Bruce Springsteen famously sang, “Glory days. They’ll pass you by… like the wink of a young girl’s eye.”
I think we can tend to live in a picture (or selfie?), and we cling to moments where things are good. The times where we have just the right amount of comfort around us. But life pushes us forward whether we like it or not. We age. People move away. Things break. It’s not fun.
I was moving some pictures over from an old hard drive yesterday and looking at all the memories and people I’ve gotten to share my life with, and I was blown away. I wish many of them were still in my day-to-day life, but the changes have led me to amazing new friendships and experiences. Many new pictures to take.
Sometimes when I am experiencing frustration, anger, or anxiety, it’s because I’m trying to live in a picture. I’m trying to keep the setting just like I like it with all the right comforts in place. But that’s impossible to do.
Glory days will pass you by. The good news is we have the opportunity to embrace the journey as we learn to accept that most things in life are temporary.
But love is eternal. We have a chance to reach into the eternal everyday, but we won’t find it clinging to the temporary.
I am now in my thirties. I know I am because I don’t understand how to use Snapchat, I really enjoy going to bed before 10:00 p.m., and the only song I know by Kanye West is “Golddigger.”
When you hit 30, you start saying stuff like, “We really need this rain,” “That’s not worth the calories,” and “I’m glad those plans fell through because I didn’t want to go anyway.”
Everything in your life becomes a little more planned out as you age. It has to. I find myself putting activities in my calendar like, “gym,” “mow the lawn,” and “take your One-A-Day men’s vitamin.” I have to because I will forget, and I also need to make sure I have time to do everything I need to do in a day.
Here’s what getting lunch with a friend looks like in college:
“Hey, my class got canceled. Want to grab lunch?”
Now here is what it looks like at 30:
“Hey, would you like to get lunch?”
“Yes, let’s see . . . I’m free 3 weeks from now. And I can’t eat bread anymore.”
When you’re in your teens and twenties, being flaky and unorganized can be seen as endearing, and people will say, “He’s such a free spirit.” When 30 hits, they start saying, “He’s not marriage material.”
That’s why I find myself living off of my calendar more and more. It’s not that life necessarily gets busier, but our activities carry more weight. My time seems to move faster and is now more valuable to me because of the role I have as a husband and a full-time employee.
I struggle with the increasing weight of my life decisions. I’m less inclined to throw caution to the wind and risk everything, because as I get older I feel like I have more to lose. It’s not romantic to sleep on floors and pursue your dreams of being a musician if you have a family who needs food, shelter, and Netflix.
It can be hard to be a dreamer when you’re worried about keeping your job.
I used to believe that everyone should follow their passions. I guess I still believe it, but not in the same way. I think we are selling younger generations an impossible American Dream when we tell them they can be anything they want to be.
They may think, “What do I want to be? Well, it would be great to be Justin Timberlake, I think I’ll be him.” Then some kid who can’t sing, rap, or pull off an all-denim outfit at the AMAs starts down a path where he’ll live in denial until someone has the guts to tell him, “You are really bad at this. And stop wearing a Fedora everywhere.”
This is not a popular message to be sharing. I get it. I feel like I’m Mister Roger’s grumpy neighbor who calls the cops because the puppets are being too loud. But we waste so much energy believing we’re meant to be anything we want to be, when God could have a completely different plan for us.
Perhaps the most “get hyped” verse in the Bible is Philippians 4:13.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Christians love it. We yell it before we run out onto a football field. We say it under our breaths before interviews. We recite it multiple times before seeing extended family members at Thanksgiving. It’s our catchy reminder that we can be anything we want to be.
But if you look just a few verses earlier, you’ll see that Paul wasn’t psyching himself up before an appearance on Greece’s Got Talent.
“. . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
Paul was speaking about the power of contentment. The wisdom to look at Christ and then look at his life and say, “This is enough. I am enough.”
If we really want to quote Philippians 4:13 in context, it would probably be more accurate to say, “I can be content through Christ who strengthens me.”
When you know you are enough, you don’t have to prove it any other way with your life. That’s not to say we throw off all of our ambitions, but we can bet that no job title, no amount of friends, and no dream alone will ever be enough to make us content if we don’t seek contentment through Christ who strengthens us.
Our dreams are not bad, and they may not even be misguided. But they do not hold the power to give us purpose. I think so many of us with ambitions can get down on ourselves if we’re not the massive success we want to be. We feel like a failure because we have to work a day job. Maybe we even feel like working a day job means we completely gave up on our dreams.
There are people who reach their dream and then realize it’s not all it was cracked up to be. Then, they end up burning out in the passion they used to love because that passion became their full-time job.
What if God’s dream for you is to be right where you are?
Saying, “I’ll go where you send me,” is no more important than saying, “I’ll stay where you have me.”
You’ll never be enough in this life until you know you are already enough.
This is an entry from my journal that I wrote 2011. At the time I was still living in Gainesville, FL parking cars as a valet at the hospital and frustrated with where my life was heading. I couldn’t really get anything to work like I wanted it to. This was written a few months before I moved to DC.
In Luke 16:10 Jesus says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” Christian “entrepreneurs” use this a lot – “If you are faithful with a little, God will make you faithful with a lot.” And I am just now realizing there is a small, but major difference from the verse to the saying. And the difference is the words “God will.”
It is not sinful to desire growth and increase. God speaks many times to Israel about increase. It is not sin to want to become better at your craft and more skilled each new day. Ambition is not evil, and many possess what I believe is a spiritual gift to make things grow. If a small group grows because more people are being discipled by disciples, great! If a ministry grows because people have dedicated themselves to prayer, faith, and good works, then praise God! There is healthy growth that I believe God is all about.
The danger I am coming to see, at least in my own life, is that growth has become expected. It should be deserved like hourly wages for labor. You work hard, then you deserve a better life. You give, then you should be given to. It’s only fair. What goes around comes around and you reap what you sow. If you’ve been faithful with the little, then the clock is ticking down for when God makes you faithful with a lot.
Jonathan, you’ve been faithful to serve God in the prison by preaching and leading the music and doing other gigs for free, you deserve your reward of an increased career in ministry and entertainment. The crowds will only get bigger and your songs and sermons will only get better. Because God said, “If you’re faithful with the little, I will make you faithful with much.”
Wait. No. That’s not what he said. What he said was, “Whoever can be trusted with very little CAN also be trusted with much.”
And that is true. It has to be, I mean it’s in the Bible. And I think many, many times that if you are faithful with little that God will make you faithful with much. Sure. But our expectations and our sense of what is owed to us is what is killing us.
This American “I deserve” mentality has crept its way into my head and drilled a pipeline that has been feeding into my heart. I go and do what I do because I think it is going to lead to something bigger. All I am doing is paying my dues, getting my street cred, and building bridges that will inevitably take me to my dream life. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder for the right connection that is going to finally see me, love me, and take me to the top. And while, yes, I am doing good works that really do come from good motives, they are not solely fed by Godly desires. And this is the path that leads you out of the anointing of the Lord.
Want to see an effective man go to work and become ineffective? Get him out of the anointing of the Lord. Want to see someone full of potential go chase their tail? Get them out of the anointing of the Lord–that God-given, supernatural ability to be used. Just ask King Saul what it’s like when you lose the Lord’s anointing.
What if God’s whole plan all along was for you and I to serve where he places us and to be content with what he has called us to do. God may have given you big dreams and desires to see a great accomplishment for the Kingdom that is off the scales, and he does give us dreams and visions like that. But I think that true faithfulness is about being committed and passionate for the work God has given you to do where you are. Only God can open doors anyhow. You can run yourself to death but if God doesn’t want to open a new door, he’s not going to do it. Oh sure you can go kick some doors open yourself, but don’t be surprised when it turns out to be one that leads to emptiness. And isn’t it so much better to knock on doors that God is waiting on the other side of? All this sounds like something Jesus talked about once… (Matthew 7:7)
God’s goal isn’t to screw with your head and heart. He’s not out to make you doubt your calling or your faith in him. But we must daily check our motives for our work in the Kingdom. God will reward us, that is a promise, but it might not be what we think that the reward should be.
If you’re being faithful with the little, you can probably be faithful with much. But I wonder if there are some things that we are calling little that God is calling much. Perhaps some of the greatest accomplishments for the Kingdom of God show the least amount of results for the kingdom of this earth.
I was on Jimmy Fallon one time. Not really me, but my face was. (View here). That was pretty cool and I continue to bring it up at parties even though no one wants to hear about it.
That was the closest I’ve gotten to being interviewed. Well, I guess I was interviewed by our yearbook about our freshman basketball team. I said something really cool like, “I think we’ll be good this year.” Inspiring stuff. But I’ve never really been interviewed . . .
My oldest friend in the world, Brandon Noel, started up a podcast called “The Makeshift Poets” where he interviews writers of all sorts. With the release of my book this year he asked me to come on, and it was a blast. If you write poetry, blogs, songs, books, or even write on the walls with crayons you will get something out of it. Or if you have a boring commute you can listen to it because I like to think this interview was better than 90% of Top 40 music right now. (Not Taylor Swift! I didn’t say T-Swift! Everyone just calm down! It’s cool. We’re all cool here.)
You can listen the following ways:
iTunes (This option if you’re a podcaster already and know what you’re doing with podcasts) – https://itun.es/us/PPrMbb.c
Podbean (If you don’t know how podcasts work you can just hit the link and play it from your browser or phone) – http://bit.ly/1T8aJl6
GooglePlay (Um, I don’t even know how this works but I assume it’s easy) – http://bit.ly/1X3AiZd
If you haven’t ordered the book, you can get it on Amazon right now in print or Kindle format. Leave a review if you haven’t yet and if you want to sow good deed seeds into the world and be a good person and be able to tell your children that you’re a good person.
Twitter / Instagram: @JonathanTony