I was blessed last weekend to attend the Nashville book launch for Jeff Goins’ new book, The In-Between. Jeff said there are three lessons that he hopes readers will take away from the book.
- Learn to slow down.
- Learn to let go.
- Learn to be grateful.
Historical markers are important. You know, those lonely signs on the side of the road, erected in places where some historically-significant event took place or some historically-significant landmark still stands or once stood.
When I was a young boy, I rolled my eyes in dismay whenever I would see a blue highway sign that said, “Historical Marker 1 Mile”. I knew my Dad was going to stop, and we would all have to get out of the car and pretend to be interested while he read out loud the fascinating (i.e. ridiculously boring) information contained on the historical marker. And I knew that the E.T.A. to our destination was going to be delayed.
I couldn’t tell you how many historical marker have been read to me in my lifetime, but it’s more than a few!
As a grown man, I have learned to appreciate my Dad’s love of history. If only I could pull over to the side of the road just one more time and listen to my Dad read all about the Lombardy Irrigation Ditch in Rio Frio, Texas; or the Famous Cattle Trail near Leakey, Texas, that fed into the legendary Chisolm Trail above the Red River.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my Dad was teaching me the importance of slowing down and enjoying the beauty of the present moment.
I have spent almost my entire adult life in full-time ministry, 25 years of it in youth ministry. Through the years, I have often wondered if I’m doing any good, if anything worthwhile is coming out of my efforts, or if I’m just spinning my wheels without really accomplishing anything or making any kind of a real difference.
Though I still struggle with these thoughts from time to time, I learned a lesson early in my ministry that has helped me let go of some of the self-doubt and negative self-talk.
The first seven-plus years of ministry were spent in Corpus Christi, Texas. I was still just a kid myself, beginning my ministry career at age 19. I was barely older than some of the teens to whom I was called to minister, and I did a lot of “flying by the seat of my pants”.
At age 27, I moved my young family from Corpus Christi to Waxahachie, Texas, to begin working with the congregation that I still serve today (though no longer in a youth ministry capacity).
Job changes often bring introspection, and I found some of those same questions creeping into my mind concerning my years in Corpus Christi.
- Did I do any good there?
- Was I effective in helping those teens grow spiritually?
- Did I accomplish anything worthwhile?
A couple of years after moving to Waxahachie, I returned to Corpus Christi for a homecoming at the congregation I had once served. While I was there, two different men – both parents of some of the teens I had served – came up to me at different times and told me something that changed my life. Both of them said that I had made a huge difference in the lives of their children during my ministry.
I learned an important lesson that weekend. Though I still struggle with self-doubt from time to time, I learned that we will not always see the fruit of our labor.
- Teachers don’t always see the real difference they make in the lives of their students.
- Ministers don’t always see the real difference they make in the lives of those to whom they minister.
- Business leaders don’t always see the real difference they make in the culture and environment of their companies.
- Parents often don’t see the real difference they make in the lives of their children until those children are grown.
The positive impact in each of these scenarios, though often unseen, is very real.
We need to learn to let go of the self-doubt and negative self-talk that holds us back and tears us down, and learn to trust that the seeds of good that we plant in this world will grow and flourish in their own time, even if we never see the results with our own eyes.
For some people, the in-between times are actually the times they long for.
My daughter Ashley was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor at age 9. For a year and a half she underwent a grueling protocol of radiation and chemotherapy.
- Her beautiful blonde hair fell out and never came back.
- She experienced hours-long episodes of throwing up continuously.
- She was placed on home-bound instruction instead of going to school every day.
- She spent days and weeks and months in the hospital because of complications from the treatments.
She went through several months where she could not eat. She wanted to eat, and didn’t understand why she couldn’t eat, but she couldn’t; so she had to go around with a feeding tube coming out of her nose and eventually had to have a more permanent feeding tube surgically implanted through her stomach.
She stayed up into the wee hours of the morning almost every night just to finish the homework that most of her classmates were able to finish in a couple of hours. Though her cognitive abilities were somewhat compromised by the six weeks of radiation treatments to the brain, her grit and determination certainly were not.
All she wanted was to be a normal little girl, doing all the normal, mundane, everyday little things that all her friends were doing. Cancer stole that from her.
The days that she was actually able to go to school and spend the day (or at least part of it) in the classroom, those were the days she treasured.
The days that didn’t include throwing up were the days she looked forward to.
The days that she could walk on her own – without the use of a wheelchair and without me having to carry her – were golden.
For so many of us, the normal, everyday, mundane, in-between times are those that happen between mountaintop experiences.
For some, the normal, everyday, mundane, in-between times actually are the mountaintop experiences.
Just one more reason to celebrate the in-between and be thankful for the smallest of blessings.
What has helped you learn to slow down, let go, or be grateful? Share in the comments below.
- Learn to slow down. Learn to let go. Learn to be grateful. (Tweet that!)
- Historical markers are important. (Tweet that!)
- Slow down and enjoying the beauty of the present moment. (Tweet that!)
- We will not always see the fruit of our labor. (Tweet that!)
- Teachers don’t always see the difference they make in the lives of their students. (Tweet that!)
- Ministers don’t always see the difference they make in the lives of those to whom they minister. (Tweet that!)
- Parents often don’t see the difference they make in their children until the children are grown. (Tweet that!)
- We need to let go of the self-doubt and negative self-talk that holds us back and tears us down. (Tweet that!)
- We need to trust that the seeds of good we plant will grow and flourish in their own time. (Tweet that!)
- For some people, the in-between times are actually the times they long for. (Tweet that!)
- For some people, the everyday in-between times ARE the mountaintop experiences. (Tweet that!)
- Celebrate the in-between and be thankful for the smallest of blessings. (Tweet that!)