Beginning, Middle, End.

My wife says I’m an introspective person. I think she’s right – I spend a lot of time looking into myself and wondering what’s there.

Introspection has its purposes. It’s good to know what you’re made of, where you’ve come from, and where you’d like to go. But at some point, you have to stop looking in the rear-view mirror and start living. The Justin of yesteryear is certainly not the Justin of today and even if he comes back and visits for a day or two every now and then, it’s not the end of the world. Living in a shame-pit of self-hate for poor decisions made just isn’t the right head-space to live your life out of.

My counselor and I have been working through some of this lately. At some point the motivation for life-change can no longer be the fear of doing something wrong or the shame of who you’ve been, but rather the desire to better oneself and become something even better. No one thinks Patrick Mahomes is crazy for wanting to win the Super Bowl this year – we all think that’s a great idea. Build on the success of last year to become better this year.

I think we all make things too complicated – or maybe it’s just me – but I’m betting I’m not the only one. We care too much about what others may think, or what church we go to (or associate ourselves with), or how many people liked our photo. We wonder if what we’re doing is really making a difference or if we are enough for our friends and families. Wasting away all of the energy we have worrying, rather than living. (Obviously, some of this can be related to mental-health as I’m working through in my own life. However, some of it is thought-patterns and neural pathways that have convinced us this is our truth.)

Most of my life I have lived with this idea that I needed to be something. The “goal” of becoming a published author or speaker or a ministry of my own one day. Or perhaps that I needed to be the very best salesman. Maybe I needed to own my own coffee-shop, built it into a successful empire of franchises and retire in the mountains somewhere.

But what if where I’m at is where I need to be? And what if the way we walk through the valley is more important than the mountain-top? I’m confident that one day I’ll “arrive” and discover what I’m made of, what God has called me to, and what I ought to build a legacy around. But the end of the story is only as good as the beginning and middle allow for it to be – there isn’t a climax without the build-up and thickening of the plot and some challenges along the way. Bill Gate’s success wouldn’t be as exciting without knowing Microsoft really started in someone’s garage before it exploded into Silicon Valley.

My favorite books to read are the ones written by storytellers. Bob Goff’s “Everybody Always: Becoming Love In A World Full Of Setbacks & Difficult People” is a follow-up to his incredibly popular “Love Does” and I find myself enthralled by the stories within. What makes Goff so unique is that he just loves people. They don’t have to love him back or do something right or text him back within 5 minutes of him texting them. When asked what church he goes to, his answer is “our church” – because when you’re becoming more like Jesus and loving people the way he did you don’t need all the labels, name-tags, and license-plate brackets and bumper-stickers. After all, people won’t remember that you wore matching t-shirts and participated in a Missions Trip for a week. But they will remember that you visited them in the hospital, wrote them in jail, paid for their coffee when they couldn’t afford it, and answered the phone when it was inconvenient at the time.

Love doesn’t sit on the bench or wait for the right play-call. Love jumps into action now without “praying about it” first.

I want to live more of my life in this way. I want to love people like I’m made of it. “Every time we go to church and point fingers at each other, we betray Jesus with another kiss. At “our” church, we go there to meet Him, not critique each other.”

“Talk behind each other’s backs constantly. Just talk about the right stuff. Talk about Jesus. Talk about grace. Talk about love and acceptance. People don’t grow where they are informed; they grow where they’re loved and accepted. Talk about who people are becoming and who you see them turning into.” (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

My goal this week is to worry about the future less and be present more. Loving the person right in front of me is more important than worrying about how people will talk about me at my funeral in 80 years.

If all I’m ever living for is the future, then I’ll probably never get there.

But I bet if I live for today, tomorrow will probably still come. If it’s God’s will for me to get there, then I’m sure He’ll find a way. I don’t have to know the end of my story to keep writing the beginning and living, loving, and being in the middle…

beginning middle end

 

I Decided

I decided it would be a disservice to my own heart if I didn’t go ahead and write the day before I got married. It’s how I’m wired. It’s how I share with the world. And I firmly believe every story is meant to be told. There’s always something to learn from someone else’s. So here’s mine.

I decided. Life is made up of a series of decisions. Some lead to pain and death and others lead to joy and life. Some seem mundane and others seem exciting. But we’re always making decisions, second-by-second, day-by-day, decision-after-decision. We do not have be the sum of our past mistakes, but who we are today is the sum total of our decisions up to that point in time. I’m in debt because I chose to spend money before I’d acquired or saved it. I’m overweight because I don’t pay enough attention to the caloric intake of my diet or exercise enough. And on the positive spectrum, I’ve got amazing friends because I’ve always invested heavily in those relationships. And I’m about to marry Allie tomorrow because I decided that she was worth the cost of my singleness.

And so I decided to ask her to marry me on October 21st, 2016. After tomorrow, it’ll probably be rated as the second most nerve-wrecking moment of my life. Standing on a stage in front of 200 people and trying to read my vows without crying or cracking a cheesy joke to lighten my inner anxiety while sweating in a tux will quickly take first place. But that moment on October 21st, a little over three months ago, was terrifying. But I’d decided it was worth risking rejection. I’d decided that while singleness and “freedom” had been fun and I’d enjoyed a lot of juvenile liberties, that I was ready to move forward.

Tomorrow, I’ll decide to confirm that reality in my heart. I’ll show up ready to commit the rest of my life to a woman I’ve only known 1 year, 3 months, and so many days. She’s worth it, because Jesus loves me that way – without reserve, without doubt, without ever holding back or retreating. I’ll say, “I do” because I know she’ll do the same. Because I’ve seen her lean into God and into community in my ugliest moments in order to overcome and to forgive. And because she’s awakened my heart to the man I’m meant to be. Because she looks me in the eye in such a way that the part of my heart that constantly seeks others approval is slowing dying, because it can just rest right there, in her gaze. Because I can wholly be myself with her. Quirky jokes, ridiculous humor, high energy, abundant joy, turbulent depression, anxiety, fear, a bleeding heart sometimes, a foggy grey others. She accepts and loves all of me. Not only will she let me walk alongside her with all of my baggage but she helps lighten the load. She picks up one of the bags and says, “Let me have this one. You can’t carry that load by yourself.”

Tomorrow, I’ll decide that no matter what happens from that day forward, I’ll always pursue her heart and always love her. I’ll never give up. In the words of an evangelist from time past, “No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”

I’m all in. I’ve decided.

With Love & Gratefulness,

Justin Meyer

joy

The Next Chapter

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Many things are separated by chapters. The use of chapters in books informs the reader that a new idea, story-line, etc. is being introduced and that one has reached its’ conclusion. Sometimes the authors will leave us sitting on a cliff-hanger, not entirely sure of what is to come next, sometimes they don’t. Regardless, it is time to turn the page and continue the journey that is found within. It turns out that life has chapters as well. A chapter for childhood; being raised up under the direction and strict discipline of our parents who teach us right from wrong, a chapter for teenage rebellion, a chapter for young-adults/college-students; learning a lot from your own mistakes, the grace shown by others, the hardships life has to potentially offer up at some point, and so on. Around this time last year, I was writing a post titled “Time Flies and Season’s Change” and how true that is! It is safe to say that I am not the same man that I was and it is fairly safe to say that you are not the exact same person that you were a year ago either…time changes things…it changes us…and as we change, a new chapter begins.

I graduated with the Class of 2008 from Olathe Northwest High School! Many of my peers graduated the same year and have recently completed their undergraduate studies at Kansas State University and other universities across the United States! Congratulations to those of you that were disciplined, demonstrated perseverance, and enough intelligence to graduate in the ever elusive four-year time period. To those of you that have another year or so to go…I’m right there with you!

Regardless of graduation status, many of us are turning the page and beginning to write the next chapter of our lives. Some are getting engaged, others starting relationships, some dedicating themselves to singleness for a period of time to seek out the LORD, some are ready and seeking, and some are ALREADY MARRIED.

Friends, graduates, brothers, sisters, married, unmarried, etc. I write to you today with a single appeal to our generation as we step into the next chapter of life; whether it be landing a corporate job, marrying the spouse of your dreams, devoting your life to full-time ministry, etc. I desire for all of you to keep this in mind as you take those steps…

Grace is absolutely essential to the advancement of the Kingdom of God and to the acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, grace is a rarity. We live in a judgmental society; passing judgement on one another for wrongdoings. In fact, calling someone judgmental is announcing judgement. Therefore, currently, as I write this, I am being judgmental. I NEED GRACE. Without your grace, I will be accused of bigotry and slander. With grace, this can be viewed as a message to encourage, challenge, and strengthen the Body.

Forgiveness is difficult. But God is love. And “[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) My friend Bryce recently wrote on his Facebook page, “Stars shine in a dark night as a reflection of the sun. Without the sun the stars can’t shine. Christians shine in a dark world as a reflection of Christ, [The Son]. We can’t shine without Christ.” We are indeed a reflection of our Savior…or…more accurately, we SHOULD be a reflection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If this is the case, and it is, then we will learn to genuinely love others. We will grow in our ability to extend authentic, no-strings-attached, grace to one another and to others outside the community of Christ.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Paul, often viewed as one of the ‘superheros’ of The Church, was weak and sinful at the core, but he had given his life to God, submitted to him as His disciple, and rested in his position as one of God’s beloved children. If God’s grace was sufficient for him, then is sufficient for us as well.

LOVING OTHERS, without regard for their wrongdoings, and EXTENDING GRACE, even to those who have hurt you is NOT easy. I struggle with putting this into practice in my own life, but I am taking steps toward it and would love it if you joined me in this journey.

Let’s conclude the chapter of our lives where judgement, condemnation, and superficiality play starring roles…Pray with me that, as we turn the page in life to the next chapter, God would begin to write in ink the story of unconditional love, authentic grace, and overpowering redemption in each of our lives and in the lives of those we impact.

Humbled By Grace,

Justin Meyer