Monday, June 24, 2013

What Matters

Time is limited.

The movie In Time starring Justin Timberlake contained the basic plot and understanding that every living human being exists within a specific time frame. The characters of the movie all possessed clocks on their arms that would begin counting down towards zero once they reached a certain age. Once their clock reached zero, they would cease to exist. Instead of being paid a regular wage, they were paid in time increments in order to prolong their existence. Commodities were equated with a different cost in time; 4 minutes for a coffee, 3 minutes for a bus ride, etc.

As leaders, parents & individuals, our life here on earth does follow this same basic principle and understanding. It's true we may not possess a countdown clock on our forearms letting us know how much time we've got left, we do have an awareness that life on this planet doesn't last forever, and usually a longing to invest whatever time we've been given coincides with this basic understanding.

When I think about investing my life, I think about what I need to experience so that I'm filled with great joy and hope. I'm also thinking about what it might mean for others around me to experience a joy filled life. Conversation and interaction between human beings is a large part of life. When I interact with others, am I making the most out of my opportunity to connect with them, or am I wasting my time instead of investing it.

Here are three ideas that I'm discovering about creating conversation that matters.

1. Rooted in story. Each of us has a story to tell. Every life exists for a reason and purpose. Each life represents a single story that is being lived within the context of a greater unfolding story known as the existence of humanity. When I connect with others (old or young), how am I sharing my story with them? Our world is designed to trade in relational currency. My story matters. Your story matters. Our lives matter. Choosing to share stories with one another helps to create the life-giving interaction and experience that each of us crave. Share your life by sharing your story (past, present & future).

2. Willingness to listen. While finding the courage to share my life with someone is critically important, I must also be willing to create the space of others to feel heard and valued through my willingness to listen. I create life-giving opportunities for others by being willing to hear them. My youngest son Deklon reminds me of this all the time. He is just learning how to speak, but he always has a great story he wants to share with me. Sure, there may be only a few words that I understand, but the joy in his eyes as he knows I'm his captive audience is inspiring!

When we interact with others do they know that we are willing to hear what they have to say? We may not agree entirely with them, but we model that they are valued when we take the time to listen to what they have to say. Are you willing to listen to someone's story?

3. Courage to be real. Perhaps this should have been where I started my rant. I'm tired of fake things. Plastic plants always look great from a distance, but when you get close to them, you realize that they are really limited in what they can be used for. This same principle can be applied to our understanding of human life. People that do not represent who they really are through the way they live their lives and interact with others will find themselves becoming increasingly lonely. We humans are designed for authenticity...fake just won't do! We might be able to fool some people for a little while, but we will loose sight of our own identity and a sense of stability in the process if we continue to project who we think we should be instead of who we really might be. The rejection of our fake self is easier to handle, that much is true, but the acceptance of our fake self is even more difficult to process. All you were ever meant to be was you...just the way you intentionally flawed masterpiece. Find the courage to be real, cause fake just won't do!

Conversation that is real, rooted in story & provides an opportunity to be heard is life-giving. How are your creating these environments and opportunities with the time you've been given?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Most Terrifying Question I've ever asked

What now?

In recent weeks I've found myself bumping into this question more frequently. I've walked with families who are working through pain, I've seen many grade 12 students wondering what might be on the horizon a few months from now, and I've even had conversations with folks about different life transitions they are looking at (moving, changing jobs, health issues, etc.). The one common denominator in all of these interactions has been the prevailing, and somewhat deafening, ask of "what now?"

This question seems to stem from a form of identity crisis. When a role that we have played begins to shift (like graduation from an achievement of sorts), we seemingly loose sight of a piece of our identity. We are no longer what we used to be, and we are uncertain of who we are in the immediate and now not as distant future.

I wonder if the tension we experience is a result of allowing our identity to be shaped more by the roles we've been accustomed to playing rather than the values or the principles from which we may have stated are the foundation of our lives.

Consider this: If a parent who has had their children living with them in their home for 20+ years is now suddenly dealing with the emerging reality of becoming an empty-nester (a welcome thought for some), does their role a parent come to an end? Perhaps not, but it does indeed shift.

If roles in life change, and if experiences sometimes facilitate this change, how might one respond to the reality of the 'what now' in their life? Here are three simple suggestions.

1. Breathe. This may seem like a no brainer, but this is absolutely critical. Without oxygen we will die. There are times when the pain we are experiencing in our moment of crisis we are impeded in our attempts to not only breathe physically, but to find space to process the emotional, spiritual and physical realities that transition brings. Create space where you can process this transition and don't forget to catch your breath.

2. Seek wise counsel. Get input from people who have gone through a season of asking the "what now" question before. Their experience might not mirror your own experience, but you may also be able to learn from someone who has walked the "what now" path before you. You're not expected to figure everything out on your own. Take some time to connect with people you trust, people who have your best intentions at heart and allow them to walk this emerging journey with you.

3. Take your time. Don't be hard on yourself. It takes time to work through a "what now" season. In our intensely saturated instantaneous culture we succumb to the pressure and demands of results based value as a society. It takes time to work through different seasons in life. The "what now" season is no different. You cannot expect an instantaneous response to a soul-stirring question. Be kind to yourself and others who are walking through this kind of season. You don't simply get over a "what now" season, you get through it...and that takes time.