Falling Behind

If I’m being brutally honest with myself, I feel like I’m behind. I’m 23, have yet to be in a relationship lasting longer than seven months, I don’t have a full time job, and I am living in the spare bedroom of my parents house. To some, you may agree, I am behind. To others, I might be right where you were or are. But as I look at myself, feeling as if I’m failing, feeling as if I’m behind, and working so hard to catch up with everyone else my age, I realize, I’m not behind at all.

You may think I’m contradicting myself since I just told you I feel behind, but feeling behind and being behind are two completely different things. In college, I was always at the front of life. I felt I had a handle on my classes, my work, my friends, etc. I was a leader, a go-getter, on the fast track to a successful career. At the time, I felt life was pretty well figured out. I got the internship I wanted after college and started the independent lifestyle by moving out on my own to a new state with nothing but God, my belongings and a whole lot of hope. Yet fast forward a year and a half and here I am, back with my parents working part time in a job that has nothing to do with my degree.

I often ask myself how this happened. How did I go from being so driven and so set on goals to now feeling like I’ve lost it all. One word I’ve come to find sums it up pretty well. Fear. I wanted the next thing but I was afraid of doing the wrong thing. I was in an internship and wanted a full-time job so I jumped ship at the first full-time job offered to me, knowing the market was competitive and fearing no other jobs would be offered my way. I wanted a relationship so I dove deep and allowed a guy to become my identity, fearing this was the best I could get, yet knowing full well he wasn’t the best guy for me. I wanted acceptance and titles, so I gave every free minute I had to every organization I could. I continually strove for the next best thing, never relishing in the moments I had, always fearful I would let someone down if I simply told them no or did what was best for myself.

This realization was partly why I wrote last weeks blog which you can find here. But I also believe it’s why I’m floundering so hard right now trying to figure my life out. The reality of it is, I loved the internship I was doing. It was in my career field, in the exact department I wanted to work in. I knew the consequences of leaving included not being able to use those people as references, yet; I let the fear of failure and the fear of the future get the best of me.

Now, I wake up every day and go to a job that although has its perks, is not my full-time career goal. As much as I would like to go back to what I love doing, there’s a part of me that stays where I’m at because I’m fearful of the failure again. The failure of a broken heart. The failure of a wrong career choice. The failure of letting people down. But as I think of these failures I’m reminded of one of my favorite Francis Chan quotes:

Our Greatest Fear

The reality of it is, what matters in this life, what really truly matters, is not at what age I get married, or what career I have, but what impact I make for Christ in the lives of those around me. Micah 6:8 states, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

If I never get married, work a mundane job or never reach true financial wealth, but live every day acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God then I will NEVER be behind. By the world’s standards, maybe I will be, but the world’s standards stopped defining me the second I became a Child of God.

As always, this is easier said than done. It’s the reason I have to write it down and remind myself, and it’s the reason the Bible has many repeated phrases throughout. But the more we remind ourselves, the more we start to apply it and the more we start to believe it.

In conclusion, let me ask you a question — Who’s standards are you living by? Are you measuring yourself up to other people and their successes in life, or are you engaging with God’s word and fulfilling what it’s asking you to do? At the end of the day, there is no correct measure of success but rather individual stories taking unique routes to wherever God has designed them to be.

Stop judging yourself. Stop comparing yourself. And start living the life God has uniquely designated for you.

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Embrace Today

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

During my college years, one of my bosses challenged us with this phrase. Asked us what it meant to “be all there,” at the time my answer was easy, enjoy college. Don’t wish for the next stage of life, just enjoy where I was at that day. But as I’ve graduated and spent a couple years in the workforce, I’ve come to realize just how important this phrase really is.

“Wherever you are, be all there.” 

Every day I get up and go to work. At that time I have a choice to make, I can drag my feet through the day and wish I were working full-time in my desired career field, or I can “be all there” and embrace the people I’m surrounded with and the job I have right now. I can choose to be annoyed by the elementary kids who don’t behave, or I can choose to “be all there” and listen to their stories, laugh at their jokes, give them hugs, and make them feel loved. When I go to my afternoon coaching or my high school youth group, I can choose to put up with the girls knowing it’s an extra paycheck or a good deed to do, or I can be a listening ear, an encouragement, an older sister type mentor, or whatever it is they need. I can “be all there.”

Too often, I hear people (my self included) wishing to time travel to some other stage of life. They wish to go back to the good old days where their family was all together around the kitchen table, or where their college friends were right down the hall. They wish to fly to the future, having their spouse, career, or own family all figured out. Some wish for retirement or a new location. Whatever it is you find yourself wishing for, I challenge you to ask yourself — In the midst of my wishing, am I still “all here.”

You see, when we wish for the future or the past we often neglect the present. We don’t see the neighbors, students, patients, or others right in front of us. We fail to realize who we are right now is needed right here right now. Maybe my future spouse won’t come along for another few years, or maybe not at all, but if I neglect my opportunity to love on the elementary kids I see every day and the volleyball girls and youth group girls I have the chance to lead, then I’m wasting my time. If every Sunday I’m not “all there” with those girls, then I’m depriving them of the opportunity to have a leader who is fully invested in their lives.

Let me take this one step further, when “being all there” that means ALL: mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. This doesn’t mean being with someone and being on your phone wishing you were with someone else. This doesn’t mean being at church but thinking about the pile of work sitting on your desk at home. This doesn’t mean showing up at your kids soccer game but wishing you were at home with a good book. No, this means be engaged, be involved, be THERE. 

The other day, I had my volleyball team over for an end of the season cookout. Yes the 7th graders are crazy, but I love those girls. As they were all hanging out in the living room, my mom pointed out something wonderful — all nine girls were laughing, talking, and enjoying each others company WITHOUT any phones. Not one. It was such a refreshing sight to see these girls being able to have real conversations and to know they were “all there.”

These days, I think America could use to be a little more “there.” Put the phone down. Listen to the conversation. Better yet, turn the phone off for a while. Understand the emails will get answered in time, the social media world will survive without an extra like or favorite, but kids can’t go with out a present parent or teacher or coach. Go out with a group of friends and be there, be an invested friend not a distracted one. Go to a kids sporting event and be there, not just physically, but mentally, without the work phone.

When we start being where we are, not the future, not the past, not in the technological world, but right here right now with those who are with us in this moment, imagine the impact we could have. Imagine the problems that would dissipate when we started being fully present in the lives we lead. So…

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot