An Opportunity to Change

Change and conviction comes to us in moments where we are not expecting it, and usually in a way we are not expecting. I’ve had a couple of those moments over the past twenty four hours. Last night, I showed to up a young adults get-together at my new church. (For those of you who may be wondering why, I’m stationed in Jacksonville, NC with the Marine Corps) It was a great time – I made some new friends and got to know some people. One of the young ladies, Amy, overheard me singing a couple of lines from a song someone was playing on a guitar, and she immediately asked me to consider joining the choir. Truth be told, another lady at the church had already heard me singing and told me I should join, and I was chewing on it. I asked her a couple of questions, and then: “What’s the time commitment?” It wasn’t terrible; practice on Tuesday nights, attend 80% of services during the quarter, work notwithstanding, not too much. She asked me to come out Tuesday night, and I immediately pulled a knee-jerk reaction: “Well, that’s my last night off for the 96, and I want to go see a movie.” It was a pretty lame response, but I went with it. She tried to convince me otherwise, but as many of you know, I’m stubborn as all get-out. Flip the page to this morning. I was working on a few emails, and opened up one from my Dad. He sent me a link to a blog named ‘goodguyswag’: ’10 Ways to Win a Girl’s Heart’. I’m always up to learn how to better pursue attractive young ladies – what single guy isn’t? I clicked on it. I don’t really know what I was expecting – a few suggestions on how to talk with her, or interesting ideas for dates, perhaps. What I wasn’t expecting was a smoke check. Especially from some guy who lives in LA, the liberal left coast. Land of Hollywood liberals, and gangsters. Through his article ( a couple others he wrote), he called me out, and the Holy Spirit was lightning-quick in exploiting the gap in my defenses. In it, he began to outline the difference between a nice guy and a good guy. Basically, who seeks approval, is too stubborn to change, looks what’s in it for him and doesn’t take risks? The nice guy. Who seeks identity in Christ, is thankful for the presence of Christ to change him, seeks to place others’ needs before his own, and is willing to be courageous? The good guy. In a lot of ways, I’ve just been the nice guy, in particular, with really attractive, interesting women. A nice, safe friend. I have not been anyone who can open up, and really pursue a girl. Looking back over the past few years at college, it’s definitely evident. There were a couple of girls, one in particular, who I really, really wanted to pursue, and who I thought was just about all I could ever dream of: talented, passionate, and absolutely beautiful. I knew if I could make her mine, all my troubles would be over. I’m still not sure who I was trying to kid with that fantasy. Regardless, she was – and is – awesome. Just ask my buddies. They know. I could never summon up the courage to really lay it all out on the line, and open my heart, tell her how I feel, risk my reputation on campus and self-image. Risk my heart, really. Go for broke. Oh, you better believe I still sweated bullets over the matter, and I’m proud that I tried, but it was half-hearted. I knew it each time I spoke with her, and I knew she knew it, too. I was held back. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt deep down inside I had what it takes to win her heart, but I couldn’t overcome the wall standing in my way. Something was holding me back. She was on a pedestal and I was flat on the deck. Spiritually, I know the reason – my identity in Christ is not complete. This manifested in an irrational fear of man, in particular, attractive girls. Which was, and is, absolutely stupid. They’re people too, you know. Some of it came from being a dork in high school, and realizing I had a lot of work to do before the girls I wanted to be with looked at me twice. Part of it was some misguided idea of what I thought was honor, but was really false humility: “So many guys go for that girl already, I won’t bother her since I’m a gentleman”, or “I’m not worthy, or cool enough, fashionable enough, talented enough, or interesting enough for a girl like that to fall for me”. I also managed to develop a spirit of jealous pride whenever I encountered guys who had really broken through and were confident, charismatic, and had risen to the top in a social or dating situation. I figured I was really better than they were because of the Corps, my revelation of the kingdom, or whatever other idiocy, so I kept aloof and held my distance, and I wondered to myself why weren’t they following me? I’m better, right? I was really jealous of how well they had done. I was too proud to take a step back, and realize these guys were making waves in the kingdom, and I should join them, not fight them! It was a mistake, and I know I paid a price. All this was a result of the bigger picture: my attitude. For too long, it was all about me. What relationships did I have that would gratify me? Enable, equip me? Teach me? Do something for me? What would this opportunity give me? What contact, or networking opportunity could I create from this? As a result, whenever the door opened for me to serve others, I usually ignored it. I tried to be an Resident Advisor on campus one year, but I wasn’t chosen because at that moment, when presented with a scenario, I couldn’t see that true leadership is by example. I helped with one or two service projects at college and whenever somebody asked me to lend a hand, I was glad to do so, but I never volunteered to commit to an outreach, spend a Saturday morning or give up a night a week to help others (like I was doing anything). I was even asked in the early fall of my senior year to lead an outreach group, but I turned it down. I eventually realized my error, but I was too concerned with “living up” my senior year. Looking back, I’m asking why. Maybe it’s because I jealously guard my time, and hate the rat race most are in. Sometimes, I didn’t think the folks attending outreach were “my kind of people”, or they were “not cool enough”. It’s frustrating to realize I left friendships and opportunities to help and grow on the table, but Yahweh is more concerned with my heart, and He’s patient. And opportunities for reclaiming what was lost, stolen or given away always come back around. To pick up the story: this morning reading GoodGuySwag, the Holy Spirit really drove home a new angle: it’s not about you anymore. I began to mediate on this once I graduated college in the spring of 2012 and I left for TBS, but knowing something in your head, and having it the revelation in your heart are two different matters altogether. It’s taken me awhile to get this in relationships. Apostle Todd at the Rock of Northwest Arkansas planted this seed in my heart last summer with his word about evangelism, reaching out and blessing others. Major Christopher Reynolds and Captain Marc Tucker, my company commander and my staff platoon commander at The Basic School taught the lieutenants of 4th Platoon it is not about us; it’s about our Marines. Always. Pastor Chris at River of Life church said it again (although I must confess, I originally keyed in on it because I wanted to get something: when we give away from ourselves, it’s often a door for us to grow). And my new company commander, Captain Lee Stuckey, repeated it to me last Thursday night at the Marine Corps ball (238 years young, oohrah): it’s not about us ever again – it’s about our Marines, and it will always be about our Marines, as long as we are in the Corps. So what I am doing to change? I went outside and attacked the Graceland tire flips challenge, 100 flips for time. This is something I’ve been ducking for a while now (but that is another story). I’m writing this blog. I’m going to choir practice tomorrow night. I’m skipping the University of Miami/Duke game with my buddies to attend my church’s outreach Saturday morning. I’m going to help out with the outreach near New River a week Saturday. It’s going to stretch me, and pull me out of my comfort zone, but that’s okay. And because I’m taking my eyes off myself, this will give the Holy Spirit a great opportunity to inject me a healthy dose of confidence in Christ. For in the end, I can’t stay where I am, or continue to do what I have done if I want to make a difference in the lives of those around me, and most dear to my heart, my Marines. Because, in the end, it’s not about me.– Semper Fi




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