Jon Acuff in Quitter* recounts a story of a man going from class to class asking one simple question. “How many of you are artists?”
He asked the first graders. Every hand shot up.
He asked the third graders. Most hands went up.
He asked the sixth graders. Three hands reluctantly rose.
Jon noted that we don’t lose our dreams in our twenties and thirties. We lose them by middle school.
The ONE awakened my faith my junior year in high school. Two weeks after the light came on and the LIGHT came in, I traveled with other youth to Eagle Lake, Texas, to share my newfound faith with others.
Young in the faith.
I had the confidence of a first grader. And it continued for the next six months.
Then the what-do-others-think cool factor set in and I became…
Think about what you’ve seen in a child who’s in discovery mode. A small boy catches his first lightning bug. A little girl plucks her first dandelion. Each comes to you with the treasure in his or her hand.
What do you see in their eyes?
She doesn’t know dandelions are weeds. He doesn’t know lightning bugs are…well…bugs. They remain thrilled at these little jewels until…
…someone frowns or dismisses or corrects. By middle school, they don’t find bugs and weeds fascinating anymore. It’s just not cool.
So they don’t share their passions and joys. They “mature,” kind of like me and my faith.
But the interest in bugs and weeds remains—hidden, unshared, buried. Again, kind of like my faith.
How does one unearth that which was buried? How does one return to the passion of yesteryear? Not simply a nostalgic remembering but a genuine lively excitement about life and faith?
I think it takes three specific attitude adjustments.
1) Embrace risk. When you venture out into the great world of discovery, you can’t predetermine outcomes. You simply have limited knowledge as to what you’ll discover and how others might react to your findings. I can tell you from experience that moms don’t react well to snakes being kept in dresser drawers (nor do snakes tend to stay put when placed there). You face risks when you do something different from the norm.
2) Do not fear failure. If you must get it right the first time before you even try, you’ll never try. During my Russian years, I noticed those who studied the language but feared getting it wrong (count me among them) didn’t do as well as those who didn’t fear making mistakes. My wife Ellen placed herself in situations where she, despite the struggles, had to use the language. She excelled where I floundered—not because she had better language skills but because she had the right perspective. Mistakes aren’t fatal.
3) Find like-minded people. Let me return to the children and their bug-and-weed fascinations. Instead of burying wonder and discovery, the little boy and girl need to find cohorts, those who love what they love or those who will fan their passions into flames. Solomon wrote this applicable bit of wisdom ages ago. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV).
Specifically, when I think of sharing my faith, I need to…
1) Recognize the risk. Some people respond well. Others view any religious conversation as an intrusion.
2) Be willing to make mistakes. When I engage in faith-speak with others, I will mess things up at times. I don’t want to ignore that fact but I don’t want the fear of mistakes to paralyze me into inactivity.
3) Find others of a like mind. I think we are wired for community, both in relation to the ONE and also in relation to His people. We need each other because discouragement, doubt, and a host of other emotions assail us like a pack of hungry wolves. They nip and rip at our souls. Community carries us when we have no strength to walk and lifts us when we fall. I need to find that place where I can express my faith without being eaten alive. If I find a strong faith community, I’m more willing to take risks and overcome mistakes.
Question: What have you discovered about risk, mistakes, and the importance of community?
*For my review of Quitter click here.
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