The speakers have really been impacting my heart and making me think. I've felt that many of them have been brutally honest and it's been so refreshing. I'd like to share a couple of the key points they've made and how I think these things not only are important for ministry, but also for marriage and life.
1) Clarity trumps uncertainty every time.
2) Be steadfast.
3) Everything rests on a relationship with Jesus.
5) Conflict is not only inevitable until death, it is necessary for meaning.
Be clear about what you know. Retreat back to what you know in times of struggle or uncertainty. Sometimes all I know about marriage is that I want to stay married. It's as simple and unromantic as that. But knowing that I want to stay married gives me clarity when my emotions and problems seem insurmountable. Find what you know and go from there. It is a business model that saved Apple computers. When their company was failing...Steve Jobs came back and said, "We are going to make computers that are easy to use." It was what he knew how to do and he stuck to it. It took years for Apple to recover...but from that retreat to their basic company goal...well we all know where Apple is now! It's simple and it's biblical. Sometimes all we know is what God tells us. Everything else does not make sense. We retreat back to what God says...and we work from there.
Be steadfast when things get difficult. Yep...I think that says it all. I often feel too tired to continue with hard things. I want to quit painting, quit ministry, quit being married, quit some friendships. But if I quit...I will miss the opportunity to grow in character, to learn new things, to know wonderful people, to experience joy at succeeding, to be humbled and learn to lean more and more on Jesus rather than my own strength. Be steadfast. Sometimes I think all it takes is just staying put and holding on.
Everything rests on a relationship with Jesus. Francis Chan spoke about this. The speaker after him said it well when he said, "Man, Andy [Stanley] speaks and you just feel dumb because he is so smart and then Francis speaks and you think, Man I don't even love Jesus!" Francis spoke about losing his way in his relationship with Jesus for a while. He was honest about how life, success, and trials all pull us away from our relationship with Jesus. But when we pull away, we feel dead...like something is missing. I liked that Francis brought up that God does not want us to come to Him to find out secrets for making our life better. God wants us to know Him, Jesus, the Holy Spirit...and that's it. He just wants us to know Him. He wants us to read the Bible so He can tell us stories about Himself, about what He is like. We're supposed to learn about God, we're supposed to simply be in relationship with Jesus. This really challenged me to rethink how I spend my time with Jesus. It also challenged me about my marriage relationship. If God is that jealous for me to know Him and spend time with Him....my husband must also want me to know him better. How have I spent time trying to understand my husband? Have I listened to his stories? Have I learned anything new about him this week?
Change. Ugh....barf. I hate change and I love change. We have a tumultuous relationship. I get bored when things stay the same, I get anxious when things change that make me uncomfortable. Yet...life changes. The things that worked in ministry last year, may not work this year. The things that worked in my marriage last month, may not work this month. Successful businesses thrive on a key goal and then being constantly willing to change their plans in order to achieve that goal. The goal stays the same, the plans change. It holds true in marriage. My goal is to stay married. My plans on how to do that will constantly change as I change, my husband changes, life changes, money changes, family changes, job changes, health changes. Our marriage vows are truly a vow to be in a state of constant change. It feels so exhausting. But it can also feel empowering and exciting. To view challenges as opportunities to be creative...to have a good attitude and learn to adapt. I wish I knew how to do that well right now!
And finally conflict. Donald Miller talked about conflict in the context of story. We don't care about stories that have no conflict. The Bible would have little meaning without conflict. We live in a world after the fall of man...conflict will be a way of life until we die and are made perfect with Jesus in heaven. Conflict means growth, means struggle, means overcoming, means...well meaning. Everything in life that is meaningful involves conflict. I can't tell you how much Donald's talk meant to me. I am hardwired to want things to be easy, but I find much of my life is not easy and I often wonder if I am getting it all wrong. Everyone else seems to have things much easier than me. To hear that conflict should be expected in life...until I die...was almost a sigh of relief. It made it less scary. It made it feel more normal...and almost more exciting. Maybe conflict means I'm on the right path instead of I'm on the wrong path. Maybe doing something hard...is worth doing because it is hard. It gives my life meaning. Obviously, marriage involves a lot of conflict! It can be disheartening. But you know, when I die...it will mean something that Jake and I struggled through and stayed married. I think it will mean a lot more to us and to others than if we said, "Oh our 60 something year marriage was perfect, we never fought, it just rolled along without a bump or a hitch all these years...it was just so happy and wonderful all the time." Who cares!!?? It will mean so much more to have grown together and worked together and made it through. Man, that gives me hope!!
So I hope these thoughts shared by the YS speakers are as encouraging to you as they were to me. As always, we love to hear feedback and discussion!