1. I wish I had not wasted energy wanting to become important and instead choosing to focus on my significance in Christ. When I first became a minister, I noticed that some ministers seemed to be more important than others. (Yes, I know they are not. I’m just telling you that is the way it felt.) I would hear certain ministers talk about the larger public gatherings in which they spoke. I noticed that people referred to some ministers and how they had “preached in some of our most influential churches.” So for awhile, I wanted to be important. No, I would have never admitted this nor did I see the conflict between this desire and simply being a “servant.”) Eventually, I realized that such a longing appealed to my flesh more than it did my desire to become Christ-like.
2. I wish I had wasted less time thinking “if only” and more time really being present in the moment. This was true especially during my early adult years. At times, I found it difficult to really enjoy and experience the present, because I was thinking, “If only.”
“If I could just get that Doctor of Ministry degree.”
“If I could just move to a better church.”
“If I could just teach part-time.”
“If I could just be at a church that had better worship experiences, better elders, better staff, better location, etc.”
Consequently, with this mindset, it was almost impossible for me to enjoy the moment.
3. I wish I had known how little I really knew about life (and ministry) and how much I needed to learn. Rookie preachers are a lot like some rookie husbands/wives and rookie parents. We can be so overconfident and not have a clue as to how much we still have to learn. Some new parents read one book or take a class at church and think they now know how to rear a child. In fact, one mother even said, “I’ve recently read a very helpful book and that is all I need. I won’t be making the same mistakes that others have made.” Her children were all under the age of 8. Hmmm.
Ministers can have this same kind of overconfidence. If I could do it over, I would be more intentional about learning from several different people. I wish I had really opened up my life to a few who were wise, who had good marriages, and who were godly. Now I did have very good teachers and mentors. Yet, I wish that I had known just how helpful it could be to surround myself with a few people who had permission to speak words into my life. At times I needed lots of affirmation. However, there were also times when I needed guidance and even correction.
4. I wish I had wasted less time listening to fearful and anxious people and more time listening to Jesus. Fearful and anxious people often live with the illusion that it is possible to somehow be a church that is pain free. Fearful and anxious people are all for moving ahead with a kingdom agenda, they just don’t want to upset anyone in the process. Consequently, when leaders gather who are fearful and anxious, they spend little or no time talking about the victories of the previous Sunday morning assembly. Instead, they focus on who was pleased or not pleased. When parents are fearful and anxious, the often will do anything to make their children “happy.” When men and women live in a state of fear and anxiety, joy is absent.
5. I wish I had spent less time trying to get my needs met through others and more time valuing the relationships I did have. One of the big issues through much of my early years in particular was wanting to feel valued by those who were in my life. Not a bad desire. Right? Yet, I think this became so important to me that stayed in constant frustration and discontent. I wanted this from my parents. I wanted this from my family. I wanted this from groups of elders who I worked with. In my adolescence, I felt a void in this area of my life. Consequently, as a young husband, father, minister, I was responding to this emptiness.
As a result, I probably put too much pressure on my immediate family to help me feel valued. I was overly sensitive to certain remarks that I should have ignored. I suspect this accounts for the frustration that I have sometimes felt with the church. I eventually began to realize that I was wanting something that I may never get. Either I could live in constant frustration or I could adjust my expectations to something that were more realistic.
What about you? What do you wish you had done differently? Can you identify with any of these that I have mentioned?