How the Enneagram is Helping Me Grow as a Leader

It seems like everywhere you turn in the Christian world right now, someone is talking about the Enneagram. There are books, podcasts and blogs popping up everywhere.

I was first introduced to it two years ago as part of a leadership training I did with Katie through Crosspoint.

If you aren’t familiar, here’s a helpful description from Crosspoint:

We are in Christ so that we may become like Christ. (Ephesians 3:17) This is the journey of Christian spiritual formation. It requires a self-clarity anchored in the reality of being created in the image of God and re-created in the likeness of Christ. It involves ‘putting off’ the old way of being and ‘putting on’ the new way of being by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:20-24) Without a greater awareness of the unconscious motivations that impact our decisions and relationships, we remain stuck.

Each personality style carries a particular challenge to Christian maturity. This is what the desert fathers and mothers of the third and fourth century discovered. These spiritual guides were concerned about unacknowledged patterns that kept Christians from a deeper walk with Christ. As they listened and prayed, various patterns began to emerge. The individual Fruits of the Spirit (nine godly virtues) faced the corruptive power of nine specific vices. And it seemed to them that each virtue was susceptible to a particular vice. True sanctification of the heart would be impossible without addressing this subtle but sinful reality.

What I have found most helpful is that at the beginning of taking the Enneagram, it shows you your personality style. The way that you perceive reality, process reality and how you present yourself to the world around you.

In light of that, here are some ways it is helping me as a leader:

Helping me to know the mask I wear. Most adults and leaders are not self aware. Most of the people I meet with do not know how they are wired, how that wiring works, what they are best suited to do or not do. Knowing this one thing helps to save you a lot of heartache when it comes to figuring out a job, where to serve in a church or what would make you excited in the morning.

Many people also don’t understand the mask that they wear. The Enneagram really helped me understand the mask I wear, not only to protect myself in relationships, but also to get ahead. It really does help you understand the sins and tendencies that will bring you down. Sadly, many people will take the Enneagram or any test and say, “Well I’m just this or that, so that’s all there is to it.” That isn’t it or the end, and that is a sad excuse to stay stuck.

Which leads to the next one…

Helps those closest to me challenge me and pray for me. I’m an 8 on the Enneagram, which means I bring a lot of energy and intensity to everything I do and every relationship I have. I often joke that if you want something done and don’t care how it gets done, send an 8. If you want it done a specific way, send a 1. If you want it done efficiently, send a 3.

Knowing how I’m wired not only helps me process what I’m feeling and thinking when things happen, but it helps those around me understand that as well. It helps them to give grace when needed, but also to push on me when needed. They can also point out my blindspots a lot faster than simply guessing if I am that way.

If you are a friend with someone who is a 7, they can very easily be the life of the party, but they can also be impulsive, all over the map and lean towards escapism in unhealthy places. Knowing this is incredibly helpful not only for the person but for those around them.

Helps me to appreciate others wiring and give grace to them. Most people know that everyone is not wired like they are, but we rarely live like that is true. The Enneagram has really helped me understand how others are created, how they process and see things and how they protect themselves. 1’s are incredibly hard on things, they love things to be done well and perfectly (to their standards). They are also 10 times harder on themselves than on those around them. Knowing this has allowed me to extend a lot of grace to 1’s and help me understand the frustration they experience.

If you are friends with a 2 on the Enneagram, they love to help people and are often right in the center of helping to make things happen. But they also struggle to know what they need in a situation because they are often so focused on helping others and meeting their needs. Knowing this is enormously helpful to know how someone needs to pace themselves and make sure they have strong boundaries for rest and rejuvenation.

This matters in relationships because many times we will look at how others see the world and dismiss it because it is different than our viewpoint, or we will see how someone struggles with something and if we don’t struggle with that, we can easily look down on them or wonder why that is such a stumbling block to them. I feel like understanding this has raised my ability to give grace in situations that in the past I would’ve given up on someone.

Helps those closest to me understand my reactions and how I process the world. While the Enneagram has been a help to me in relationships, it has been a help to those closest to me as well as we’ve discussed what we’re learning together. This one point was one of the biggest aha moments for Katie and me in our marriage.

If you’re married, do you know how your spouse processes the world? You might know their reactions to things because you are so used to it by now, but do you know why they react that way? Where that comes from?

Most people don’t, but that one piece of information is incredibly important and helpful. Your spouse might get angry easily, but do you know why? People get angry for different reasons. That is how they process the world. Your spouse might shut down emotionally, but do you know why? They might look at the world through lenses of fear, melancholy, co-dependence, or being focused on their image.

All of those things matter and are important. And knowing these helps with the next one.

Helps me to know if my reactions or processing are sins. Getting angry isn’t always a sin, but sometimes it is. Isolating isn’t always a sin, but it can be. Being incredibly helpful and others-focused is a great quality, but it can be a sin. Getting things done is incredibly important and will make you very successful, but it can be destructive.

It is understanding yourself in the light of the person God created and called you to be that you are able to understand if something is a sin.

Being able to articulate that this is my childhood wound, this is how that has affected my life, this is how I have found redemption from it, is crucial in our journey to being whole in Christ. Being able to know this is why I’m fearful, anxious, frugal, emotionally sensitive, and what parts of those feelings and actions are sins or not is really important. I think it gives a bigger picture of humanity.

It keeps you from imploding. The last thing the Enneagram has helped me with as a leader is protecting from implosion. Now, the reality is that all of us are a choice away from wrecking our lives, but the Enneagram has helped me know what can wreck my life, what struggle can bring me or another person down. And they are different.

Another important aspect has come out of talking to counselors who have been using the Enneagram, and it is this: What made you successful in your 20’s and 30’s can often be the thing that brings you down in your 40’s and 50’s.

We have all seen this. The hard driving 28 year old who starts a business and “makes it happen” quickly becomes the tyrant no one wants to work for when he’s 42.

The person who is always helping others early in life who becomes co-dependent in relationships, and now they don’t know who they are without people.

The person who is the life of the party and the one you always want to have around because of how spontaneous and fun they are, but in their 40’s they are irresponsible and too impulsive as they switch from job to job.

Knowing the resourceful and non-resourceful side of your personality is crucial to knowing what will bring you down and the road to health.

Creating a Rhythm of Sabbath Rest

On a weekly basis I’ll hear things like, “I have too many things on my calendar” or, “At the end of the day I don’t have energy for my spouse, kids or the people who matter most to me.” We are a tired, overwhelmed and rundown bunch of people.

One of the questions that has been helpful to Katie and me is, Am I living in a way that is sustainable and will help me thrive tomorrow?

Why does this matter?

God calls us to be healthy. Healthy spiritually, physically, relationally, emotionally, and mentally. God created, us and all of us are meant to glorify Him.

This is a question that pushes on wisdom. In your life and your family right now, are you living in a way that will help you be healthy and thrive tomorrow? Is it sustainable? In churches, many times people burn out because they overload their calendars. We say yes to too many things. I have friends who are in four Bible studies a week, run their kids to ballet, orchestra, baseball and football, and serve in six ministries. Now, once you ask the question are we living in a sustainable way, you will often cut things out of your life. This is a good thing. However, the problem appears in the cutting. The second part is what will help me thrive tomorrow. That answer is harder. Not harder to discern but harder to apply. Most of the time I’ll see people cut God or church out of their lives in favor of hobbies or their kids’ sports. That won’t help you thrive tomorrow.

So what is the answer? What is our hope?

Learning to see and live with Jesus as our rest.

Tim Keller helps us with what this looks like:

God liberated his people when they were slaves in Egypt, and in Deuteronomy 5:12–15, God ties the Sabbath to freedom from slavery. Anyone who overworks is really a slave. Anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave – to a need for success, to a materialistic culture, to exploitative employers, to parental expectations, or to all of the above. These slave masters will abuse you if you are not disciplined in the practice of Sabbath rest. Sabbath is a declaration of freedom.

Thus Sabbath is about more than external rest of the body; it is about inner rest of the soul. We need rest from the anxiety and strain of our overwork, which is really an attempt to justify ourselves—to gain the money or the status or the reputation we think we have to have. Avoiding overwork requires deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation (Hebrews 4:1–10). Only then will you be able to ‘walk away’ regularly from your vocational work and rest.

What does that look like practically on a day to day basis? Here are a few ideas:

1. Let go because Jesus has this. As our Sabbath rest, we need to let go and give Jesus our burdens, stress, and anxiety and rest in Him. We know we will have burdens, stress and anxieties because Jesus tells us we will, and we are to give them to him. Because of Jesus’ work, coming from heaven to earth, we are able to accept our limitations. Because Jesus is limitless, we can rest in Him. Not only that, seeing Jesus as our rest is about trusting and enjoying Jesus as better than what we are running from or running in.

2. Schedule rest and recreation. It won’t just happen. Hebrews 4 tells us that we are to enter God’s rest. Exodus 20 tells us to, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” There is an active move on our part as it relates to rest. Sabbath throughout Scripture is an intentional thing, not something that is thrown together at the end.

The reality in being intentional also comes into play when it comes to our calendars and how we spend our time. Our lack of rest, while we often blame others, really comes down to our problem of stopping, trusting God and being okay with not doing certain things.

You’ve heard me say that everytime you say yes to one thing you say no to something else.

Maybe you should take your kids out of activities so you can spend the evening together. The number one complaint I hear from people is, “I don’t have time. I don’t have time for hobbies, sleep, my marriage, relationships, kids, reading my Bible.” You do, you just gave that time away. You give your time to the things that matter most. So what gets your time is what is important. This is why taking control of your calendar matters. If you don’t control your calendar, someone else will.

3. Learn how you rest best. What does enjoying God look like? I think there are some basic principles, but each of us will do this in unique ways. If the goal of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, Sabbath rest is a great way to do this.

For all of us, this will also include the reality of place. Place matters when it comes to glorifying God, enjoying God and resting in God.

Place is all throughout Scripture. Adam and Eve were given a garden, the nation of Israel was given a land, the church is given a city in Revelation. There is a place where rest, connecting to God, feeling closer to God happens for each of us, and it is important to think through that. For some it is a farm, the woods, a mountain, a city, a beach, but figure it out.

4. Fight against technology. A few practical things help me: resting from social media once a week, not having phones at the table so I can enjoy family time and conversations with friends, not checking email at night or on the weekends. The sad thing is that study after study says that as we become more and more technological as a culture, we become more and more distant and lonely.

5. Review your day and week. In his helpful book The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says that at the end of your day ask: Where did I feel most alive, most hopeful, most in the presence of God? And where did I feel most dead, most despairing, farthest from God? What fulfilled me, and what left me forsaken? Where did I taste consolation, and where desolation? This helps you to see where God is moving and at work. Part of Sabbath rest is celebrating that God is in control, resting in that, but also celebrating God’s goodness in our lives.

 

How to Make the Most of Your Morning

If you have kids (even if you don’t), the morning can be crazy. You stayed up too late watching that last episode on Netflix or the game, you hit the snooze button too much, and now you are racing out the door. Throwing lunches together, stuffing breakfast into your mouth.

There is a lot at stake in what we do with our mornings. In fact, the most productive people maximize their mornings.

Here’s the reality, though: If you don’t make the most of your morning, you will feel behind all day.

If your day is determined by your morning, how do you make the most of it?

Here are six ideas:

1. Get up before everyone. If you want to make the most of your morning, whether you are single, married or have kids, you have to get up before everyone else. You must be up before people start sending you texts and emails.

There is something that happens in the quietness of a morning, when it is still dark out.

I know, you are exhausted and not a morning person. I get it.

When we started our church I would work late into the night because I hated the mornings, but the reality is that most people do their best work and best thinking in the morning.

There is a definite difference to my day when I am up before everyone else and when I am not.

Parents know this truth because they feel behind if they wake up when their kids do.

2. Pick a spot. Place is important to many people, but particularly when it comes to focus for your heart. Choosing a spot that you return to each morning to recharge, focus and pray is incredibly important.

This might be a porch, a spot in your room or a favorite chair.

Wherever it is, don’t simply make this haphazard. Choose a spot that will help to quiet you and focus your heart.

The consistency of a spot and place will also start to create in your mind a signal that it is time to relax, think, and connect with Jesus. This becomes a very powerful part of maximizing your time.

3. Read/Journal. Focusing for your day will often come through feeding your soul first.

For me, it is spending time reading my Bible. Being able to have space to read, process, write down what God is doing in your heart and mind is incredibly important.

What things stand out to you while reading your Bible? Write them down.

Many people find a lot of relief from getting their thoughts and feelings out of their minds and onto paper. This is often a great stress reliever but also a place to leave something behind. You can also keep track of things you are praying for and when those prayers are answered.

4. Pray/Think. In the busyness of life, especially with kids, if you want to have time to pray and think in silence, you will have to carve it out. This is why you need to get up before everyone else. If you want quiet, you have to make it happen. Quiet does not magically find you.

If you are a leader, this is very important.

Part of your job as a leader is thinking and praying through what is next for your organization, your church and your family. As a parent, you must spend time thinking and praying about what is next for your marriage and your kids.

Recently, an older leader challenged me on this and said, “Josh, if you don’t spend time thinking and praying about what is next for your church, who do you think is?”

5. Tackle your hardest task first. If you’ve noticed, you haven’t done any work yet. For many people, you might be wondering when you start being productive.

But I would say that all of the above will bring greater levels of productivity and success.

As you think through your day, do what takes the most mental energy, the hardest task, the thing that will move the ball the furthest in your life and career, first.

For me and many pastors, this is sermon prep, not a meeting or a counseling session. Tackle the tasks that are not only hard but move the ball furthest in your life or work.

6. Turn on electronics. Notice, this is last and depending on how long everything else took you, it might be until lunch time before you check email, Facebook or Instagram. That isn’t a bad thing (unless your boss would be mad at you about checking your email that late, which is a different topic). Side note, if your boss doesn’t like that, have a conversation about how you can be more productive if you don’t check your email first thing in the morning.

Why does that help?

Email has a way of hijacking your day and brain. It sidetracks you. On sermon prep mornings, I don’t check my email until I am done. It keeps my head clear.

The reality is, no one else is responsible to make you successful, effective or productive. You are. If you aren’t, as much as we don’t want to admit it, that is often on us.

Take control of what you can control.

Feelings as an Invitation

Recently Katie and I were sitting in a conference with a group of pastors that was led by two counselors, and they were talking about the body and a theology of the body.

Fascinating.

During the time, though, they said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.

They said, “When you feel something, discomfort, anger, anxiety, worry, disgust, there is something going on, something you shouldn’t ignore. That something is an invitation from God for you to walk into.”

We all have those moments. Moments when we fly off the handle, sulk, pull away, lie awake in bed worrying about our marriage or finances.

What if those moments are invitations?

Most of the time, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you easily beat yourself up over those feelings. I shouldn’t feel that way. I shouldn’t think that. I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.

Those feelings are revealing something.

Something is going on.

It might be revealing a dark heart, a sin you need to confess.

It might be revealing something from your past you are running from, pretending it didn’t happen.

Many times our feelings are reminders of things we’d like to forget.

Yet, those are also places God wants to enter and redeem. Those are places and stories that need redemption.

That’s the invitation.

Don’t run from it.

Links for Leaders 8/4/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 5 articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Jon Acuff shares the simple mistake that most pastors make in their sermons. I’m certainly guilty of this, but it is a great reminder.

How do you evaluate your church? Based on who you are inviting. This is a great reminder for all pastors and Christians from Carey Nieuwhof.

I love to read and I’m assuming that if you follow this blog, you do as well. If you are a leader or want to be a leader, you need to be a reader. But how do you know which book to read next when there are countless possibilities? Dan Black shares 4 tips that are incredibly helpful.

Have you ever doubted something? Maybe you, like me, have struggled with doubts in life, in faith. What do you do? Many of us want to throw in the towel and give up. It seems easier. But what if that isn’t the best thing to do with doubt? Michael Kelley gives us a better answer for our doubts.

When should you bring your kids into a worship service? If you’re like me, you’ve struggled with this. As a church, as a pastor and a parent. Jen Wilkin has some great insights for this.

The Halfway Point of the Year & the Top 10 Posts of July

It’s the middle of summer.

In Tucson, where I live, the monsoon’s are in full swing and school is back in session.

The year is more than halfway over.

Hopefully you are closer to the goals you set at the start of the year.

If not, don’t fear.

The year isn’t over and it isn’t too late to hit restart and try again.

In case you missed them, here are the top 10 posts of the month of July. Hopefully, they are encouraging to you but also help you reach the goals you have as a leader and a person. Thanks for reading!

  1. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  2. How to Share your Faith
  3. 7 Ideas to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually
  4. 8 Questions to Ask Before You Preach a Sermon
  5. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  6. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife
  7. How Many Times a Year Should a Pastor Preach
  8. 5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read
  9. What Role a Pastor’s Wife Plays in the Church?
  10. When You Manipulate Your Husband, You Lose Him

Summer Vacation Here I Come!

Summer break

My elders have been kind enough to give me a longer summer preaching break than normal this year. Because of that I won’t be posting anything new on my blog until July 6th (at which time I’ll be back with some great new stuff for you), so that we can rest, recharge and enjoy some time as a family. I’ll also be posting less on social media, but I’ll be posting fun pictures of our adventures on Instagram.

In the meantime, here are some of the most recent top posts on my blog to keep you company until I get back:

Healthy Marriage

Healthy Church

Healthy Leadership

Healthy Faith

Healthy Preaching

If you’re curious about what I’m reading this summer, here you go (and yes, Katie and I take a suitcase of books on vacation):

Have a great summer!

How to Lose Weight as a Leader

Every month I hear from a reader of this blog, a fellow pastor or talk to someone who wants to lose weight. I get asked about my weight loss journey on a weekly basis. For most Americans and leaders, weight and health are a struggle. And it gets harder the older you get.

I get two common questions from people, especially leaders, about weight loss. One is from pastors themselves asking me about how I lost weight and how they can, too. The second is from their wives asking me how they can make their husbands lose weight.

The first question I can answer. The second one is ground I don’t walk onto.

For me, I got miserable enough to lose weight. I weighed 300 pounds when I got married, had a 42 inch waist and finally at the ripe old age of 29, got fed up with it.

If you are a leader, being healthy and losing weight becomes incredibly difficult. You have a lot of stress, a lot of things to do, a lot of meetings to sit in and a lot of meetings at restaurants. Throw in traveling to conferences and you are looking at a life filled with minimal activity and a lot of temptation when it comes to food.

The journey of losing weight and keeping the weight off is similar.

If you work for a living (or if you don’t), these are some ideas that will help you to lose weight and keep it off:

Know what you’ll eat wherever you go. One of the easiest ways to lose weight when eating out is to not get sucked into the menu. When you go somewhere, you should always know what you are going to eat. This will help to keep you from remorse about your food purchase.

Plan for exercise. Before you travel somewhere, know where you will exercise. I have chosen hotels on trips based off of the gyms they have. Find a gym you can walk to and get a guest pass. Once Katie and I were in LA for four days, and we got 3-day guest passes to a gym.

In your workday, know when you are going to exercise. If you don’t attach a minute to it, it won’t happen. Your day will get away from you, and you will find yourself not exercising.

Order first everywhere. At a meal out, always be the first to order. This is an idea from Tom Rath at Gallup that talks about how the first person to order sets the tone for the table. If the first person orders an appetizer, everyone looks at the appetizer and your meal just added at least 1,000 calories to it.

Drink lots of water. Everyone knows soda is bad for us, and yet we keep drinking it in ridiculous amounts. When you travel and when you sit in meetings, drink lots of water. Especially when you are flying somewhere, this will help you to avoid dehydration and help to keep you more alert.

Go to bed first. Sleep is the secret weapon for every leader. It is the secret weapon to every athlete, and yet we treat this poorly. I watch a lot of pastors when they travel somewhere stay up until 1am hanging out with friends and then running ragged because of it. Turn off Netflix and go to bed.

Stand and walk as much as possible. If a lunch meeting is less than a mile from your office or a meeting, try to walk. Just move. Get up out of your seat at least every hour and move around.

Don’t eat dessert. No one ever eats dessert and is glad they did. In fact, if you eat an entire dessert at a restaurant there’s a good chance you will hate yourself after the fact. Share one if you are going to get one, but I’d encourage you to fill up on some real food.

While this isn’t a complete list, these are just a few ideas that might help you get started on your weight loss journey or keep moving.

Love Is… (1 Corinthians 13)

I know that loving people is hard. It can be exhilarating and bring us so much joy, but it can also bring us heartache.

Last week Katie and I were with one of our mentors, and he said, “The people God has placed in our lives are there to activate what God wants to transform.” That is hard because everyone in my life isn’t always easy to live with. They can be messy, difficult, get in the way and get on my nerves. I can do the same to them as well. That is what relationships are like.

I want to encourage you to continue thinking through how you can bring love to your relationships, especially the most important and closest ones to you.

If you aren’t familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 on love (a very popular wedding passage), let’s remind ourselves:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Love is patient. We are impatient people. We want food fast, internet fast and we get annoyed when Netflix buffers. We are also impatient relationally. This plays out by being demanding, bulldozing people and pushing too hard. It’s the worst with those closest to us, pushing them, expecting them to be what we want, to do what we want. Yet love says, “However long it takes for you to get your act together, I’ll be here.” Our culture says, “If they don’t change fast enough, if they hold you back, move on.”

Can you imagine Jesus saying, “You aren’t changing fast enough, so I’m done with you”, or, “You aren’t responding to me fast enough, so we’re done”? This is difficult, especially if you are a control freak in your life.

Love is kind. Kindness is actions, words, emotions and so much more.

In your relationships, do you use your presence and words to show kindness, or do you tear the other down? Kindness often is keeping your mouth shut when you’d love to open it. Not in a way to cover sin, but in a way to say, “That isn’t a big deal; I’ll let that go.”

Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. Envy is a longing for something that isn’t currently ours. Boasting is puffing ourselves up, focusing on ourself and our needs over the needs of others. Arrogance is thinking we’re better than we are. Rude is controlling the agenda and everyone around us.

When we envy others, boast, are arrogant or rude, we push people away.

Often we do these things to be right, but also to protect ourselves from getting hurt. If I envy you, then I can blame you for my problems. If I boast, I can put you down to make me feel better. The same is true of being rude. If I’m arrogant, I protect myself from getting hurt. If I’m not proud, I’m willing to open up my heart to hurt, yes, but I also open up my heart to love.

All these emotions and actions do is isolate us. In this passage Paul is inviting us to let go of these desires.

Love does not insist on its own way. Many times love is self-seeking and about what we want.

Why do we insist on our way? For protection, fear, pride, anxiety, control, just to name a few. Love gives in relationships; it doesn’t take.

Love doesn’t insist on perfection. In our photoshopped, air brushed culture, we insist on perfection. We take and re-take selfies. We only post our highlights or our low lights in a way to get love. Think the next time you post something, are you posting it for affirmation? Most of us do.

But love says, “I’ll accept you. I’ll walk with you.” Love says, “I won’t have an independent spirit.” This doesn’t mean you are co-dependent, because that’s unhealthy, but do you bring an independent, “I’m going to do what I want when I want” spirit to your relationships?

At the end of the day, this is empathy and a willingness to see from the other person’s perspective in a relationship.

Love is not irritable or resentful. We all know people who are resentful and always irritated. They keep a list of wrongs in relationships, reminding people of past hurts. They also always expect the worst in relationships.

Do you know where this comes from? It comes from their family of origin, but often it comes from the picture they have of the relationship.

For me, I am often my biggest critic. Every situation I am in with anyone, I have a picture in my mind of what that interaction and time will be like. What this does is prevent me from enjoying the moment. I have to constantly battle this. Multiple times a day I have to remind myself, “This is good enough. The world won’t end.” When we let go and enjoy, we more easily let go of hurt, we more easily let go of things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to go.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. This goes with the last one.

Do you rejoice over the mistakes of those closest to you? Being able to say, “I told you it would go that way”, which puffs us up to show that we are right. We look at people who make mistakes in our lives and think, “How did you not know that would go that way?”

This also gets into the area of being historical in relationships. Do you find yourself saying, “Remember when…”, “You always…”, or “You never…”? Don’t miss this: No strong relationship is filled with the words always and never.

But what if the other person in my life is hard to love? What if my spouse is difficult? What if my child is hard to get along with? What if my parents or in-laws are always getting into our relationship?

Paul ends with what I think are the hardest parts of this passage, because they cost us the most.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. This is the hardest part of love. This last verse shows us not only what God’s love towards us cost Him, but it shows us what love will cost us. It also shows us how strong love is.

Love can bear all things when we love the way God loves us. Love does not give up hope. Love is not naïve, but love is powerful. The love that Paul has been talking about in these verses is love that can bear all things, believe all things and hope all things.

But what if the other person doesn’t love like that?

Love endures all things. That’s why Paul ends with love endures all things.

You have the choice to endure all things, in love, even when things are the hardest and the darkest. Even when facing your hurt is painful, even when that person hurts you emotionally, you have the choice to love.

Will they return that love? Maybe not.

We love those around us the way we believe God loves us (1 John 4:19), whether we believe in God or not.

For example, if we believe God is indifferent towards us, this is how we approach most relationships. If we believe God is holding out on us, we will hold out on those closest to us in relationships. If we believe God has a short fuse, we will tend to have a short fuse. If we believe God doesn’t care what we do, this is how we will treat those closest to us.

How do I know this?

1 Corinthians 13 is a picture of God’s love toward us. All of these remind us of what God’s love is like.

God is not impatient or unkind with us. He is not pushy. God does not say to us, “Do you remember when you…”, or, “You always…” Instead, we are told that when we take the step of following Jesus and confessing our sins and need for Jesus, God remembers our sin no more. It is hard when we are hurt, carry around shame and regret and guilt from past relationships to see the truth. We are so used to seeing that relationship and all relationships through the lens of pain. Yet Jesus sets us free from our shame, regret and guilt. He is the power to overcome those experiences.

But why is love so hard?

Because, “The people God has placed in our lives are there to activate what God wants to transform.” So, as you read through the list in 1 Corinthians 13, you begin to see what God wants to transform in your life through what is difficult for you to live out.

Think of one thing, one relationship, and work on that. Change and growth take time, so don’t feel like you need to fix every relationship you have. That’s not possible. Give yourself permission to take your time. God isn’t in a rush.

Body Image, Weight Loss & the Nasty Mirror

I was sitting with Katie in a room with 50 other people. All of us were in ministry of some kind, and the speaker (who also is the counselor that Katie and I meet with) asked the question that stopped me in my tracks.

“How many of you are comfortable in your body?”

Now before I go on, there is something you need to know.

I’m 37 as I write this and I weigh 190 pounds. I do Crossfit four days a week, and I’ve never been in better shape or as strong as I am right now. That wasn’t always the case, though. In fact, when I was 28 I weighed 300 pounds, wore a 2 XL shirt and had a 42 inch waist.

As I sat there and thought about this question, the answer was, “No, I don’t feel comfortable in my body.”

Not a day goes by that I don’t look in the mirror and see a 300 pound 28 year old who hurts when he wakes up, sweats at the most inopportune moments and gets out of breath from walking up a flight of steps. I struggled to get on the floor to play with my kids.

And I still see that guy. I stare at myself in the mirror and think about it.

When I see body builders talk about having a cheat day, I cringe. Why? A cheat day is simply a step back to 300 pounds, is how my mind thinks. This often takes away the ability to enjoy food and simply relax. My wife is so kind, but I’m sure I drive her nuts when I miss a workout or feel off my game with food.

Is it possible to be comfortable in your body? Notice, the question is different than comfortable with your body.

I think it is.

Part of it has to do with accepting who you are, accepting the parts of your body that you would change (everyone has those). It also means celebrating the parts of your body that you do like. Yes, it also means enjoying food. Probably in moderation, though.

This past year, after eight years of counting calories (to teach myself how to eat), weighing myself almost daily, being insane about what I eat, I stopped. I still eat really healthy, but I’m working on stopping when I’m full. I’m enjoying life and what goes in my body. Yes, I punish myself at the gym, but that’s more out of a desire for strength and enjoyment of that punishment than trying to reach a certain body.

Am I comfortable in my body?

Not yet.

I’m closer than I was when I heard this question six months ago.