The Truth about Walking by Faith

 

Walk by Faith

 

I spent the first 45 years of my life literally drowning.

Driven by a fear of failure, I was drowning in control issues, constantly working hard to manipulate the circumstances and produce favorable outcomes. This was true in both business and family. It was exhausting working so hard, presenting the appearance of having it together when everything was falling apart.

It was one crisp fall day six years ago in the midst of economic circumstances I never saw coming when I realized all the possibilities for manipulation had come to an end. There was no favorable outcome to be had. My publishing business would close, and my perceived identity would be lost. When a control freak obsessed with a successful reputation loses control of it all, things go dark fast.

Incidentally, I knew better than to put my identity in my business, but I did it anyway. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion. But I knew better.

It was, or at least I thought it was, the most tragic circumstance of my life. Depression is an awful thing. Certain personalities handle it even less successfully than others. I wouldn’t wish it on the strongest warrior.

My road to overcoming depression was long and winding. It mostly involved good people like my wife and mom never giving up on me, but there was only so much they could do.  At a certain point the responsibility of crawling out of the mire was mine, and mine alone.

Getting better was a painfully slow process for both me and my family, and it’s really only been in the last couple of years that I’ve felt renewed, refreshed, and re-energized.

Almost all of it had to do with the ongoing process of learning how to walk by faith.

It’s one of those biblical terms that’s so easy to overcomplicate, label as ill-defined, and completely misunderstand. We over analyze so much today.

These are  five steps that helped me understand more about walking by faith.  It’s not exclusive to other things, but these were key:

  1. I had to realize a choice always existed.
  2. I had to understand that not only is it my purpose, moreover, it’s my very nature to glorify God.
  3. I had to shut up and listen.
  4. I had to come to terms with the fact that my life is more about others than it is about me.
  5. I had to learn to lean on God (not my own understanding) for the wherewithal to execute His purpose for me.

About #1: I’m a huge creature of habit. I like certain routines, am comfortable in certain ways of thinking, and yet while open-minded, am very slow to make radical turns in philosophical/moral thought. Maybe it’s more aptly described as just being set in your ways. Or maybe I’m just “hard-headed” as we say in the South.

I had to learn to let God confront me about these things. I had to comprehend that in just about every circumstance there’s a choice between righteousness and sinfulness.  My inclination is to sinfulness. Alas, there is always a choice.

About #2: I had to wrap my mind around the truth that I was created and wired to deify/worship/revere (insert whatever word you wish) something. I’ve revered a lot of things in my life, but ultimately, I’m placed on earth to have a relationship with God. He doesn’t need my love or admiration. He simply desires it. That’s pretty huge.

So when I pray now, it’s not just a laundry list of asking for daily provision or this or that for my family. It’s just giving praise and glory to His magnificence. “Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

About #3: I had to learn how to stop running my mouth and my mind. I’m one of those people who, until you get to really know me, appears quiet, removed and fairly distant. I don’t know why it’s that way, but it is. Within my inner circle, the people with whom I’m most comfortable, I almost never shut up.

There are times when it surely appears God is silent. In fact I think there are unquestionably times when God IS silent. More often, however,  I think, we mistake his silence for our noise and inability to hear.

I once calculated that I’d interviewed more than 15,000 people in my journalism career. That’s a lot of people. Honing the skill of the interview may be the most valuable professional thing I’ve learned in life. You have to listen. It’s the ONLY way you’ll ever know the next question to ask. You have to listen.

About #4: It’s simple really. The most profound thing I read in Rick Warren’s timeless book Purpose Driven Life, is this: We are most ourselves when we’re serving other people. It’s true. Not much else you can say.  If you don’t meditate on anything else today, meditate on that. Here it is again: We are most ourselves when we’re serving other people.

About #5: I like reference points that get me where I’m going. Maybe it’s a blaze on a hiking trail, the North Star giving me reference to another object in the sky, or the GPS lady checking off certain markers along an unknown road trip.  The one, singular thing I desire more than anything else in life today is a growing, developing, never-ending pursuit and understanding of the truth. Here’s my philosophy toward that end:

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” ~ Romans 10:17

The truth is, my understanding right there, in that verse above. All of it. Everything.

None of this is easy for me. It’s a work in progress. Always will be. But there’s nothing but time, right?

 

 

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When Leading With Your Gut is Not a Whim

I wound up in this place by gut instinct and 25 years of failing forward.

I wound up in this place by gut instinct and 25 years of failing forward.

“There is no instinct like that of the heart.” ~ Lord Byron

***

Here’s an equation I’ve learned to accept as truth in the way I view both business and life.

(Time x Failure) + Experience² > (Common Sense + Rational  Thinking)

***

Earlier today, Dana and I took a break on the back porch to assess the whirlwind of activity we’ve encountered during the last 10 days.

In the hour previous, she’d noticed my distractedness, and suggested she take action to get me focused. There was no way to get really focused, I responded, until I could soak it all in, and consider what it all meant.

During the last 10 days, we’ve encountered opportunities with eight new business clients.

We’re getting an on-the-job, crash-course lesson in Latin American business.

We’ve seen more possibilities here than we ever imagined.

New friends have overwhelmed us with hospitality.

And one or two opportunities have opened up, that are positively outrageous when we consider the directions to which they could lead.

“And it was all pretty much on a whim,” she said, as I paced our gravel driveway.

***

“No, not a whim,” I responded, recalling the first time I laid eyes on Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. “A gut instinct based on 25 years of failure.”

It’s failure, I’ve come to learn, that moves us toward a greater success, and perhaps more importantly, lessens our fear of failure for all that lies ahead.

“You’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take.” ~ Wayne  Gretzky

I’ve failed enough in life, you see, that risk is a less formidable foe than it was 20, or even five years ago. Risk, when juxtaposed with 25 years of lessons learned from failure, is just another day in life, and joy cometh in the morning, so who has time to be scared?

And all other things aside, I turn 47 in less than a month. I no longer have time for fear.

Was it crazy to dream about launching a new business in a “foreign” country 6,000 miles from home?

Was it absurd to think there was another frontier longing to be conquered?

Was it laughable to pack the bags and pursue it all?

Absolutely. But I don’t care, because I know my gut, and I trust it as an old friend.

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Failure: Friend or Foe? (Part I)

(Blogger‘s Note: This is the first in a two-post series on how I look at failure. I’ll post Part II this afternoon in the form a a 7-minute video – a short testimony from Dana and me, produced by Fellowship Bible Church of Jonesboro, AR)

***

“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” ~ Tony Robbins

***

Kings of  Failure. Queens of Regret.

Thank goodness God wants us to live in a Realm of Redemption because I invent new ways to fail every day.

And I wouldn’t exactly call failure my friend, but he’s someone with whom I’m very well acquainted.

In fact, up until not too long ago, when anyone asked me about the one thing in life that motivated me most, my response would’ve been – fear of failure. How screwed up is that?

Mile 25 at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, just looking for the finish line.

Mile 25 at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, just looking for the finish line.

One day in 2005, after nine months of training, and just moments after completing my first 26.2-mile marathon, all I could think about was the failure of having missed my finishing time goal by 20 minutes. The fact that I’d just finished the monumental race – unfortunately, it was meaningless.

One day in 2008 I woke up to the realization that I was divorced, a business failure, broke, and a likely disappointment in a new marriage to the most amazing woman I’d ever met.

And one day shortly thereafter, my professional and personal life went dark, absent of a vision, and I thought I’d never again have the opportunity to work again in the communication business I loved so much.

It took a long time to grasp, ever so slightly, the concept of Grace, and my freedom to fail without penalty.

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

Experienced failure? Let people down? Got guilt? Violated the very thing you knew was right?

What does God say to that? This, I think, maybe…

“I’m not going to ask for your transcript or your resume. Fallen short?

“It’s okay. And it’s okay to Own It. But I’m God, so for God’s Sake, Own It, But Stop Carrying it Around.”

Watch for the video post later today and see how, for Dana and me, our greatest failures turned into the realization of our most Laughable Dreams.

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of, and response to, failure.” ~ John Maxwell, Failing Forward

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Inner-Conflict, Freedom to Fail and Mercy

(Blogger’s note: This post was inspired by a recent series of messages at Fellowship Bible Church. The series was titled: “Enjoying God.” www.fellowshipjonesboro.com)

***

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” ~ William Shakespeare

My obsession with self-examination started long before college, but it was in graduate school that I became fascinated with the science of personality profiles and their applications – especially as they relate to my own dual nature.

On the DISC profile designed to measure how colleagues best communicate with one another in the world of business I’m a “high D.” 100% D on the bar graph, in fact.

In short, that means I’m a no-nonsense, get to the point, let’s do this and move-on-to- the-next-thing kind of guy. A high D has the dubious distinction of pursuing success at just about any cost. He’s hard to get to know, regularly abrupt and not the greatest listener.

Then there’s the Myers-Briggs profile, designed more to measure the emotional characteristics and how we react to certain situations.

On the Myers-Briggs, I’m an ENFJ, an extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judger. The short definition of an ENFJ is one who pursues life with his heart, rather than with his head.

So maybe you see the conflict: I’m a short, abrupt, driven person who flies by the seat of his pants and goes where his heart leads him, common sense be damned.

Talk about a split personality…

It reminds me of a great verse in the book of Romans. I think Paul could relate:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Romans 7: 15 & 19.

For years, maybe even today to some degree, if you asked me what motivated me in life I would have pointed to a simple fear of failure.

ATYCHIPHOBIA – An extreme, irrational fear, generally keeping one from enjoying many aspects of life. Atychiphobia is one of the most paralyzing phobias, a fear so strong that we subconsciously undermine our own efforts so we don’t have to continue to try.

There have been some mentionable victories in my life. Failures, too.

Three years ago I invested every personal and tangible resource I had in a publishing and business coaching venture. Had a first-class, cutting-edge product, brilliant employees and a vision for huge success. Six months after it launched, I closed it. The failed economy of 2008 contributed a fair amount to the failure, but I also take credit for some poor decisions. When a “high D/ENFJ” falls flat on his face, it’s a devastating thing.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” ~ Proverbs 29:18

The church where I’m a member www.fellowshipjonesboro.com recently completed a series on “Enjoying God.” It’s helped me better deal with my conflict in nature and the never-ending questioning of my own motives.

A message in short from Psalm 32: We have the freedom to fail; on Judgment Day, god won’t ask us for our spiritual resume; we can tear up our transcript; justice has been served.

It’s a freeing thing to feel free and know that mercy abounds despite our most profound of failures.

During drive time on a business trip yesterday I heard a song that captured my attention.

Yes, mercy finds us all…

You can check out today’s post on my secondary blog at http://wp.me/p2tJ80-1O and a summer solstice post on this blog earlier today at http://wp.me/p2bjEC-i4