry, most people will never travel it. And even though everyone seems to be at some crossroads, it’s so difficult not to just stand in the middle, all the while pretending we’re on an expressway. We can be quite self-deceiving.
But for many of you, there’s a burning discontent in your hearts – a discontent you can’t identify or even locate. God is poking and prodding, and that’s for certain. That’s why we feel the things we feel with regard to any growth or maturity in this life. The only hope for the world is the presence of God – I believe that hook, line, and sinker. And God chooses to shine His light through flesh and blood people like you and me.
THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE WORLD IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD, AND HE’S CHOOSING TO SHINE HIS LIGHT THROUGH FLESH AND BLOOD PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME. IT’S BIG LIKE THAT.
In this way, it goes far beyond receiving some inner sense of joy and fulfillment, even though this will most likely happen as a happy byproduct. We’re doing this so the people around us experience joy and fulfillment. We discover our best, then pour it into others. Because that’s the exact intersection where people experience the imprint of God in us.
So over the years, I’ve developed three questions that, when answered together, point us in the best direction, illuminating our best to the world. These are three questions I ask regularly of myself, especially when the discontent volume button seems to be going to eleven.
Please answer these honestly, and with no self-editing.
QUESTION 1: WHAT AM I GOOD AT?
This speaks to the area of your skill level. You’re already really good at something, whether it comes naturally, or whether you had to get a degree to learn it. You are both already there, and you need to get better at it.
QUESTION 2: WHAT AM I AFFIRMED AT?
This is perhaps the most important question of the three you’re asking of yourself. And it’s no accident that this question comes directly on the heels of the first question.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d agree that we can fool ourselves when it comes to the extent of our skill set. Some of us think we’re better than we really are. Some of us think we’re worse than we really are. And this is why a community of people around us is so incredibly vital and important to your own very personal discovery process.
What do the people around you say you’re really good at?
When I was a worship pastor, there was a young man who tried out for the vocal team. He was convinced he had a voice like no other, and literally thought he was going to be the next American Idol. So when our community of musicians gave him a mic and told him to sing, it took us like 10 seconds to realize that he was tone deaf. So when I talked to him about being tone deaf, his response was, “No I’m not.” Which, of course, is what anyone who’s tone deaf would say. I crack up every time I read that line.
We can all fool ourselves when it comes to what we’re really good at. And that’s why it’s so important to have a community of people around you who will tell you the truth.
QUESTION 3: WHAT AM I PASSIONATE ABOUT?
This is a question that must be asked and answered honestly. What fires you up? What wakes you up in the middle of the night, not because you’re worried or anxious, but because you’re dreaming of what could be?
For seventeen years of my life, I found the perfect answer to questions one and two. I was a full-time pastor. I had the Undergraduate Degree as well as the Masters Degree. I married people and buried people. I led worship and preached. I strategized for church health and growth. I counseled people, and I shepherded folks along their journey. It was more than full-time.
I had the skill to do it, some natural and some learned in seminary (Question #1).
I had a community of people who thought I was really good at it (Question #2).
But when it came to Question #3, I just wasn’t fired up about pastoring a church, or about being a part of a team that led a church. It was a good thing, but it took several years for me to realize that it wasn’t my very best thing. I was dreaming of being an entrepreneur – of launching a business that would serve the church and the world, but without having a church sign my paycheck.
And the tell-tale sign for me was when I started paying attention to what woke me up in the middle of the night. Literally. When I woke up thinking about my church, it was always because I was nervous or anxious or angry about some aspect of my ministry. But when I got away (on vacations and sabbaticals) from the grind of ministry, I always dreamed about doing something entirely different with my life. I’ve said this before to different groups and in various writings:
I THOUGHT IT WAS SATAN TEMPTING ME, BUT I FINALLY CAME TO REALIZE THAT IT WAS GOD INVITING ME.
In the winter of 2006, I quit pastoral ministry, and I’ve never looked back (actually, I always look back, but you know what I mean). You can have skill, and you can have a community of folks who think you’re pretty special, but if your heart doesn’t come alive with the thought of doing that thing, then you’ll need to commit to some serious prayer about moving from good to best.
THIS IS WHERE I’M GONNA YELL-TYPE
Okay. That’s a lot to digest. But I need to vent before you quit reading me. And if you read what I’m about to say really fast and with a loud and angry voice, then you’ll understand the importance of what I’m trying to convince you of.
This is me yelling and typing at the same time…
Life is way too short to just be good enough, and our society is filled with people who are just good enough, and even our churches are filled with people who are just good enough, and we’re teaching our children to just be good enough, and that a steady paycheck is all that really matters, and the older we get the less we have to offer, and we’re raising a generation that thinks that a Participation Award is good enough.
And all of this good enough thinking is so drastically limiting a glimpse of the Holy that’s waiting to be revealed – the beautifully broken imprint of God on our lives, seen by the world, for His glory.
This is not about working harder. It’s about doing that gut-wrenching soul work of truly figuring out what your very best is. It’s about staying in the thing until the thing is finally unearthed from the rubble.
GOING FROM GOOD TO BEST IS ABOUT STAYING IN THE THING UNTIL THE THING IS FINALLY UNEARTHED FROM THE RUBBLE.
So please don’t settle for good enough because you’re scared or content or ready to retire or whatever. The world is crumbling around us, and if we really are Light carriers (Matthew 5), then why not choose to do the difficult and courageous work that will cause you to shine the brightest beam possible?
Be better than good. Be the best.
And then offer that best – the very best of the best of you – into the crumbling world around us. Even if it’s the best part of you that’s broken and messed up and scarred and has a past you’d rather not discuss.
God loves to use your broken best because it proves that He’s a redeeming God.
And it really is the only thing the world is craving, whether they’re aware of those cravings or not.