If you change clothes in a handicapped bathroom stall at work, never start with your pants.
For some reason, people in other stalls freak out if you strip your pants completely off in a bathroom. I find it’s best to start with your shirt or sweater. Focus on your torso until the bathroom is empty and then change out of your jeans.
These are the valuable lessons that people like Max Lucado refuse to share, but not me. I’ll tell you everything, because right now, everything is weird.
I learned the bathroom lesson after a quick trip to Chicago. I had spoken to a bunch of people as the last speaker at the Cultivate Conference. Then I got up at 4AM the next morning and caught a flight to Atlanta. I rode the train right to work, grabbed a clean pair of khakis out of my car, which I had left behind, and changed back into work mode.
Less than 12 hours later, it was like the whole Chicago thing hadn’t happened. The 150 folks, the speech, the Q&A session, that was fiction now. Fact was me sitting in an IT meeting looking at an excel spreadsheet.
Has that ever happened to you? You had a quick brush with an extraordinary life. You got to do something you loved doing. It was a mission trip you went on. You worked with some kids and remembered how much you love teaching and how little you like being an accountant. Or you painted or played music or did a million other things that sent a little shockwave through your heart.
“This, this is it! This is what I was created to do. I am alive in this. This is me!”
And then you went back to a day job. You went back to the real world. And that other thing, the music, the ministry, the whatever, faded back into the recesses of your imagination.
Those moments are not fun. Those moments can be incredibly frustrating. I will not try to soften the edges of those moments with pithy words. But I will say, I think I know why I keep having those moments.
My disappointment of trying to live an extraordinary life in the middle of an ordinary day stems from one simple fact:
I don’t want the gift of invisibility.
What’s that? That’s the season of life God usually grants before things get loud. Call it training, call it refinement, call it whatever you want, but it’s usually a time when regardless of your best efforts, things do not seem to go your way.
We hate those periods. We hate them because we are constantly searching for “Goliath moments.” We want the big, bold dramatic moments when the spotlight shines bright and we do something great. (A recent survey showed that something like 80% of the millennial generation felt like they’d be famous when they grew up.) No one wants the shepherd part of David’s life. The idea of being alone, in a field, for years with a bunch of sheep doesn’t inspire anyone. You can’t put that on a poster. You can’t fire up a crowd with tales from the quiet years of David’s life. But the truth is, you don’t get Goliath David without Shepherd David. Before he fought a giant, he wrestled bears. Before he became a king, he learned to be alone. Before he was great, he was invisible.
Maybe you are too right now. Maybe that thing you’re trying to start is not taking off. You’ve got a New Year’s resolution that you’re sticking to because this is going to be the year where you step out on an adventure and do something big for the Lord. But it already feels a little small. And that feels frustrating and really isolating, but you’re not alone in that.
Look at the Bible. Moses? 40 years of invisibility before the burning bush. Joseph? Years in prison before he became Pharaoh’s right hand man. Jesus? 30 years of invisibility followed by 40 days in the desert before his ministry became public. Over and over again we see the gift of invisibility in the Bible.
I’m in the same place you are right now. Yes, the book comes out this spring and that is a dream of visibility come true, but speaking wise, I’ve been pretty invisible. I honestly thought that after I spoke at Cross Point last July, I’d have the opportunity to speak at more churches on Sunday mornings. I thought, and this is a little embarrassing, that after I posted video of me speaking I’d have more chances to do that. You know how many times I’ve spoken at churches on a Sunday morning since July? Zero. Know how many times I’ve done that in almost two years of doing this site? One.
Then on Monday, I got rejected from the leadership program at work. Weeks after I helped lead thousands of people from around the world to build two kindergartens in Vietnam, I got told I wasn’t a leader. For the second year running. That’s not fun. It’s not fun wrestling with invisibility 40 hours a week in a cubicle where Stuff Christians Like doesn’t matter a lick. But I am convinced God gives us the gift of invisibility. I am convinced his timing is best. I am convinced he’s got me placed here because the people I work with need to know his love and that this important. I am convinced he has bears he wants us to face before we face Goliath.
That thing you’re trying to do, whether that’s start a ministry, follow your dreams or pour into your kids as much love and truth as possible, that thing is important. Don’t worry about your Goliath moment, it will come. And when it does, you’ll be glad you wrestled some bears first.