Random Thoughts: 30 for 30

This week is surreal as I am crossing the 30 year threshold. A milestone of sorts. It is particularly surreal because my parents were 30 when I was born.

The growth I experienced between 20 and 30 is difficult to fully capture in writing, but I spent some time thinking about it and will share some key takeaways and random thoughts.

I can not say that I have 30 lessons to share about life. Life is not that complicated.  (Besides, you would probably tire after lesson #13 or so.)

 From 20 to 30

At this stage 10 years ago, I was preparing to enlist in the National Guard. 19 days after I turned 20, I enlisted as a PV2. 1 year later, I graduated Infantry OSUT.

Now, 10 years beyond my 20th birthday, I am a Captain and Company Commander. 10 years ago I would snap to attention if I saw a Captain and was hesitant to speak to them or anyone exceeding the rank. Now I know that most officers are just soldiers like the rest of us. They are more normal than I would have ever thought as a newly minted Private.

The last 10 years have been marked by my military service. Memories, relationships, growth. There is no part of my life that has not been touched by the decision I made at age 20. It was a great decision and I would make it again.

– 10 years ago, my family was whole with a pretty optimistic view of the future. Mom was clear of the cancer she started fighting a few years before. Dad was looking to retire soon. Sister was moving along as an adult. Life was good.

Now, I have lived 7 years without my Mom as the cancer returned with a vengeance and she died shortly before my 23rd birthday. This feels like an eternity ago and life before then feels even more distant. Our family was never the same of course, but we have all moved on in some ways. 7 years later, I live at peace with loss. Death, while painful, is really just a milestone in life. This perspective may be a bit callous to you reading this now, but it’s true. I love and miss my Mom, but my grief is no longer a sharp pain. It is more of a longing you experience when you haven’t seen someone in a long time… and I am okay with that.

– Personally and professionally I’ve made great strides. My military career has been successful to this point. I completed my education and started a professional career that I enjoy. The Lord’s provision is real and tangible.

– I have lost a lot. Been burglarized twice. Had some (read, a painful sum of) money recouped by the military. Made some questionable purchases and investments.

I have gained a lot. Been promoted a few times. Made some good decisions and good investments.

– With all of this though, my view of money has evolved. I was always a saver and typically an obedient giver. However, now I recognize a tension that exists. Part of me, and many of us I imagine, desires the security that our assets seem to provide us. On the other hand, I have experienced indescribable joy and freedom from being generous. On top of that, the unexpected loss of my mother profoundly impacted my view of time… and consequently my view of money. They are related of course, time and money.

I read a quote the other day that captures this relationship – “the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

 Want to truly understand your priorities? Just ask yourself, what am I exchanging my time and my money for?

The things, people, places, ideas, etc that comprise the answer to this question is your life. This truth is absolutely inescapable.

 Changes from 20 to 30

I have changed a lot in the last 10 years.

– I see a lot more gray than I used to. I still have my areas of black and white, but understanding that I don’t even adhere to the standards I believe in has allowed me to understand people better. We are all imperfect and fallen. This has magnified God’s grace and hopefully allowed me to extend the same grace to others. The truth is, although I try to make things simple, people cannot be simplified. They are incredibly complex. Every person you meet has unique physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual attributes that cannot be refined to something you could call “simple”. In addition to these attributes, an individual’s experiences add yet another layer of complexity. All of this has increased the gray I see in the world, and consequently, the grace and understanding I am capable of extending to others (especially those I share opposing views with).

– 10 years ago, I had a pretty foolish view of relationships. It makes me laugh/cringe now. In the last 10 years I dated a handful of women. Some serious, even to the point of an engagement. Others, in hindsight, not very serious because I didn’t have the slightest clue what serious actually means until the latter part of my 20s. I hurt a lot of good women and experienced pain as well. That’s the way it is though. In order to love effectively, you have to be willing to endure pretty significant pain.

All of this helped guide me to my wife Sarah, so in the end it was worth it because she is worth all of it. Hopefully the lessons of the past make me better moving forward.

Simple recommendation regarding relationships: practice selflessness and marry someone who does the same.

– The entropy of close friendships from 20 to 30 is an inevitable part of life. This is not good or bad necessarily, it just is. I have less friends now than I did when I was 20, but I would also submit that I am doing life with my close friends now in a way that I never could at age 20. Friendships go through seasons, like most things in life, but there are a few constants… The friends that go through many seasons. I anticipate that this entropy will continue as children enter the picture but there are still a handful of guys that I would visit in an instant if they needed me. We may see each other less and less, but I’ll always have their back.

 Looking to 30 and Beyond

– The next big life step would be children I suppose, but I haven’t spent much time contemplating this reality. Obviously, my wife will have something to say about this as well. Beyond that, the Lord has a way of sorting these details out. I’m not worried about it.

– I was talking to some 18 – 20 year old guys tonight at church and realized that I am not as close to them in age as I tend to think I am. This reminds me that the next several years (or decades) of my life will be about influence. I am still young by most standards, but I believe we are all responsible for how we influence those that are following us… and someone is always following you whether you realize it or not.

– I have a few individual goals that I am still working towards, but I wonder how those will change over the next 10 years. I wonder if they should change. If they should change, then I imagine that they will (whether I surrender to this change willingly or not is another question).

Life Changing Books

– A popular saying (credited to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones) goes something like this:

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

This quote has some truth to it. I’d add experiences to the list, but Charlie may have been speaking in a different context. Regardless, I have been a reader for quite some time and this continued over the last decade. I have recommended a few books over the last decade but here are the top 5 books from that time.

These books truly changed my life and were instrumental to my understanding of the various seasons I experienced in my 20s. I recommend them constantly.

 

Closing Thoughts

– For most of my life, the Bible passage that most resonated with me was Matthew 6:25 – 33. Hence the name of my other blog – butseekfirst.com. I worried a lot about small stuff. Still do sometimes, but I have more of a peace about the Lord taking care of those details. When you see it happen in your life, it makes it easier to see it happen in the future.

– This decade has been marked by a greater understanding of time. 10 years went by quickly in hindsight. Time is always like that looking back and it hardly feels like it is slowing down. I think this is probably the lesson I learned in my 20s. The value of time and how to value my time. I imagine most people learn this lesson later in life. I don’t know why I learned this lesson so early in my life, but I hope it continues to inform my living for the remainder of my life.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thanks for reading.

-Brian

 

 

Becoming One: Thoughts After 100 Days of Marriage

 

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24

Marriage is the act of Becoming One.  Two distinct individuals fuse their lives together in every conceivable way to become one.

I married  Sarah on November 18th, 2017. The fusion of our lives began then and has continued over the last 100 days. It has been quite a time. New, exciting, challenging, fruitful, educational.

I have learned a lot. Living is truly the best education you can receive and the last 100 days have been a revelation. Here are a few lessons I have extracted from my short time in marriage:

1)       More Selfish Than I Know

Wow. I went into marriage thinking I was a selfless person. I love to serve and I understand the purpose and value of sacrifice… On my terms. But inject another person into my world whom I am responsible for and accountable to then just see how quickly my selfishness is revealed to me. This has been, simultaneously, the best and most difficult lesson I have learned in these first 100 days. Marriage is a mirror revealing these things to us that we would never see without it. Marriage can also be a refining fire if we let it, removing these impurities within our character. Making us better, more Christ-like.

2)      Challenging But Rewarding

Marriage can be challenging at times. See lesson #1. We are selfish. But there is silver lining with this challenge: progress. Progress is rewarding. When I see Sarah overcoming a challenge, when she helps me overcome a challenge… When we engage marriage together and grow. It is unbelievably rewarding. Sharing these ups and downs with her is much more rewarding than anything I have experienced individually.

3)      Comparison Kills Closeness

I have always known that comparison kills. It is the enemy of joy, gratitude, contentment. In marriage, comparison is the enemy of closeness. We are constantly bombarded with standards to make comparisons with. “Perfect” marriages, perfect families, perfect husbands and wives. Most of these come from the outside world, media/movies, social media etc. However, an unexpected source of comparison was revealed to me recently – My Expectations.

We all have expectations. You can probably list quite a few of them off the top of your head. However, I have discovered that we all have expectations we are not even aware of UNTIL they are not met. Friction in marriage comes when our expectations collide with reality and we do not handle it gracefully.

I imagine this will be an ongoing process, however an increase in an awareness of my expectations has helped a ton. It helps me to love and appreciate Sarah for ALL that she is, as opposed to comparing her to some unknown expectation that I have.

4)      Humble or Hurt

Marriage is such a unique environment because of two competing factors: 1) Vulnerability and 2) Flawed humans.

We open ourselves up to someone knowing there are going to be times when we fail them, hurt them, disappoint them and they are going to return the favor. I cant think of another environment where we make this decision (however I imagine parenting shares some of the same characteristics).

In these times of pain and disappointment, we are faced with a choice: do I respond in kind (hurt) or do I respond with humility (humble)? We can choose to be humble or choose to be hurt. This choice makes ALL the difference. Just imagine the havoc wrought on a marriage where each spouse continuously chooses to BE hurt and to carry this hurt forward indefinitely. The compounding effect of that must be one of the contributing factors to lackluster marriages and/or divorce.

5)      Believe the Best

Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. They deserve your trust. They deserve the belief that they are FOR you, not against you. It is easy to do this when things are good (as they have been for the vast majority of the last 100 days), but what about when they are not? What about when you fight or disagree? Are you believing the best about your spouse?

This is a choice, and sometimes it is not going to feel good but this is an extension of grace towards your spouse that we simply must make.

 

In closing, the last 100 days have revealed a lot to me. Truthfully, I feel less prepared today than I did on my wedding day. I am okay with that. We tend to overestimate ourselves, so this serving of humble pie has rested nicely on my heart. This process of Becoming One is an ongoing discovery. An adventure. It is my prayer and hope that Sarah and I will always remember that as we press forward, together. My prayer for anyone reading this is that you would have an honest view of marriage. If you are single, find someone committed to Becoming One with you. If you are married, hopefully you are still allowing the Lord to work this process out in your marriage. Without Him you have no hope of Becoming One on your own.

Thanks for reading,

Brian

Journal Entry: October 9th 2016

October 9th, 2016

In some ways, I have allowed politics to become an idol. Maybe THE idol in my life right now. I follow it incessantly, yet hardly pray for my country, or open my Bible. I KNOW the truth, and the truth is that my country is not what I want it to be. Our values are not what I want them to be.

But doesn’t that miss the point? Is God not sovereign?
The answer of course is yes, but my idolatry and obsession over this election means that I am living more like it is a “no”.
Humbling indeed.

Both of our primary candidates are so deeply and fundamentally flawed. I recognize we are all deeply and fundamentally flawed, but can you recall a time where both candidates are such a far cry from anything resembling submission to the authority of God? This troubles me, but probably not for the right reasons as I think about it.

It troubles me because it means that the America that I have in my mind, that I believed would be present in my future, is fading rapidly. This America had strong Judeo-Christian values, was proud of what it meant to be an American and all that came with that.

This identity is dying and it breaks my heart. But it also means that (selfishly) my life will be harder. Prosperity will be threatened, my values will be of the minority and maybe even censored before too long.

So what are the right reasons for being troubled by this? Obviously the moral decline of our leadership is indicative of the moral decline of our nation. Wayward morality always has consequences. History has proved this time and time again. Heck, you don’t even need the Bible to see it but I believe Scripture provides the most coherent explanation.

Say what you want about the Founding Fathers, because many say they weren’t Christians. I don’t argue that here, I will say that they did view the world with a moral framework. There was a starting point, a foundation of morality that they looked to for inspiration and guidance.

We are losing this framework. We have no foundation or starting point to look to. And like a house without a strong frame or a body without bones, we fall in on ourselves.

There will be suffering and more suffering. Physical, psychological, social, economic. This is probably the saddest part of this, but also the greatest opportunity because suffering forces us to ask some pretty big questions.

What is the purpose of this?
Why do I suffer?
Is there any hope?

It is here that I return, because the answers to these questions, and the example of our lives is where the Church is indeed Salt and Light.

Salt prevents decay. Light shines brightest in the darkness.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

The Gospel: Watch, Hear, Experience

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and His redemption of our sins. I read this. I know this. I have said this and I believe this. But, what does it look like? Jesus arrived on the scene in human flesh 2,000 years ago, and has appeared in various mediums of art for the last 2,000 years. We have depictions of Him all over the world. What does the Gospel look like? What does it sound like today?

Change gears for a moment:

I appreciate artistic expression and I believe this is a manifestation of God in me. In all of us. The Creator of light, sight, sound, hearing, flavor, taste, colors and everything in between left his imprint on us. Being created in His image means so much more than appearance.

The art of communication is my preferred medium (those that have experienced the horror of me singing or observed my drawing skills will back me up on this). This art is increasingly robust in the Christian faith and with the technological advances of the last decade, we have access to SO MUCH great content. I have included some of my favorites below! I hope and pray you enjoy watching, hearing, and experiencing the Gospel in a whole new way!

John 3:16 – The Story of Love

G.O.S.P.E.L.

The Story of God

Comment below with some of your favorites and I will be sure to watch, hear, and experience the Gospel again!

Why We Need Community

I love golf. I have been playing for about 22 years now and the game has taught me a lot. Golf is unique because it is an individual sport. I have been on golf “teams” but even then we are just the sum of our individual contributions. This tendency to try and “go it alone” leaks into my walk with Jesus and the consequences are unsettling.

Here’s the thing: Following Jesus is not an individual endeavor. The Church does not function well when we fly solo. I do not function well as a member of the Church when I choose to fly solo.

I need community. We all need community.

But first, what is community?

One definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

A second definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common

For our purposes, our definition of community is a combination and simplification that is best understood as “a committed group of Christ followers navigating life together.”

Seems simple enough, right? Yet I still struggle in isolation. We still struggle without community.

Why is that though? Why is it that I struggle when I am isolation? Why do I need community?

In Scripture we discover some answers to these questions –

  • Built for Relationship

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Being created in the image of God truly means something. We carry His imprint whether we like it or not. The thing about God is that He is relational. His relationship with the Son and Holy Spirit was always there.

Just think, the idea of relationship always was.

As carriers of His likeness, we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him and with others around us. The context for this relationship is found in a community setting.

  • Better Together

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10

Allow me to share an illustration most of us can relate to – Have you ever gone to a theme park alone? Ever been to a movie alone?  I have done both and I can honestly say that my experience was not nearly as fulfilling as any time I went with someone else. Life is a lot like that as well. When I go to theme parks, my motto is the more the merrier because it is so much fun to experience theme parks with a host of friends! We are better together!

A life lived in community is fun, but it also has some other very real benefits.

Consider this illustration – Have you ever witnessed a friend making a bad decision that you knew would result in pain/suffering?

You know what I am talking about. This person is convinced they are making a good decision and are blind to any alternatives. Or maybe you have been that person. I know I have. I know I have had the blinders on and when I crashed I inevitably said “well I didn’t see that coming”.

But you know who did? The people that knew me best. My close friends and family in many cases.

We all have blind spots. A community can protect us from those blind spots and help us to make wise decisions.

  • Community Needs You

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

When I was in Basic Training, I learned very early on that I was no longer an individual. The Army has a way of beating that out of you. Any action that can be perceived as an individual action was met with swift punishment. We always did things as a team. The smallest unit was a group of two and your partner was called your “Battle Buddy”. My battle buddy was a guy named PVT Addison. We both learned early on that we had to rely on each other. I needed him, and he needed me.

The Church is like that.

I need community, and community needs me. There are blind spots that I can clear. There are bits of wisdom and insight that I can share to save someone pain and suffering. And then there are wonderful experiences that we can celebrate together!

You are the same. People need you. You are valuable. Jesus can and will use you.