Responses to a young buck
When I first entered the hospital I received an email from a young “buck” who loves God and is trying to decide the particular context in which he wants to serve God with his life. He has given me permission to print that exchange, and then I include some reflections.
Hey Mr Flowers,
I have a question for you that you might choose to turn into a blog post and keep your mind busy. Obviously you’re a pastor and have Christ at the center of your life. Because of this, you have helped establish a community of friends that support and love. Have you ever thought of what would have happened if you had not decided to go down that path? What if you had just stayed a counselor and possibly found some other job to make ends meet, never bringing the Wildwind community together? Would that have changed the support from friends you have now, would that affect how Christ worked in your life through a profession? Prayers, Buck
I can’t think that way. I did what I did! I really believe whatever I had done I’d have made a big impact on others. Most of my impact comes not from sermons but from a personal impact I have built through investing in people over the long haul, and I do this with clients, students, whoever I am fortunate enough to serve. So I don’t think about that much. Sure I’d have a smaller impact in some way, but probably not much. I hope this helps. By the way, the question is interesting but falls into the category of philosophical. I loved that stuff when I was a young buck like you, but as you get older time gets more and more precious, so that gradually philosophical things matter less and less, and only the actual contributions you have made (both for good and for ill) matter at all. I hope that somehow makes sense.
I understand, and appreciate your time to answer. It’s just something that you hear about a lot these days- “you don’t have to be a preacher to have God be at the center of your life and make an impact on others”. I was just curious as to what your perspective would be on it.
Heavens yes, I totally agree that you don’t have to be a preacher to have God at center of your life! Far from it! I often think my teaching at SAU and private counseling are far better vehicles for really communicating God than sermons, burdened as sermons are by the need for clear theology which, in the end, is always just more abstraction and philosophy.
1. When I was a young buck, I struggled constantly with the fear of squandering my impact (I am not claiming Buck is struggling with the same). At some point I realized I did not at that point have an “impact,” all I had was a life that stretched out ahead of me, and some decisions to make about what to do with it. This took off a lot of pressure because then I was able to focus more simply on living a life that would bring pleasure to me and allow me to enjoy God along the way.
2. When I was a young buck, I feared doing “the wrong thing.” I had little sense of positive direction, just a lot of fear of being wrong. I never longed to make an impact as “a counselor,” or “a pastor,” or “a writer,” or “a teacher.” I just wanted my life to matter. Once I was able to stop worrying about creating a powerful impact and the ever-illusive “life pleasing to God,” I understood that my life came first and then whatever careers I pursued. They would become pathways for the channeling of that impact. That is what I am trying to communicate in my notes to Buck above.
3. When I was a young buck, I lacked perspective. I judged myself a lot for not being more outgoing, for being shy, and everything else I perceived as a weakness. I wasn’t able to see how every aspect of the person I am would come to be wrapped up, eventually, in the contribution I would make to the world.
4. When I was a young buck, I realized pretty early on that most people want to “be,” but have little interest in “becoming.” Life is the long game. I determined to set my face in a particular direction, to become a particular “kind of person” — one who sees, and suffers, in a particular way, so that the way I see, and the way I suffer, would create my overall way of being — my way of understanding the world, its problems, and my roles and responsibilities therein. This is how I discovered that there are no secrets to authentic impact and credibility. It comes from the struggle, lived right up front, to be the kind of person who does right things, over and over again, for no other reason than the love of what is right and true. Love and wisdom in life must be pursued for their own sake. As long as they are seen as instrumental to something else, a person will ring largely false.
5. When I was a young buck, I was sure that my ultimate search was for correct facts and information in terms of theories, theologies, philosophies, and arguments. I could not have been more wrong. As I sit writing in the hospital, THIS is what I have to give to the world — my brokenness and humanness and fragility. Indeed at the moment, this is almost all I have. This is true for everyone. Great health, money, most success — they are temporary things that may allow us for a while to distract others from our true self and who we really are. But it will catch up to us. We will suffer a physical setback, or go broke, or find ourselves in some other way suffering beyond what we had ever imagined, and the true substance of our lives will be revealed just as surely as morning follows evening. Furthermore, it will usually and utterly lack theological distinction. For in the midst of these trials, it is not a deep religiousness that will usually emerge, but rather a fundamental humanity.
Jesus was not theological but relational. Relational things have their impact as they touch us personally, in the places of our lives that are most deeply wounded. Jesus was not a pastor or a theologian. His primary impact came from the way he saw the world and the way he suffered. Why will it be any different for any of the rest of us? Thus my primary work in life is the same as his — healing, forgiveness, and the announcement of the availability of love, as lived out, primarily, in each individual moment I am encountering other human beings. The more freed this can be of theological and philosophical constriction, the better it works. This does not mean it is completely arbitrary, or without room for discussion and disagreement, only that grace, love, and presence themselves are not theological. In the life of Jesus, many of his most beautiful moments were when he utterly set aside theology and philosophy and simply announced to people that they were already, in that moment, standing in the flow of the mercy and love of God.
Thank you, Buck, for your simple question that has given me a chance to think about aspects of what life really means.