Fourteen years ago, I was forced to choose between what I had grown accustomed to and what I really wanted.
On one side, I had my family, my fiancé, my hometown and a well-paying job that most college graduates would kill for. On the other side, I had a not-so-sure opportunity with an upstart real estate company more than 600 miles away. The sensation in that moment was overwhelming and the decision made my heart race inside my chest. My heart knew what it had to do although it couldn’t quite convince my mind to agree. But I still had enough kid in me to believe in adventure.
I ditched comfort for the unfamiliar.
When I was twenty-two, I left the familiarity of home and family to pursue a dream. With enough eagerness for an entire family of beavers, I hitched the U-Haul to the back of my car and left my hometown for Florida’s luxury real estate boom. Just before I left the driveway my dad grabbed me and pulled me in for a hug. As he did he whispered something in my ear, “Don’t let the world change you, son. You change the world.”
Part of me wished my dad would have told me where to get cheap gas. But there was another part of me that leapt with joy at the possibilities ahead. The sky was the limit and my ambition hitched a ride on a rocket bound for the life I always wanted.
Four years later, I moved back home. My dream of changing the world had died on the roadside of bad decisions and my rocket crashed in my parent’s room over the garage. I had accrued more than $500,000 in debt and what little savings I had left was leaking out of a massive monthly hole.
I suppose we all have to chase our dreams just so we can realize how foolish it really is.
For the next seven years my dream was buried in the closet along with my high school yearbook and a bunch of useless keepsakes. My eyes were focused on moving the mountain in front of me—one dirt load at a time. Scoop. Dump. Scoop. Dump. Scoop. Dump. With the shovel of ambition gripped tightly in my fists I kept going, believing that the next dirt load would be the one that would finally set me free.
After seven years, not only had I moved the mountain, I had climbed it as well. The depths of debt and bad decisions were a distant memory. This was the summit of prosperity. My career in insurance had restored the financial struggles of my youth and I felt rather accomplished with my new vantage point. But as the clouds cleared, I saw another mountain in the distance. And as much as I wanted to ignore it, I couldn’t silence its familiar call.
“Don’t let the world change you, son. You change the world.”
But this wasn’t my dad talking. This was the voice of my Father. As odd as it was to admit, I felt like God was calling me to something unexpected—something much more difficult than I could imagine. He was calling me to speak and to help people encounter Him in a fresh way.
For a while I denied it. Surely I wasn’t hearing from God and surely He wouldn’t interrupt my well-to-do career for child’s play. But isn’t He is the One who said, “Let the children come to me. To such belong the kingdom.”
Sometimes God lets His kids climb mountains to get the perspective they need for their next adventure.
For the next three years, I would wrestle in the in-between—that odd space between the comfort of the airplane and the open door I knew I needed to jump out of. And while my heart was willing, my mind preferred the comfort of the plane. Insurance was comfortable. And, I was good at it. But there was this passion to speak and help people break free that stirred my heart.
The in-between is dangerous because comfort has a way of lulling you to sleep. It’s a siren’s song of intoxication. But underneath the comfortable noise is the quiet whisper of a willing heart. A heart that reminds you that real life happens when you’re awake. And that’s why the in-between can’t be traveled alone. If you’re alone, it’s way too easy to give up. You need companions for the journey because they remind you what your heart is saying, even as the voice of comfort grows louder and louder.
With the help of a few companions, I never let my heart stay quiet. And thus the journey to the open door continued one small step at a time.
Looking back, God was so good during this season because He is the God of the in-between. It’s a space He’s very familiar with. And in that space He applauds our small courageous steps. As we willingly inch toward the door, He’s right behind us making doubly sure our chute is packed.
The Spirited Kid
There I was, in a eerily similar position. Forced to choose between what I was accustomed to and what I really wanted. It was the comfort of the plane versus the exhilaration of the free fall. The familiarity of the mountaintop versus the decent into the valley. I was torn between the career I had built and following God into something new.
As I rummaged through the closet of my past, looking for that youthful dream, I came across my old high school yearbook. Dusting off the pages, I flipped through the immaturity of died blonde hair and cheesy movie quotes. Turning the page, I saw a kid. He was dressed in orange and black—his school colors—with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
Across the bottom of the page it read: MOST SCHOOL SPIRITED.
In high school, I was embarrassed by the title my peers gave me. I didn’t want to be the spirited kid. I wanted something cooler. But when I looked at the smile on my face, it connected with something in my heart. That was me. The real me. Not the me that I wanted everyone to see and not the facade I had spent the last decade building. This was my true self. I am the spirited kid—the kid who believed he could change the world.
My heart smiled because it remembered someone it hadn’t been in quite a while.
Changing the World
Two weeks ago, I turned in my resignation at North Carolina Farm Bureau.
On June 30th, after ten years with the company, I will retire from the insurance business and begin working full-time with our faith-based organization, You Print. I’ve finally inched my way to the open door and I’m ready to jump.
What I’m learning more than anything is that God continues His graceful pursuit. Day by day, His faithfulness is overwhelmingly apparent. And as much as I want to convince myself that this a the leap of faith, it isn’t. I’ve been leaping for a while now, I just wasn’t mature enough to give God credit for it and see His provision through it.
That’s how it is with God. It’s really not about a leap of faith at all. It’s the journey of small, courageous steps each and every day in the direction that He leads. And I’ve learned that there’s no other way to live.
I write this today, not to ask for your applause or congratulations. This isn’t about me at all. It’s about God and it’s about you. I believe there’s a little kid in you that wants to dust off the dreams of your youth and rekindle the right relationship with the One who placed it there. And maybe that dream is covered in past failure and regret or perhaps it has simply fallen asleep.
If that’s the case, I’m here to say, “Wake up! Don’t let the world change you. You Change The World.”
That’s what you and I were created to do.
Otherwise, why are you still here?