Numbers… Who needs them.
In my humble opinion our culture, both religious and secular, is obsessed with numbers.
Tonight is my last night on earth as a 30 year old. Tomorrow dawns the first day as a person who is 31 and is ever so closer to the dreaded 40.
Turning 30 was a rough day for me. I felt like most of my goals for my life were unaccomplished. I remember sitting down and thinking “Shit, I am no longer in my twenties.” (I can think that because I am no longer a pastor.)
Coming to terms with the fact that I was no longer “young” but was solidly approaching middle age was a really difficult reality for me. I spent most of the day working my hardest not to think about being 30 but reality has a funny way of not changing just because you want it to. So as expected I spent the last 365 days being 30. Now as I stand on the cusp of turning 31 I am left feeling the same way. “Shit, I am about to be 31 and I haven’t accomplished any more goals than last year.”
These feelings are rather odd for me because for the majority of the year I care very little for goals and life ambitions. Truthfully, I have no idea what I want in my life other than a happy wife. I mean honestly, I cannot tell you what I want to be doing in a year or where I want to be living. I can only definitively say I want to be living life with Conner. So, it’s fascinating to me that on the cusp of every birthday I suddenly feel like I have missed out on so much or I that I am so unaccomplished, because for the rest of the year I don’t care.
I often equate these feelings to the same feelings I have when I haven’t studied for a test. In seminary I spent most of a semester playing games, hanging out with friends and trying my damnedest to score a basket on Isaiah. I never once spent a day worried about the final exam or even what my final grade would be. I always figured I would figure it all out the day before. Thus, inevitably I would spend the waning hours before each exam and paper deadline scrambling to complete whatever I could. Suddenly in the 12 hours before my exam or before a paper was due, I would find myself wishing I had put the work in all year long instead of here in the final moments.
Now when it comes to school work my approach, while not ideal, actually worked well for me. I passed all of my classes and usually averaged about a “B”, which while not a “good” grade for most people, was exactly what I was shooting for. This approach however fails when it comes to life goals because you can’t lose 30 pounds the day before your birthday. Well actually you could but I am pretty sure Conner would be mad at me for cutting off my left leg. You also can’t suddenly start your own business or switch careers the night before your birthday. Basically, wherever you are in life the day before your birthday is where you will be the day of your birthday.
I have often found in life that this mentality is not just limited to just me. In the short year I spent as an interim pastor I saw the majority of the church living into this mindset. Whenever we would have serious conversations about closing the church, attendance would spike and giving would double. For a brief period of time it would function like a normal healthy church. As time went on we would slow drift back into a normal way of operating and thus the conversation about closing would come around again.
I think most people, inside the church and out, hate putting the work in.
Since February 5th I have lost 34 lbs. It has been a struggle and I am currently plateaued and need to start switching things up a bit but nevertheless have been working at being healthy since February 5th. I started on February 5th because it was the day after the Super Bowl and it was a couple weeks after seeing Todd and getting a crazy boost of encouragement and motivation from him. Over the past 3 months I have had to relearn food habits, coping habits, stress resolution, exercise habits and constantly figure out what worked and what didn’t. It was hard work and its not nearly done. I have a long way to go before my goal but in order to get there I have to put the work in.
Everything that’s worth something requires work. When Conner and I started dating it required work. Our marriage requires work, losing weight requires work, even the next vacation I want to go on requires work. Sometimes in life we want the quick easy fixes to get us from point a to point b. We want the shortcuts that give us the desired results like a full church or paid off student loans. The reality is that quick fixes rarely teach us anything. Most lessons are learned from putting the hard work in.
The hard truth about my approach to seminary is that I didn’t retain a ton of information. Its abundantly clear whenever I speak to anyone who has any kind of Bible degree how much I don’t remember from seminary because I didn’t apply myself throughout the year. Cramming everything from a semester course into a 12-hour window is great for regurgitating information the next morning but is awful for remembering it months or years later.
So that is why for my 31st year on this earth I vow to do the following. 1) Not look for cheap, easy and quick fixes. 2) Put the hard work into my goals and continue to fight for them. 3) Have a better attitude about the hard work. 4) Be more content with where I am today and not wish away the day.