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Monday, April 30, 2018

I Never Expected to Struggle with ‘Success’

The first part of this post was written in January:

It’s ridiculous to even type the title, because the truth is there is still a copious amount of stuff in my life that feels like failure.  I mean this.  Please don’t leave comments about how awesome I am or anything outrageous like that.  I’m not fishing.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Let me explain…

Every year I sort through paper trails that were stashed away…   Let me be clear:  There is actually a plastic bin in my house for stuff that I can’t deal with (for whatever reason) at any given moment, and it can get relatively full (read this: it usually overflows) about the time I turn the calendar to January.  I will never forget sitting on the dining room floor with this bin as 2015 came to a close.  Most of the contents should have hit a trash pile upon reception.  I read through rejection after rejection after rejection.  It felt awful.  It was awful.  I actually resolved to be better about throwing things away in the future, and I have been better about this… at least to a certain degree.

Even apart from my improved refuse skills, though, this year was a little bit different…

This year was different, because I had a certain amount of success.  Although the emotions that accompany this realization stand in stark contrast to years full of failure; I am similarly overwhelmed.

I was published in two books.  A third is about to hit the shelves along with another that I edited.  This propelled me into a book launch tour, which allowed me to travel coast to coast—literally.  I was commissioned for my first in print magazine article and presented my first paper at an academic conference.  In July, I secured full time employment in ministry, and more recently I was offered an internship with an eJournal focusing on distance learning programs in theology.  I’ve written an astounding number of blog posts and commentaries and participated in numerous podcast recordings, both on this site and for others.  And although it’s later than I ever expected; it looks like I am finally going to be licensed as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene, which will bring with it valuable work in compassionate ministry, even as I practically live out a vocational call in the UMC.  Yay me… or something… or maybe not…

I’ve been saying yes to everything, in part because it seemed as if there was nothing to which to say yes for such a long time.  Eventually, I’m going to have to say no to something, because I’m getting tired.  As it turns out, there are still only 24 hours in a day.  I think the other side of this, though, is that I continue to grasp for the thing…  I know it’s out there.  I haven’t found it yet.  And that’s OK.

I am content.  I am living into Jim Elliot’s, “Wherever you are, be all there,” even if that currently means I’m everywhere…  I hope I don’t look back on 2017 at some point and declare it the “banner year” or anything like that!  I suppose it’s alright to consider that it may have been a banner year… 

Fast forward to today:      

I had planned to say yes, unreservedly, for just a year.  But the opportunities just kept coming…

Commentaries… and master classes… and more academic papers… more podcasts, less blog posts (because most everything was half written as I rushed to the next thing)… sermons… and curriculum… and conferences… and please, oh please, oh please, a Netflix binge here and there (only considered a success if the fictional characters on the screen are living more scintillating lives than your own, so choose wisely).

I’m a far cry from famous (thank goodness), but I did have this moment at some point during which I realized I could stop worrying about becoming invisible.  I worked hard for that, but there is something incredibly freeing about knowing that I can take a step back and breathe now, if I want to.  That’s good.  Because I want to.   

I ran across this quote the other day, and it resonated deeply:

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
-Ayn Rand