1996 was a big year for me. I went to the Bahamas, got engaged, and graduated from college. I got married, moved to New York City, and started my first pastorate. When I think back on who I was then, I want to just shake my head and laugh. The key sentence in the first chapter of my upcoming book sums it up, “I am not who I used to be.”
To commemorate how I’ve changed in the past 15 years, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts about my personal transformation. In the coming months, I'll make lists about how I’ve changed as a theologian, as a husband, and as a pastor. But to get things started, I thought I’d write about how I’ve changed in general, as a person.
So, here are 15 statements that are true of me now, but I couldn’t have said about myself in 1996.
1. I don’t bite my fingernails.
I used to bite my nails a lot. During games. While I drove. But then, a couple of years ago, I got very sick while traveling in Florida. It was miserable. I was too sick to bite my nails. And I haven’t bitten them since.
2. I take money seriously and have an actual plan for it.
If I could tell the me of 1996 anything, it would probably be to take the money stuff seriously and to get it figured out as soon as possible. I can’t believe how much money I’ve wasted over the years. Two things have made a huge difference - the weekly budget lunch with Vanessa and Dave Ramsey.
3. I am authentic.
I grew up in a family and church culture where faking it was the norm. And then I married a person who is relentlessly real. Thanks to her, I’ve learned that it is better - and essential - for me to take off my mask and let people see the real me. Yikes.
4. I have a problem with anxiety.
So, speaking of authenticity, I can now admit that I get this unexplained, uncomfortable, unwelcome pain around my heart. I’ve blogged about it before, and I’ve been doing some things to combat it - giving up caffeine, exercising, and more - but I think being able to admit honestly that it is something I struggle with is a huge first step to getting better.
5. I can make it in the real world.
The summer after I graduated from college was miserable. I bounced from job to job, unable to find a place where I fit. When that kind of thing happens, you begin to wonder if you can make it in the real world. Then I started pastoring my first church, and making it in the marketplace was no longer a concern. Until we started Vintage. 6 years into being a bi-vocational pastor, I now know that I have skills and abilities that translate in the real world.
6. I care less about politics and more about people.
I used to think of politics as life or death, the future of the country and the world hangs in the balance. People on the other side of aisle are to be opposed and defeated. Now, I think of politics as a sport. I still root for my team to win, but I care much more about civility and understand than victory.
7. I embrace mystery.
I don’t have to have it all figured out. How liberating is that?
8. I try to listen more.
When I worked at a church in Boston several years ago, I used to write a note to myself on top the agenda for each interminably long meeting I had to attend - “Don’t interrupt.” I’ve learned that it’s far better to, in Francis Schaeffer’s words, earn the right to be heard, than to simply be the one who talks the most or the loudest.
9. I exercise.
Seriously. Three or four times a week. This might be the craziest thing about me that has changed over the past 15 years.
10. I intentionally sabbath.
Sundays are the highlight of my week: up early for some alone time with God, Vintage, lunch with friends, nap, watching football or playing the Wii with Vin, family TV time, some alone time with Vanessa. This is what heaven is like, right?
11. I parent.
Three times, in the past decade and a half, when driving to either the hospital or the courthouse, I sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” Three times I was right.
12. I value friendship.
It’s not that I didn’t value friendship 15 years ago. It’s more that I didn’t realize how much I should value friendship. Having a few guys that get me and love me. I’ve come to realize that it is a rare gift.
13. I wear my goatee short.
In 1996, my goatee rivaled that of Alexi Lalas. I rocked the long, red face mullet. 15 years later, it’s high and tight, as it should be.
14. I don’t run from conflict.
I don’t like conflict, but I am much less afraid of it. Just when I think I’ve seen it all in church conflict, something new happens. I’ve learned over the years that ignoring it and hoping it goes away doesn’t work. The best way to deal with it is honestly, humbly, and head-on.
15. I have tattoos.
Who would have guessed that.