I can remember when reality broke for me. I was sitting in my kitchen, praying or maybe arguing with God, I can’t remember. It just dawned on me, “My dream is not going to happen, is it?” My dream was linear, being a professional youth pastor for thirty years was supposed translate to making a living as an in demand speaker and trainer. Now, two years removed from those ideas, I am still processing my “reality”. I can’t be what I was and I’m not becoming what I thought I’d be. I am career nomad.
I accepted a position as an assistant maintenance a few months after I left my last church. I was there for a year. For a little over a year I’ve been delivering HVAC equipment and just last week I gave them my two weeks notice.
I can look at reality two ways.
The reality is, I have to settle down, think about retirement and be be miserable in whatever job I can get.
The reality is, I’m not built for, wired for, created for or called to a job that makes me miserable.
So, it’s back to hustle and grind.
I grew up in the age of “go to college, get job, work that job for 30 years, retire and then die.” I used to think someone who “could not keep a job” was a just a malcontent, had authority issue or a drug problem. This may be true in a minority of cases, but not of me and not of most people. Most people, I believe, who are going from job to job, are looking for their sweet spot. They want to do something with meaning and purpose. This is certainly my goal.
I have to accept the realty that I may never have a long term career again, that having a job for 1-3 years might my be my new life, and I have to embrace that.
I recently read an article called Good Leaders Know They Can’t Fight Reality. The author, Scott Edinger, gives three ways leaders can look at realty that can help anyone who’s having a moment of cognitive dissonance with where they are in life.
Accepting the Results
If you’re a youth worker and you blame anything and everyone on why an outreach didn’t work or why your youth ministry isn’t growing, you’ll never be able to change things. You have to take responsibility for the decisions made, or not made, that have given you the results you are currently looking at.
The results of not having a college degree, not making the right connection, not keeping job long term, whatever, are on me. I have to accept the results of my life lived to this point.
I could never accept a youth ministry that could not grow. I could never accept the circumstances that were barriers to growth because I believed acceptance meant giving up. If you are in small church of a 100 people and have 15-20 teens showing up for youth group each week, you are above average. There are things you have to accept,
- your budget is this much
- your demographics are this
- your leadership is that
You have little to no control over these things. Accepting your circumstances, what is, does not mean you cannot have faith for change; what it does mean is that you have to accept what is in order to change. Scott aptly puts it this way,
acceptance gives you power to move forward in the most effective way possible instead of waging a futile battle against circumstances you can’t control.Scott Edinger, HBR
You are where you are, you are who you are but all things are under God’s control. Work within the reality of what is not what should be and you’ll be healthier for it.
Accepting Your Failings and The Failings of Others
I can remember being mad at everyone, My Pastor, the church, my leaders were all “holding the church back” from being what it could be. Change that sentence to “holding me back” and you have a true ego-manic and you have one mentally mess-up youth pastor, which, for a while, I was.
I have a hard time with failing, I take my own failings very personally.
I should be better.
I should be more.
I should be over this.
And on and on this mantra repeats itself throughout my life.
Acceptance is about acknowledging the facts and letting go of the time, effort, and energy wasted in the fight against reality.Scott Edinger, HBR
I’ve wasted a lot of energy on trying to change things that were, essentially, unchangeable. It was a misuse of time and energy. I would try to keep people on my team, hoping I could change them, I could not. I did get better at letting people go into another ministry they would be better at and that was a much more healthier approach to the reality of that person not fitting.
I have to accept that my standards may be too high for myself or the organizations I work. We’re all human and flawed. I have to accept that I am picky, post youth ministry, about who I want to be and how I want to use the gifts God’s given me and to whom should I employ these gifts.
I have to accept my personal and career realties by faith, it’s the only way I can move forward, find a health mental life and, maybe, God willing, find a second career I can thrive in.
If I can help you navigate your life or ministry realities, check out my coaching program.