Of all the posts so far in this series, this is the most personal one because it’s one of the questions I have struggled with the most in recent years. So if you have been reading along, this post will feel a bit different than the rest because I want to tell you about my journey and challenge you with this question, is what you “do” who you are?
For years, my good friend, mentor and all-around amazing human Randy Carter has, on a fairly regular basis, asked me the following question whenever we talk – “How’s your heart?“
This is the first question he asked me when I lost my job as a Youth Pastor back in June 2019. He was also not the only one to ask me that question, but whenever I was asked, I always replied with the same answer: “Though I don’t like or agree with the situation, my heart has been at peace.“
This response caught a lot of people off guard because the reality is that people expected me to be angry, frustrated and frankly pissed off. Because I had lost my identity, my job, my title and my influence. From the world’s perspective, I lost everything. I had every right to be negative and kick up a fuss on my way out the door. But that’s not how I felt, and it’s not where my heart was. Were there bad days? Of course, but they didn’t change how I felt.
Now I didn’t just arrive at a place of peace all at once, God had been teaching me something for a few years now, but I only started to put it together that summer when I lost my job. The peace I felt was rooted in the fact that something more than my job defined me. My success and identity were found in something more than my job, title or influence. I found the truth rooted in three stories.
The Twins – I was a person (and sometimes still am) who liked to be in control. I am not a control freak, but when you have been in ministry/youth ministry, as long as I have been, you learn how to control the chaos, or it will overwhelm you. The challenge is that when things are outside your control, it can drive you mad. My twins were born at 26 weeks, and everything about those early days was 100% outside my control. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help them. All I could do was surrender my control to God. Only He could be their provider. When the girls were finally brought home and relatively free from medical drama, I realized God had solved my control problem by giving me two amazing daughters who were a constant reminder that I was not in control, but God was our provider.
Family First – Over the last few years, God has been realigning my priorities to the new realities of my world. My wife and I were married for thirteen years and had a good rhythm before these two little people entered our world, and everything changed. It wasn’t enough to be home more; I had to be “present.” Not just a passive member of my house but actually present in my world. This meant I had to say no to things, good things, and Godly ministry things because my first calling was not my job (church-paid ministry); it was to my family.
I’m a Christian – A few years ago, I asked myself, “am I just a professional Christian?”. I’ve been in paid ministry since I was eighteen and only became a Christian at fourteen. This has been all I have ever known, and in 2018/2019, I was wrestling with work, life and ministry. I couldn’t find a balance or the lines in my life. I ended up asking myself: “If I wasn’t a pastor, would I still be a Christian?”. The immediate answer was YES… but it took several months to work out in my heart. Would just attending church and serving to be enough for me? What’s my calling? What’s my ministry? What defines? The answer was point #2 – Family First.
The peace in my heart came about slowly through this journey. It has come about by asking tough questions about life, love, and faith. I know who I am, what I believe, what my calling is and where my priorities are. The result of this process was coming to an understanding that what I “did” was not who I was.
Being a Pastor was one of the greatest honours of my life. I loved working for the church and getting paid to do what I loved, but my identity was not found in those things. I took a lot of heat for saying no to “good things,” “Godly things.” But my job, my role and my reputation didn’t define me… Jesus did. I love Jesus, love my family and will always place family over all things. It’s my first calling, not because I’m some super human; it’s actually an exercise in trust. Will I trust that Jesus is enough for me, that He is more important than my job, role or reputation.
What you “do” is not “who” you are
As primary leaders, I think we can too easily get caught up in our jobs, roles and reputations. The world also tells us that young bucks are biting at our heels to take our places. So we push harder, work more, and seek more success, and for many of us, the pressure of it all causes us to lose sight of our identity. We begin to believe that what I do “IS” who I am, but that is the great lie of the modern world.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” – 1 John 3:1
This week there is only one question to think about, is what you “do” who you are?
Take some time to explore today’s question. You can do this any way you want but if you want a guide to follow, consider the following steps.
- Find/create some space to be still.
- Pray about the question.
- Write down all your priorities.
- The things that make you tick and get up in the morning.
- Number them based on what you/others think is the most important. Start with #1 as the MOST IMPORTANT and then go until everything has a number.
- Pause and pray about the question.
- Now circle five priorities you think should be the most important in your world.
- Pause and pray about the question.
- Now check off what you think God would say are the five most important things in your world.
Sit on the discovery for a few days. Pray about it when it comes to mind, and consider asking someone you trust to pray with you. After a few days, take some time to ask and answer the question… is what you “do” “who are you”?