Stop Waiting for Perfection

I don’t like messy—both literally and metaphorically. It stresses me out when things go undone, when task lists aren’t checked off, and when there’s still lots to do. Heck, I even get stressed out about things that are meant for enjoyment—like how many books are piling up on my reading list or how much many shows are cramming their way into my Netflix queue. It’s a sickness, I know. 

For too long, I’ve treated most events in life as a problem that needed to be solved, a hurdle that needed to be jumped, or an obstacle that needed to be avoided. It’s as if there was a target of perfection, and one day I was going to hit the bullseye.

The conundum here, however, is that life isn’t like that. You’re never going to hit the bullsye. Life is, by nature, messy. You’re never going to get it exactly “right”, and that’s perfectly okay. Because if you do get it right, you’re either lying, or it’s all fake. Either way, that’s no fun for anyone. 

I wonder how much more fun life would be if we didn’t treat every day as a stepping stone to something else, but treated each day as its own solid rock to stand on. I wonder how much more rewarding life would be if we stopped waiting for things to be perfect before we embraced the beauty and the goodness of ordinary days. 

You’re likely never going to have the “dream life” you want—the perfect house, perfect spouse, perfect kids, perfect school, perfect car, perfect job, you name it. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. As long as you’re longing for perfection, you’re going to be disappointed. But what if perfection isn’t the goal, but authenticity is instead? 

Life is waiting for you to drop the act and start living in the messiness—the realness, the ordinariness. 

Embrace today, even in its imperfection. Life’s better when it’s messy. 

The Question to Ask Before Making Decisions

About a week ago, a friend called me and asked if I could do him a favor that involved giving up time I had already commited to something else. Everything in me wanted to say yes to help my friend, but I had a feeling that it would end up causing more stress than necessary. It was tough—I wanted to help him, but it also would affect other responsibilities. I had to make a decision. 

Life is filled with decisions. Small, insignificant decisions, and big, life-altering decisions. Decision-making is hard. And exhausting. 

Recently, I’ve started asking myself a simple question (which I orginally heard from Andy Stanley) that makes decision-making a lot easier: 

What’s the wise thing for me to do?

You might brush this off and think this is elementary advice, and that’s understandable. But before you do, let me ask you something: wouldn’t your greatest regret have been prevented had you asked this question? That night, that purchase, that person, that drink-too-many, that website. That regret. What if you before you dove headfirst into that irresponsible decision you had taken a deep breath, paused, and asked yourself, “What’s the wise thing for me to do?” 

Most of the time, you’re going to know the answer to this question right away. It won’t always be the most fun or convenient answer, but you’ll know. Other times, it’s not as clear. So what if you don’t know what the wise thing is? You’re in luck, because James—the younger half-brother of Jesus, mind you—penned this verse:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5 NLT) 

Did you catch that? God will give you wisdom. You don’t have to beg for it or pry it out of His hands; your Heavenly Father is abundantly generous with his wisdom. So don’t be afraid to ask. 

So today, what’s the wise thing for you to do?

How to Know You’re Following God’s Will

A few months ago, I had to make a big decision where I had to choose between two different paths. I was praying about it a lot and was continually asking God for a clear answer. But there was nothing. No response. At least if there was, I wasn’t wasn’t hearing it—and I was getting frustrated. 

I’ve spent a significant amount of time in my life worried about whether or not I was following “God’s will.” And in the times that I do feel like I’m following His will, I worry about what I have to do to stay there. 

Ultimately, that’s why I was so frustrated—I felt that I needed to make all of the right decisions in order to stay in God’s will, and one wrong decision certainly meant a life of misery, right

One day, I realized something: with this particular decision, and many other decisions, there was no wrong path to take. I was following Jesus, spending time in His word, and praying a lot about the decision. It’s not like I was trying to choose between something moral or immoral—simply option A or option B, two great things. 

Eventually, I felt like God was saying to me, “You can choose to do A or you can choose to do B, and either way it’ll be fine.” So, I made a decision. In retrospect, I see how God was guiding me through that decision all along, even though I didn’t fully see Him working at the time.

I’m realizing now that God doesn’t always give us “yes” or “no” answers. He doesn’t make our decisions for us. But when we’re following Jesus, and when we’re in step with the Spirit, the decisions we make will reflect God’s heart. As believers, we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and as a result, the Holy Sprit guides our decisions. 
 
Stay in step with the Spirit. Read God’s Word daily. Pray about everything. When you do, whether you realize it or not, you’ll be following God’s will for your life. 

When You’re Doing Too Many Good Things

For a while now, I’ve struggled with a particular temptation, and it’s likely not what you think. It’s a temptation that a lot of Christians actually brag about, and it easily disguises itself as holy. It’s the temptation to do too many good things. 

I don’t know about you, but I regularly have guilty feelings of not doing enough. Am I serving enough? Am I loving enough? Am I exercising enough? Am I giving enough? Am I reading enough? Am I good enough?

There’s nothing wrong with those questions, and you should be asking them, but the problem is that we’re so afraid to answer “yes” to them. Often, we conclude that we’re not doing enough, and a false guilt overtakes us. This false guilt then causes us to do more and more to remedy this situation, only to find ourselves spiraling towards burnout.  In our pursuit of more, we often end up doing a lot less of the things that matter. 

I’ve witnessed in myself and others how a pursuit of “more” ends up making us feel empty. We find ourselves so busy “doing good” that we ignore our health, our friends, our family—and even our Heavenly Father. 

Whenever I find myself getting overwhelmed by the temptation to do “more”, I end up coming back to this passage in Scripture: 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Unforced rhythms of grace. Living freely and lightly.

I don’t know about you, but in this season of my life that’s what I desperately need. Unforced rhythms filled with grace. I don’t need more, I need less. And that’s okay. Jesus is okay with that, I’m learning. It doesn’t make you or I bad Christians to acknowledge that we need might to to step away from some things, people, and projects for season to relearn these rhythms of grace.

I hope this season for you is full of grace and unforced rhythms, and I hope, like me, you’ll begin to rediscover your faith and your soul in the process. 

Your Flaws Aren’t Fatal

Six-year-olds are not nearly as self-conscious as 16-year-olds or 26-year-olds. Have you noticed it’s a lot harder to make friends as an adult than as a kid? That’s likely because at some point in adolescence we learn to feel something that we aren’t born with: shame

Shame is the greatest roadblock on the path to successful relationships. At some point we begin believing we have the worst flaws; that we need to fix ourselves because we’re horribly, horribly, broken. So we hide. We don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable with anyone, afraid of what they might think or afraid they might leave—because sometimes the pain of rejection can feel worse than isolation. 

I want to tell you something that maybe you’ve never heard before, but I hope these words sink deeply into your soul: your flaws aren’t fatal. 

I wonder how often we’re missing out on life-giving relationships because we secretly believe we’re not good for people. We secretly believe that the stuff in our past that we’ve moved on from and been forgiven of is still too dark for anyone else to handle. 

I think most people who read this blog know and understand that God loves them. I’ve found, however, that God often reveals His love most to me through other people, and maybe that’s true for you too. And I think you need to know that there are other people who will love you if you let them in. 

You aren’t too far gone.
You aren’t too bad. 
You’re not too much to handle.
You aren’t unlovable or irredeemable. 
You aren’t cut off from hope. 

Your flaws aren’t fatal. 

What It Means to Be a Successful Person

I’m not a morning person. 

For a while, I’ve really tried to change this. I repeatedly see articles about how the most successful people in the world all fumbled out of bed before 5am. Feeling the guilt of sleeping to a more reasonable hour, I force myself to wake up early. For a while, it works. But eventually I crash hard and there’s debris everywhere. Because I’m just not a morning person. 

So why did I make myself suffer through early mornings when it was completely unnecessary? Because of that elusive idea of “success”—that if famous CEOs are doing it, then I have to.

Then I began to ask myself an interesting question: “Who gets to define success, and why do I think only those people are successful?”

As I look around at my circle of friends, the people I think are most successful are the ones who are happy and devoted in their jobs even though it’s not making them famous. They’re the ones who come home every night to a family that can’t wait to see them. They’re the ones who invest in the lives of others—one by one, person by person. They’re the ones who pour their talents into their local church community, no matter how unromantic or how prestigious it is.

One day—hopefully a long, long time from now—you and I will be gone. And you know what? Nobody is going to give a rip about your car or your house or whether or not you made a lot of money. If you do it right, they’re going to talk about how you gave, served, and loved—how you made the world a better place with your presence. They’ll talk about how they always knew that you loved them, and they’ll talk about how much they love you. And that, friends, is what I think it means to be successful. 

“I used to be afraid I wouldn’t make enough money; now I’m afraid I won’t make enough difference.” —Bob Goff

No One Else Can Play Your Part

I don’t want to be famous.

I’m not talking about Hollywood, People Magazine famous; that’s another thing entirely. I’m referring to this odd new phenomenon of being “Christian-famous.” It seems today that everyone wants to have a brand for themselves, speak at elusive conferences and have people clamoring for their ideas, and write an amazing book that’ll make them the next Bob Goff (who I love and admire greatly, by the way.)

Truthfully, I used to want that. I don’t know what shifted and how or where, but my attitude towards these things are much different than they used to be. I suppose it’s because I’ve seen how many people have neglected their friends, spouses, kids, and church family all in the name of crafting their own personal brand to tell the world about how awesome their life is. 

I don’t want this to come off as cynical, of course—there’s certainly a place for all of those things and there are a lot of “Christian-famous” people making a huge impact on the world, and I’m so grateful for them. I’ve just come to the conclusion that I don’t have to be one of those people. 

Recently, I was reading a book in which the author wrote about her grandmother who was about to pass away. She said her grandmother was always asking her how her relationship with God was and what she was learning in her Bible reading. She never cared whether they went to good colleges, made a lot of money, or wrote a best-selling book—at the end of the day, all she cared about was knowing her kids and grandkids trusted Christ with their entire lives. I think that’s so beautiful. 

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that he wanted Apple to “put a dent in the universe.” I don’t know if that’s best for everyone, though. I think there’s something beautiful about a community of people, living ordinary lives, raising families, making their part of the world a better place, and writing heartfelt blog posts whether or not they have a significant audience. There’s something amazing, and holy perhaps, about people going to church together every weekend, serving together and showing up for their community, whatever that may look like. 

You have a significant part to play in the world, friend. For some people, that part may include writing a book, traveling the world, and having influence. For others, it may mean being in the background, serving our churches without fanfare, and loving the people we’ve been given to love. 

You have a part to play, and no one else can play it. So play your heart out. 

How to Stop Being Afraid of Rejection

When I was in 5th grade, there was this cute girl in my class that I really liked. One day on the playground, I had a friend ask for me if she wanted to be my girlfriend—this was an unspoken 5th grade rule after all, you can’t just ask her yourself. It was a humid, sunny day right before the end of the school year. We were playing kickball on the playground, and my friend went over to ask her the big question. You know that uncomfortable feeling when you know other people are talking about you? Yeeeeah. After a few seconds, I saw my friend walking back to me—slowly—head hanging low.

She said no.

I wish I could tell you that this was the first and last time I’ve ever felt rejection. But you know that’s not true.

We experience it early in life—getting picked last in gym class, not getting to sit with the “cool kids” in the cafeteria, or maybe for some your own family rejected you as a child. Later on, it gets worse. You didn’t get into the school you wanted to. You got turned down for a job again. You can’t seem to ever get a date. Your co-workers don’t seem to like you. You’re constantly passed over for opportunities. Someone you thought you could trust turned their back on you.

I think you get it.

And so we do two very dangerous things: we worry about being rejected, and we work really hard to be accepted.

When was the last time you lost sleep over whether or not someone liked you? Have you ever spent a ridiculous amount of money or gone into debt so people would think you’ve got it all together? What about those times you feel the need to send emails late at night so your boss will approve of you? (Did that one hurt a little?)  

In John 6:37, Jesus said, “Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.”

Jesus has accepted you. Jesus loves you. He’s for you.

You don’t have to worry about being rejected by people because you’ve already been accepted by Jesus.

I want you to do something a little silly. I want you to repeat that out loud: “I don’t have to worry about being rejected by people because I’ve already been accepted by Jesus.” Go on. Say it. 

I hope you’ll live abundantly and freely today, knowing you’re accepted by Jesus.
 

Busyness, Pride, and Sabbath

“Busy.”

That’s been my response to the question “how are you?” a lot lately. For a little while, I was proud of that. I would almost be bragging about how busy I am. I’m not the only one who does this, of course. So many people I know seem to get this rush or “high” from the idea of having a full schedule, of constantly having their attention consumed by something. 

Let’s just go ahead and get something out of the way: this is not about your work ethic. Busyness ≠ hard work, and hard work ≠ busyness. You can work really hard without being consumed by busyness. 

Why do you and I need people to think we’re constantly busy? Why are we secretly afraid of telling people when we actually get the amount of sleep we’re supposed to and that we work normal hours? 

Pride. 

Pride says that our meaning comes from what we achieve.
The Gospel says that our meaning comes from what Jesus achieved. 

This is why the Sabbath is so important and God commanded it (Deuteronomy 5:12). Sabbath tells us to take a day from achieving and focus our attention solely on trusting

The Sabbath wasn’t created to simply be a day off. The Sabbath was created and commanded to remind us that there is a great, big God in charge of the universe who is able to keep it running without us. The Sabbath was created to teach us to trust. 

Maybe that’s what you need. A day where you choose to be still and acknowledge God is in charge of the universe and you are not. A day where you focus on believing that your value comes solely from Him.

Sure, you’re still going to have a lot of things on your schedule, but maybe you’ll discover a new freedom to say “no” to things because you won’t be trying so hard to prove yourself anymore. 

Small Miracles

At some point, we begin to devote our lives to the big and monumental when I believe God works often in the small and the insignificant. 

If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss how extraordinary the everyday really is. 

A beautiful sunrise.

A hug from a stranger. 

Coffee with a friend. 

Laughter at a funny joke.

Every single day is made up of small moments that feel like miracles.

If you feel hopeless or discouraged, I hope you see that today: a thousand little moments that make up a million small miracles.

Look for the miracles today, friends. They’re there, I promise.