Bigger Stories

An Unsettling Solidarity

Like a sudden summer storm, the past month has hit us with news of shootings at Isla Vista, Seattle Pacific University, Las Vegas, and a high school in Oregon. These tragic stories have woken us back up to reality of our world in disarray. Much has already been written, by women and men much more thoughtful than me, about how we might respond, both responsibly and compassionately, to these tragedies and others like them.

For me, the starkest reality in recent days has been a growing awareness of a disconcerting gap. It’s the gap between my shallow sympathy as one personally unaffected and the endless depth of pain being lived out by the friends and families of the victims. This gap is unthinkably wide and near impossible to bridge. So for those of us living on the shallow side, how are we to engage our national mourning in a meaningful way?

Richard Martinez, whose son Chris was one of the victims in Isla Vista, has been a fixture in the news with his inspired Not One More campaign. His words in the days following his son’s death have disrupted our national consciousness:

I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and do something… I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.

I can’t help but sense a prophetic spirit in these words. The anger, frustration, and urgency remind me of places in the Christian Scriptures like Jeremiah 4. Much like the prophets of Israel, Richard Martinez has opened our eyes to the truer realities of our current condition. He is forcing us to strip away our flimsy facades of security and sophistication. And we are left here to face the uncomfortable truth that things are not well. The world is utterly broken and we are not as safe nor as sophisticated as we once believed. More than anything, we are compelled to answer two key questions – do we actually believe that things will someday be made right and, if we do, what’s our role to play?

This is the wonderful and bitter gift that prophets like Jeremiah and Richard Martinez have to give. They offer us a theology that is expansive enough to hold our questions, our doubts, our anger, frustration, and urgency. It is a theology of suffering that truly allows us to suffer, invites us even into the very middle of the pain of death and loss. They make the comfortable place on the shallow side of mourning unbearably uncomfortable. They bring their own anger to our very doorsteps and knock until we relent and open the door to let it in. Their anguish becomes our anguish. And in this unsettling solidarity, we find a subversive hope we never knew before. In bridging the gap between our shallow sympathies and their deepest pain, we discover that we’ve needed this hope all along. Because the tragedies at Isla Vista, Seattle Pacific University, Las Vegas, and Oregon are our tragedies. They are my tragedies. As Gandhi once said, “All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul.” 

And so the prophets remind us. The gap must be bridged. It is not only the world, held at an easy distance, that is in disarray – it’s me. I am in disarray. There is potential within me for both good and for evil. In helping us see this fragile truth, the prophets call us to action and remind us that there is hope to be realized if we would get to work and do something…to stand up for something…to say enough is enough.

unsettling solidarity

What We Can Learn From Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant won his first MVP award yesterday. Deservedly so, in my opinion. And as impressive as his season was, he might’ve actually outdone himself with his acceptance speech. It was thoughtful, honest, and unexpectedly moving. I think we can all learn a few things from what he said as he received the highest individual honor anyone can achieve in basketball.

I’d like to thank God for changing my life and letting me really realize what life is all about. Basketball is just a platform in order for me to inspire people. Thanking God to start your acceptance speech is a well-worn norm these days. But KD did something most athletes don’t do. He provided clear perspective. Durant didn’t thank God for giving him other-worldly basketball skills, unmatched athleticism, or a ferocious drive to win. He thanked God for changing his life, for helping him realize what life is all about. He reiterated the point by reminding us, basketball is just a platform in order for me to inspire people. Durant seems to understand that, first and foremost, our gratitude ought to be centered on the ways God changes us and gives us an understanding of what’s truly meaningful in this life. The successes we may experience are a by-product of God’s work in us and they are meant to be shared with others, to inspire, encourage, and help.

I had so much help. So many people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. So many people doubted me and motivated me every single day. None of us have ever achieved anything worth remembering on our own. If you think you have, you’re wrong. We’ve all had help. So. Much. Help. Our cheerleaders and co-laborers are easy to point out. Those who have passionately supported us and believed in us are usually obvious. But even those who seemingly got in the way, created barriers and obstacles, stood in dogged opposition to us – each and every one of them helped in their own peculiar ways. They deepened our determination, strengthened our resolve, and motivated us with the weight of significance they gave to our work by their very position against us.

I fell in love with the game. I didn’t fall in love with it just because it was me playing. I fell in love with it because I’ve got guys like this… I just want to say thank you to you guys. Sometimes we get so busy with the “what” that we forget the “who.” For most of us, if we would just take a moment to step back, take a breath, and consider some of the people who surround us on this journey called life, the sense of joyful, child-like wonder at the gift that this life is would be completely overwhelming. Kevin Durant was the one who led the league in scoring. But he took time to thank each and every teammate by name, from fellow superstar Russell Westbrook all the way down to a benchwarmer named Andre Roberson who scored less than 2 points a game. These teammates are men that Durant spends almost every waking moment with for nine months out of the year. And yet, as he thanks each one with tears in his eyes, he sounds like a man welcoming home long lost friends. There’s something wonderfully enlightening about thanking people by name. It excavates something deep within us and gives us new lenses through which to view our lives and the amazing people in it.

Mom… the odds were stacked against us. Single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old… One of the best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture. We just all sat in the living room and hugged each other. We thought we’d made it… We weren’t supposed to be here. But you made us believe. You sacrificed for us… You’re the real MVP. We stand on the broad shoulders of those who came before us. Their sacrifice paved the way for our success. Unlike Kevin Durant, I have never won the NBA’s MVP award (although, never say never… my turnaround J is starting to look better lately). But like Kevin Durant, I am indebted to my own mother in ways that words cannot possibly express. Most all of us have someone like this in our lives. Don’t forget that. We weren’t supposed to be here. But someone along the way believed and sacrificed on your behalf. They bruised and bled so that you might have what once did not seem possible. We all have our own MVP’s.

kd

 

To My Brothers & Sisters at Awakening Church

This past Sunday, April 6th 2014, Jenny and I said goodbye to Awakening Church, which has been our community and our home for the past two years. I will be transitioning to a new role at Westgate Church later this month.

We are incredibly humbled by, grateful for, and excited about this new chapter of life and ministry. But new chapters always mean the end of previous ones and this most recent chapter is particularly hard to conclude. We will miss our Awakening family, all that God is doing in and through them, and the gift of being able to journey with them. These were my final words to that remarkable kingdom community:

To my brothers and sisters at Awakening Church,

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me begin with the hardest thing I must say. After much prayer and counsel, my wife Jenny and I have made the difficult decision to begin a new chapter in our life. This means saying goodbye to this community, which has been our home for the past two years.

From the very beginning of this journey, Ryan has made it clear that a primary part of the ethos and culture of Awakening is that we will always choose what’s best over and above what’s easiest. He exemplifies this not only in his leadership as the pastor of this church but also as a friend.

A little while ago, Ryan received an email from Steve Clifford, the lead pastor at Westgate Church, asking if they could discuss a role for me there. The easy thing for Ryan to do would’ve simply been to say no. But Ryan chose what was best for me, both as my pastor and my friend. Long story short, after wrestling with countless thoughts and feelings, Jenny and I have come to the conclusion, with much clarity and peace, that transitioning into this new role at Westgate, while difficult, is best for us in this next season of life.

And so, for Jenny and I, today is a farewell. Today is our last Sunday with you.

In these next few moments, I simply want to do three things. I want to thank you, encourage you, and finally, offer a few words that I hope will push you forward into the future.

First, a few words of thanks.

This will sound a bit odd but in so many ways, you have nurtured and raised me as a pastor these last two years.

You gifted me with your grace, your willingness to take me as I am, with all of my faults and shortcomings.

You lent me your listening ears, time and time again.

You offered me words of encouragement when I was floundering in weakness.

You grabbed me by the collar and spoke truth to my face when I was immaturely wallowing in self-pity.

You received my words of admonition, even when they were sharp and painful.

You allowed me to take risks, make mistakes, and question things. You allowed me to be my curious and inquisitive self.

You loved my wife. You spoke highly of her. You welcomed her, befriended her, and invited her in.

You laughed at my jokes. You cried with me when I talked about loss, pain, and suffering.

You endured those terrible announcement videos on facebook in the early days.

You set up chairs, tables, lights, and sound equipment with me.

You schooled me in basketball, taught me how to use Instagram, and showed me how to edit videos.

You went to concerts with me, watched movies with me, had drinks with me.

You ate ridiculous amounts of tacos, burritos, Japanese ramen, and Mongolian BBQ with me.

Hector Mujica and Tyler Crist even went to Haiti with me and a lot happened there but what happens in Haiti stays in Haiti. I will say that there was a tarantula and an outhouse involved.

You shared your stories with me. You opened yourself up to me. You taught me new ways to be alive, to rejoice, to mourn, and to wonder.

For all this and so much more, THANK YOU.

Now, a few words of encouragement.

Many people have asked me over these last two years, “How’s Awakening?” And every single time I have struggled to answer because the question they were asking was very different than the question I was hearing. Most people were really asking, “How is the organization of Awakening coming along? What’s your attendance like? What’s your budget like? How many volunteers do you have? How many people are in small groups? Does your band sound like Coldplay or Mumford?”

But when I hear that question, “How’s Awakening?” I can only think of people. I can only think of you and how you’re doing. And not just how you’re doing but also what you’re doing and most importantly, what God is doing in and through you.

It has been a tremendous privilege and joy to watch as God works in and through you to accomplish some incredible kingdom things.

I’ve seen God move in and through your creativity. I can safely say that I have never been around a more creative bunch than you all. From designing to writing to playing music to all sorts of technical mumbo jumbo that’s way over my head, I have seen you leverage your creative talent and energy to reach people with the love of Jesus in fresh new ways.

I’ve seen God move in and through your relentless passion and generosity. This is a community that has no tolerance for what’s realistic. It wasn’t realistic to build a $15k well in Zimbabwe just three months after launching as a small church plant. But you raised almost $30k that first year and built two wells. After getting kicked out of this very theater less than a month into moving here, it didn’t seem realistic that we’d be able to earn trust and create a long-lasting relationship with Del Mar High School. But you loved and served this school, its teachers, and its students. You painted walls, built benches, renovated basketball courts and teachers lounges. You donated laptops. You started volunteering to tutor students during the week. And now, here we are, back in the theater, with the blessing and love of Del Mar. They are sad to see us go in August because they are sad to see you, each and every one of you, go. God did this work through your relentless passion and generosity. You allowed God to take a hold of your hearts, to leverage your time and talents, to plunge you right into the middle of the redemptive kingdom work he is doing, both around the world and right here in our city.

I have seen God move in and through your love. As a community, you have taught me what it means to love excessively and lavishly. You have celebrated well the many birthdays and weddings and new jobs and new babies. You have also grieved deeply – when cancer took away loved ones, when jobs were lost, when relationships came undone, when rejection spat in our faces. And in both celebrating and in grieving, your brought light into one another’s darkness by loving well. With laughter and with tears, you rejoiced with those who rejoice and you mourned with those who mourn. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12 that these are the markers of sincere and devoted love for one another. You have exemplified this in wonderful, life-giving ways.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote that, “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” You are an extraordinary community of men and women who have chosen to be strong at the broken places. With your creativity, passion, generosity, and love, you are bringing hope and light to many who need it. I am inspired by you.

Finally, a few words that I hope will push you forward into the future.

Let me be clear. My job has never been to bring something from somewhere that wasn’t already here. My job from day one has been to simply recognize, accentuate, and name what has always been here. What has always been in you – the spirit of God, working, moving, and transforming each and every one of you to be agents of kingdom change in the world, here and now. So whether you’ve been here since the beginning or today is your very first Sunday with us, you are a part of something big here, something of scale. You are a part of a church that is on the move, following God into new territory, watching and working alongside as he awakens our city to new life.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, we read a story about a man named Lazarus. Lazarus was a beloved friend of Jesus. He falls gravely ill and two sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus in a neighboring town, asking him to come and heal Lazarus. Their exact words are, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

This is the world we inhabit today. Countless people in our city, in our families, amongst our friends, in our spheres of influence, are sick. The sicknesses vary – they are physical, emotional, spiritual, and all of the above. We know this because we too have been sick and still wrestle with some of these same sicknesses today.

But many of us have also experienced the healing love of Jesus. And many of us are here, in this community, a part of Awakening Church, because we believe that Jesus wants to heal us and every person on the planet.

We believe that pain and despair no longer have a stronghold over us.

We believe that life does not end in the grave.

We believe that an eternity full of peace and joy is available to all who would receive it.

We believe that the mission of the Church, first and foremost, is to confront death, embrace Resurrection, and declare aloud, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? …thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the story of Jesus and Lazarus, there is a turn for the worst and then a surprise ending.

Jesus doesn’t arrive on time. He shows up too late and Lazarus dies. They bury him in the tomb. Sadness and mourning overwhelm the people. When Jesus finally shows up on the scene and sees the grief of Lazarus’ family and friends, he takes a moment to do something unexpected. John 11:35 tells us that, “Jesus wept.”

Jesus steps out of his own transcendence and sinks into that incredibly human moment. He locks himself into the confines of our time and space. He weeps. He feels our pain, our hurt, and our loss. But that is not the end.

Earlier in the story, Jesus declares, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” And he does just that. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus awakens Lazarus to new life.

And Jesus is still raising the dead today; awakening those who have fallen into the slumber of broken and shattered lives.

And so, Awakening Church, I thank you and I encourage you. But most importantly today, I urge and challenge you – continue to join God in the work of awakening this generation and this city to new life. Continue to give yourselves completely, without reservation, without hesitation, to this redemptive work that God is doing in and through you. Jump in, head first, with every ounce of energy you can muster, into the great, big, unfolding story of God happening all around you. Offer your hands and your feet, your hearts and minds, your strength and soul, to God and let him use you to do immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine.

It has been a privilege, an honor, and an unspeakable joy to have been with you. I will miss you. And I will be cheering you on, advocating for you, praying alongside you.

Grace + Peace to each and every one of you.

to my

 

4 Ways To Unleash Your Genius

I am not a genius, per say. But in a way, I am. So are you. Genius has been defined as one who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable. And without knowing you, here’s what I know about you.

You are rare and you are remarkable.

Your particular story and experiences make you rare and remarkable. You are a genius. You are the only expert the world has ever known when it comes to your ideas, world views, and concepts of life, love, faith, God, etc. because no one has ever lived your life. Only you.

And so, you have a gift to share with the rest of us. It is the rare and remarkable gift of your one-of-a-kind genius. We often get bogged down by our unrelenting tendency to compare. But comparisons are built on the genius of others and they stifle the genius inside of us. If Van Gogh tried to paint a better version of what others were painting, he would never have become Van Gogh. If Einstein had tried to simply improve on what others had already theorized, he would never have become Einstein. If The Edge had tried playing guitar just like everyone he’d heard before, he would never have become The Edge [and U2 might've ended up sounding like REO Speedwagon. Or not.]

So here are four practices that have helped me tap into my unique genius and unleash it on the world. This isn’t to say that I actually have anything profound to say or that I’m smarter or better or more talented than anyone else. Quite the contrary. What I mean is that these practices have helped me find my one-of-a-kind voice. And steadily over time, they’ve helped me build confidence in that voice; to believe that it means something, that it’s necessary, that it is my gift to contribute to the larger human narrative unfolding all around us. These will not all be helpful to you. Take what’s useful, throw away the rest.

Ask more questions & question more answers. Einstein was fond of saying, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” Questions are like the waters that carved out the Grand Canyon – they take time but if we let them flow long enough, strong, steady, and un-rushed, they carve out layers and help us reach depths untouched by convenient answers. If an answer seems worth exploring, don’t settle. Continue questioning the answer and see if there are more layers to be uncovered. You will often uncover things within you that you didn’t know were there – the stuff that makes up your particular genius.

Look for stories everywhere. Everything and everyone has a story. Your barista has a story. The coffee he poured over for you has a story. Why is he a barista? Where did these coffee beans come from? What exactly is the economic story behind a $4.50 cup of coffee? Stories are the universal language of human beings. We learn primarily from stories. This has been true since the beginning and will be true until the end. And since everything and everyone has a story, everything and everyone are opportunities for their stories and your story to collide. This often makes for exciting things in terms of unleashing your particular, genius story on the world.

Keep a log of your thoughts, ideas, questions. This is a practical one. I have a word doc on my computer called “Ideas Catalog”. Anytime I see, hear, or think of something I find even remotely interesting, I type it out and save it. I regularly go back and categorize these ideas by key words or phrases. If I’m not at my computer, I use the voice recorder on my phone and type it out later. If I see something interesting that I can’t describe, I take a picture. Make this a discipline and you will be shocked at how many interesting things you encounter throughout the day that get your heart and mind going in all sorts of directions, which in turn will often lead to some wonderfully genius things you can share with the world.

Befriend the stranger within. This one is not so practical. I find it extremely helpful to practice centering exercises. As a Christian, I pray to God. But I don’t use very many words. In fact, I usually don’t use any words at all. I sit comfortably in a quiet space, feet firmly planted on the floor, eyes closed. I breathe deeply, paying careful attention to each inhale and exhale. When a thought comes to mind, I imagine it as a helium filled ballon on a string that I am holding loosely with my thumb and index finger and I release it. The goal is to clear my head and my heart to the point that I am truly alone with only God and myself. And often, I find that my self feels like a stranger. But the more I practice centering prayer, the more I’m beginning to develop a friendship with my self, in the safe presence of a God who is watching over me. I usually start my days this way. Any time I am writing or creating any sort of content, I start this way. It relocates and positions me in the appropriate place for tapping into the deepest part of my soul where my most creative and genius self resides.

genius

This Will Not End In Death

Ash Wednesday is a paradox.

On one hand, it reminds us that we are from dust and that to dust we will return. It’s a day to remember and even saddle up, uncomfortably, near our own mortality, the inevitability of our demise. Ash Wednesday marks us as a people inching closer and closer to the grave each and every second of our seemingly nondescript lives.

On the other hand, Ash Wednesday is charged with life and vitality in ways only made possible when recognizing that death is imminent. Yes, it reminds us that we are from dust and to dust we will return. But a greater truth resounds in its midst – that God breathed into us once and he will breathe into us again. Ash Wednesday marks us as a people inching closer and closer to resurrection each and every second of our precursory lives.

There’s a story in the Bible, found in John 11, that’s both disturbing and beautiful.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. – John 11:1-6 [NIV]

Jesus’ friend Lazarus, whom he loves, is sick and dying. His sisters Mary and Martha send word to Jesus, asking him to come and do what only he can do – nip death in the bud and heal Lazarus. Time is of the essence. Jesus responds, “This sickness will not end in death” and then proceeds to stay put for two more days, letting Lazarus die. Later, he tells his disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” 

WAIT…WHAT???

Last summer I stood in front of friends and strangers at the memorial service of a dear friend. She was a newlywed wife in her mid 20’s when cancer took her from us far too soon. I was angry. And there were many in the room far angrier than me. This sickness did end in death. The cynic in me asked, “Jesus, did you stay away an extra two days? Were you glad you weren’t here? Why didn’t you bring the healing we prayed so hard for? WAIT…WHAT???” 

Death has a disturbing way of making us honest. We get angry. We get frustrated. We get scared. We want a moment to pause and incredulously ask, “WAIT…WHAT???” But the story doesn’t end there for Lazarus. John 11:17-44 brings the story to its beautiful conclusion. Jesus brings Lazarus back to life.

They say that John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. But I think it’s packed with a bottomless depth of meaning, richness, and most importantly, hope.

Jesus wept. 

He wept. He mourned with Mary and Martha and the rest. He felt their loss. He experienced their pain. He gripped his own humanity and made his home there for a moment.

Ash Wednesday reminds us that He does the same with us today. The touch of finger to forehead, the swift top to bottom, left to right of the ash becoming a cross, the words that speak of our impending doom – these all remind us that Jesus wept, Jesus mourned, Jesus hurt, Jesus was human. And only when we face the grit and grime of this reality can we look death in the face for what it truly is – a moment, a blip, an aberration. Because something else is around the corner. Light is breaking in through the cracks of the stone covering the tomb. Lazarus isn’t dead. And neither are we. Death is not a wall to stop us; it’s a door to be kicked in.

So today, Ash Wednesday, it’s OK to weep, to mourn, to feel loss and pain. It’s OK to be human. But may we remember that the story doesn’t end here. Jesus is with us, here and now, in the very middle of our fear and anxiety and doubt. But He isn’t leaving us here. He’s taking us somewhere, past death, into life. Resurrection. WAIT…HOLD ON…EASTER IS COMING.

this will not end in death

 

6 {Secretly} Romantic Things My Wife Says

Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s roses and romance for some, bitterness and bourbon for others, and just another Friday for most.

Jenny and I were married in January 2009, so today, we celebrate our sixth Valentine’s Day together as husband and wife. And by celebrate, I mean that we might go out for some Indian food, come home for a movie that we won’t finish, and be asleep by 9pm. Sexy, I know. You wish you had my life. Seriously though, it’s a pretty great life.

For those who don’t know, Jenny is a funny, sarcastic, independent go-getter with strong opinions about romance. So in honor of our sixth Valentine’s Day together, here are 6 {secretly} romantic things my wife says to me regularly and their translations [in my head], so as to uncover their hidden romanticism.

You smell like cheese. Gross. {Romantic translation}: Hello husband. Listen, I’ve smelled you at your finest so I know your aromatic potential and you are not quite there right now. But I believe in you. Why don’t you go freshen up and once again smell like the ridiculously fresh man I know you are? 

Do you think you’re funny? Because, that wasn’t funny. {Romantic translation}: Hello husband. First off, you are exceptionally hilarious and I find your humor ridiculously sexy. I would even say that you paved your way to my heart with laughter. But that thing you just said? While still quite funny for ordinary men, for you my love, it was a bit disappointing. Let’s pretend it never happened. What are we talking about again? I’ve already forgotten. Stop, you’re making me laugh. HAHA. You’re so funny!

I can open my own door, thanks. {Romantic translation}: Hello husband. As you know, I am a strong, fierce, independent woman who is not only able but willing to open my own doors – not just the door of this car but the various doors of opportunity that life may bring my way. And you, my love, are a man with enough strength, enough grit, enough passion, enough drive, enough wit to woo and win a woman like me, not easily wooed, not easily won. Well done. I love you. 

Don’t be a weirdo. {Romantic translation}: Hello husband. You know that I’ve always adored your artistic sensibilities and tendencies. You write, play music, draw – oh the vastness of your creativity! It’s wonderfully sublime and I can get lost in it for days! But I must admit that from time to time I don’t quite understand the depth and breadth of your wild imagination. Please excuse my defensive posture to your eclectic art. Please help me understand.

Can you please stop watching sports? {Romantic translation}: Hello husband. I appreciate your relentless pursuit of the things you love. I know that this includes watching your favorite teams play and excel. In fact, it was this very same spirit of relentless pursuit that captured my heart all those years ago. And as I see you laying here on the couch, chips and beer in hand, bundled up in that surprisingly manly snuggie that my mom made for you, I can’t help but feel those same butterflies in my stomach I first felt when you relentlessly pursued me so! Can I lay next to you? We’ll watch sports together. Go Niners!

You’re my favorite. {Romantic translation}: You’re my favorite.

6 things

3 Inevitabilities of Fearless Living

I’m trying to live with less fear these days. Paradoxically, it’s really frightening. But it’s also been incredibly freeing. The balancing act between frightening and freeing has been constant and it keeps me on my toes. It’s made every single day profoundly interesting and wonderfully unknown. Most importantly though, I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.

One of the really wretched things fear does is completely mute the voice within that is most truly and uniquely us. A terrible sadness overwhelms me when I think about the many years most of us spend as these muted versions of ourselves, talking a lot but never really saying anything. This isn’t how we’re made. These well known words of Paul to Timothy remind us:

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7 [ESV]

So in these very early stages of learning to live a [marginally, at this point] fearless life, I’ve come to realize three inevitabilities of fearless living. I know some friends, as I’m sure we all do, who have modeled fearless living for years. The magnitudes of their courageous lives dwarf anything I’m accomplishing today and I’m certain that they could endlessly edit this list. They might even tell me a few of my “inevitabilities” are completely ridiculous. But from where I stand, here’s what I’m learning:

I will hurt some people. As broken as we are, we will inevitably hurt some people. There’s a strange comfort in this though. Whether we live with or without fear, we’re going to hurt people along the way. The only choice we have is whether we will hurt people with our truths or with our lies. Fearless living embraces this inevitability and chooses the way of power, love, and self-control, which I believe is the way of speaking, acting, and living from the most honest, truthful place within us. Yes, I will hurt some people. If I hurt them with my lies, the foundation of our relationship is cracked and will be unable to withstand the undertaking of the healing process. But if I hurt them with my truths, we are already on the road to healing, if we so choose to travel there together. And so if I must hurt some, I will fight hard to always hurt with my true self and not some counterfeit.

I will make a mess of things. Authenticity is a nice looking word on paper but it’s messy as hell in real life. Most of us know this from sporadic moments throughout our personal histories when we were, willingly or unwillingly, thrust into unabashedly raw, intensely authentic situations. Things got messy. Really, really messy. It probably even hurt a little. Or a lot. And it was probably crap-your-pants awkward at certain points. But my guess is that you walked away from the wreckage like the grateful survivor of a ten car pileup – staring at the flaming heap of destruction behind you, bruised and scraped up but alive, maybe more alive because you endured the impact and came out on the other side still breathing. Fearless living will inevitably require authenticity and authenticity is often a ten car pileup. But I’m learning that the mess won’t kill me. It’ll remind me of just how alive I really am.

I will doubt myself. I see a counselor. Sometimes I spill my guts and ask my most pressing questions about God, life, faith, etc. Sometimes my counselor will think for a long while, silent and still, and finally respond, “You know what Jay? I don’t know.” Wait, what? Panic ensues. I feel like I’m going to throw up most of the time when this happens. I start to doubt everything – myself, my plans, my beliefs. But when the dust, and my stomach, settle, I am often left with a peace and confidence that can only come from a place shrouded with a bit of mystery. The writer Christian Wiman puts it this way: What we call doubt is often simply dullness of mind and spirit, not the absence of faith at all, but faith latent with the lives we are not quite living, God dormant in the world to which we are not quite giving our best selves. I love this. Fearless living takes us to a different place; a place more alive and free. But the road that leads there is often paved with doubt. I am learning to find comfort in my doubt, knowing that it is simply a peeling back of what I’ve known in order that I might learn what I do not yet know. Doubt strengthens my faith and in some ways becomes my fuel for living fearlessly. If I do not fear the doubt any longer, what is there left to fear?

fearless