Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sharing my dad.

Today I was missing my family, and as I spent some time thinking about them and praying for them I was inspired to start a little series of posts in their honor. I realized today as I talked to God about my family members, that each one of them has taught me about different aspects of who HE is.

So I'll start with my Dad.

My Dad is a teacher and football coach at Kingwood High School, in a suburb of Houston, TX. He started out teaching and coaching right out of college, then went full time into ministry with Young Life for something like 20 years, and has only recently gone back to teaching and coaching in the last couple of years. The reason I'm telling you what my dad does for a living is because you can learn something important about him by knowing what he does: he's got a huge heart for high school kids. Such a huge heart for them that he's basically been in high school his whole life.

I've always admired my dad's heart for people. All people, really. I'm really not sure if I've ever seen a better example than he is of what it looks like to love like Jesus. I think a lot of the reason for that is because he has such a heart for the lost. Most parents like to make sure their kids are staying away from "those people" ... you know the people I'm talking about. The ones your mom wouldn't let you hang out with, and if she heard you were seen with them, you were grounded. My dad, though, has asked me on multiple occasions if I'm spending just as much time with people who need Jesus as I am with people who already know him.

How many times have your parents called and said, "Hey, how many heathens have you hung out with this week? None? Oh, you should probably get on that."

When I was in high school my dad was on Young Life staff. He led the YL club I attended every Monday night for four years, and he met weekly with most of my guy friends. Basically, I went to high school with my dad. And I think at times that got on my nerves (as it would any teenager). At times I just wanted to blend in and know that my dad didn't know every single thing about every single person I ever hung out with. Sometimes I wanted to walk into the lunch room and not see my dad sitting at the next table with a bunch of my friends. Haha.

But one day when I was probably sixteen I had a conversation with a friend who changed my perspective on my dad forever. This friend of mine, she had a pretty broken home life. Her dad had cheated on her mom and left their family, and as you can imagine it was just a hard season for her and her mom and siblings. One day she and I had been at my house... we got in the car to leave, and I guess my dad had just done something goofy that we were laughing about. And she said, "I love your dad. I wish he was my dad."

Man, those two sentences hit me pretty hard. All I could say back was, "Well, I'd love to share him with you."

And at the time I think it just seemed like the right response to her comment about my dad. But looking back, what I said to her was pretty profound. I don't think I realized when those words came out of my mouth what I was learning at that moment. In fact, I don't think I learned it until much later.

When I was seventeen, my best friend's dad died. Her dad also happened to be my dad's best friend. It was a pretty hard time for all of us... and later that year, my friend who had lost her dad came to live with my family. Because she needed a dad, and I had one that I could share with her. Her living with us didn't last long and it's kind of a long story how she ended up leaving, but to this day she would tell you that if there's any man in her life who she still looks at as a father figure, it's my dad. In fact, she told me that just last week. I love that though she probably doesn't take advantage of it often, he would be there for her if ever she needed him. I love that I get to share my dad with her.

My dad has taught me not only how to love like Jesus, but how to share the love of Jesus. And he's taught me how to share Jesus simply by being a dad that I want to share with other people.

I was reminded of that this morning as I sat in church thinking about how I miss him, and how it's about to be football season. See, what happens to football coaches' families during football season is this: football wives and football children become football widows and football orphans. (OK, so that might be a harsh term. But let's just go with it for the sake of making a point) From August to November, Dad's a pretty busy guy. School all day, practices in the afternoons and evenings, freshman games on Thursdays, varsity games on Fridays. Film watching and coaches meetings on the weekends. And then it starts all over! Needless to say, Dad and I play a lot of phone tag during the fall.

But this morning I thought, "Gosh, so many high school kids get to be so blessed by my dad. They get to be so loved on. They get to experience a love that's bigger than they ever imagined, because my Dad loves to love on people with the love of Jesus. I'm glad I get to share him with them."

And then I started thinking about how this should be the same way we feel about God. We should have the mentality of, "I can't wait to share my Dad with everyone I encounter. I can't wait for them to experience the love He has to give."

That's essentially what Jesus did. Whether it was the religious, the lost, the blind, the sick, the rich, the poor, Jews, Gentiles, men, women... I feel like Jesus, no matter who it was he was interacting with, just wanted to ask people, "Do you know who my Dad is? I want to share him with you."

I love that. I love that I have an earthly Dad who I've always enjoyed sharing with other people. And I love that no matter what our earthly dads our like, we all share a Heavenly Dad who we get to share with others.

That is a gift.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My story isn't about me. Ouch.

I've been talking a lot about stories lately. I just love a good story... who doesn't love a good story? You know, the kind that has you up late at night because you can't put a book down and sleep until you know what happens. Like in any Harry Potter books... as soon as Voldemort is on the scene, you're not sleeping til it's over. Or the kind of movie that has you on the edge of your seat in a theater, adrenaline pumping or tears flowing. Or the kind of story that your hilarious friend tells in a room full of people, where you know that it doesn't matter what the story is about, the way he or she tells it will have you rolling with laughter. My friend from high school, Grace, has that ability. I always tell her she missed her calling — she's supposed to be doing stand up comedy.

I think it's in our human nature to crave a good story. I think it's also in our human nature to desire to live a good story.

But what does that mean? What exactly makes a "good story?"

I like to get lost in a good book or watch a good movie because during that time you immerse yourself in another world. It's an escape, in a sense. A good story by my own definition makes me feel for the characters in it as if I were living it with them. There's laughter and there's conflict and there's emotion. Life happens in a good story.

I wonder if we live those kinds of stories. The kind that takes people to another place. A place they want to be... a story they want to experience for themselves.

Don Miller defines a good story in "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" as a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

What do we want? And what kinds of conflict do we have to overcome to get it?

It's funny how every good story in literature and in film usually has an element of love in it. Almost always, the conflict at hand is resolved in an act of love. It doesn't necessarily have to be romantic love, it could be a love between a parent and child, or just the love of a friendship. But it seems like most stories that we deem "good stories" or even "great stories" are in some form or fashion, a love story. We crave that as human beings... and I think we were designed that way for a reason.

So, if we know conflict will make our stories great, and if we know love will be not only something we crave but something we need along the way... then I think we're in a great place to begin our good story.

And I think up until this summer, I had those two things down for the most part. I've seen enough conflict, enough adversity in my life to understand first of all that it's inevitable, and second of all that the old saying is true... it does build our characters, shape us into a different person in the end than we were in the beginning, and probably make us a little stronger. And, again, in a good story we usually see that happen to characters. And there's been a love relationship along the way that's held my hand through it all — my relationship with Jesus. And on top of that, He's given me love relationships with other people that have showed me bits of HIS character... unconditional love and incredible wisdom of a great earthly Dad, the love of earnest prayer and constant encouragement from my Mom, the love of friends and sisters that have showed me grace over and over, and have taught me the power of community, and, most recently, he's given me a romantic love relationship with my best friend, who consistently leads and challenges me in my faith.

So by those two standards, overcoming conflict and being in love in every sense of the word, up until this last month or so I would say that this year, I've been living a great story. And I really do believe that I still am — but here's the kicker. The lesson God's been teaching me about my story this summer: my story isn't about me.

WHAT!? I was a little bit offended when He first told me this. MY story... isn't about ME? Come on, God. Are you sure? ... Turns out He is.

See, the world tells us that this life is about us. Especially in America. Do what YOU want. Life on YOUR terms. American dream. And you know, I don't think that's all bad. I know I tend to usually lean to the "radically liberal hippy" side of things, slamming the American Dream mentality. And I do have some strong opinions about how we don't love on the needy enough, and one day I do want to do a social experiment and just go live on the streets with some homeless friends and see how it feels. (Sorry if you're reading this, Mom... I know that just made you very nervous.) But I know there are people who make millions of dollars and give much of that away for the kingdom, so I know it's not all bad. But I do also believe that a majority of it is... because we're about living our own great stories. Everyone else is just an accessory to our story.

In the season of life I'm in right now, the world tells me that in less than a year I'm going to graduate college and I should pursue a career and chase a dream, and maybe along the way find a husband and have some babies and raise them to lather, rinse and repeat. So as all my friends and I approach our senior year, with our whole adult lives ahead of us, we're taught to be selfish. We're taught that from here on out we're on our own and it's all about us.

Whoa... time out. "We're on our own and it's all about us." That's what the world says. But what the WORD says is the opposite. We're not on our own, and it's certainly not about us. Right? Jesus said that several different times in several different ways.

So I've been wrestling with that lately, because I feel God calling me to a story and a purpose that I may have a role in, but it's certainly not all about me. It's so much bigger than me. And I want to be obedient to that, and I know there is patience involved in waiting on God to show me the who, what, when, where, why and how.

I've been frustrated at times this summer. I've been a little bit fearful and selfish, but in that He's teaching me that seeking His face is so much more important than seeking His answers.

So last week, I had to surrender my whole story to Him. And it hurt a little bit. But our stories aren't about us... they're about glorifying Him. So I told him something like this...

"Lord, I want to tell you today that though I've been selfish lately, I'm still on board. I know you're good, and I know whatever you have for me is going to be good. I'm going to stop searching for answers to all of my unknowns and just start searching for you. I know you'll provide all that I need. I know that you're a good father. I know that you love me. I know that you want to make my story great... and I know that the only way it will truly be great is if I step out of the spotlight and allow you to step in."

... and nothing spectacular has happened yet. But it will. Oh, friends... it will. And I can't wait to share it with you.