A car ride with someone I don’t really know is one of my favorite things. I realize that may sound a little bit creepy and it goes against one of the most basic of childhood warnings issued by my mother. . . but let me explain.
My travels typically include pick-ups and drop-offs at airports. Those rides can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours (trips to North Dakota!). Getting to chat with my youth worker/chauffeur is always fun. I find out about their lives, their ministries, their families, and some of the unique and interesting stuff flying past us outside the window.
Last week a young youth worker named Scooter drove me from New Orleans Baptist Seminary to the airport so I could catch my flight home. I had already spent some time with Scooter over the course of the previous couple of days and had come to appreciate his energy and enthusiasm related to ministry. On our ride, he was telling me about the neediness of his students and his desire to see them come to know and serve Jesus. The conversation morphed into Scooter sharing his dreams for his youth ministry future along with a request for me to speak out of my experience (I’m almost twice Scooter’s age!) with some advice. I treasure, respect, and aspire to that kind of teachability.
My advice was pretty simple. First, embrace your calling and pursue it with humility and excellence. Always be satisfied with where God has you. Our culture (and youth ministry culture) will try to get you to grab for more, but settle where you’ve been set. And second, continue to work to improve yourself by reading, reading, and reading some more. . . . not just youth ministry stuff, but broad reading of all types. I know that’s not necessarily all or the best advice I could give. But at the moment, it seemed like that was the best way for me to encourage my young friend.
Since returning home from that trip I’ve thought quite a bit about many of the conversations I’ve been having with young youth workers in recent months. Not all of them have endeavored to be, like Scooter, the best where they’re at. Increasingly, I’m sensing the presence of that seductive pull all of us humans face. . . a seductive pull that is amped up in our culture of social media, reality shows, blogging, self-publishing, and all the other tools that allow us to attempt to answer our insecurities with a following. There’s a desire to move from where we’re at to a place of fame and fortune that we imagine (or believe) will make us complete. While the quest is very real and can become consuming, the target is neither noble or even remotely satisfying. And with us working and living a calling to correctly handle Genesis to Revelation, shouldn’t we know and live better?
Earlier this week I ran across these quotes in a post from Maria Popova on the Brain Pickings site. Popova quotes writer John Green, who advises aspiring young writers, “Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough,” And then these words from David Foster Wallace: “If you worship money and things … then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.”
These are good reminders for all of us. Sadly, it takes some people until the end of their lifetime to realize just how true these words are. Don’t make that mistake. Realize this truth closer to the front end of your lifetime and you will experience the joy of truly understanding and experiencing the blessedness of vocation and calling.