Transitioning Well

FAQ’s are pretty normal these days. What’s interesting in this is that you can sometimes figure out what God is doing in a group of people by paying attention to their FAQ’s. Their (or our) questions will change from season to season, but that’s because God is doing new things in our lives that cause us to ask new questions.

Recently, I have heard a lot of people talking about transition. In fact, I think I’ve had three conversations in the past month or less that have all revolved around this topic and have ended in the same question: How do you transition well?

Well, fortunately (or unfortunately, I’m not sure), I might be somewhat of an expert on transitions. I graduated college seven years ago, got married six years ago, have had four children, moved six times, have had two internships and six different jobs, started two businesses, closed a business, helped start two non-profit organizations and plant a church, and in the midst of all that, have experienced the most radical changes in my belief system and rapid learning curve of any period in my life (whew!).

What has kept me sane and somehow productive in all that? It’s that God, in His mercy, taught me something very important near the beginning of these transitions that has become a foundational value for me, especially during times of transition. This value comes from Psalm 37:3-4, which says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Many people quote the second verse here, as I have myself, without understanding the context it comes from. It’s true that God intends to give us the desires of our heart when we delight in Him, and this is what that looks like in many of our lives: We seek the Lord and internally commit our lives to Him. Then, we ask for things we desire, whether a spouse, job, career, children, or any other thing that’s dear to our hearts. He sees our heart to follow Him, so He begins to lead us. Following His lead means that we enter a season of transition—we are going from one thing into another.

Here’s the next logical step that most of us take: We leave our current place and find someplace new that makes more sense to us according to how we believe God is leading us. This transition now has made us cut relationships, or at least put unintentional strain on them, which means starting over with new ones. It has meant some degree of uprooting and a need to put down roots in a new place. And, invariably, this new place is one of hope, because we are certain that we are closer to the desires of our heart. Sometimes this may be the case, but I think that most of the time, if we’ve done this, we’ve actually missed an important key.

The key is found in the context, where we find that David tells us to trust God, do good, dwell in the land, and befriend faithfulness. Looking even broader at verses 1-9, we find other instructions like, “Commit,” “Be still,” “Wait patiently,” and “Wait for the Lord.” We see that David is talking about when circumstances are evil, when we are surrounded by things or people we don’t like (or who don’t like us), when we would like to do nothing more than ditch and run, that this is the answer: Be faithful. Stay put. Let your roots grow deeper. Fix your trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart.

So, really, the question of how to transition well has an oxymoronic answer. To transition well you almost always stay put. But don’t miss the point—you are cultivating faithfulness. Those relationships you have might be shallow now, but befriend faithfulness and watch them grow. And remember that you’re not just standing pat on your circumstances; while you wait for the Lord, you are doing good.

Doing good cannot be done in a vacuum; you have to interact with people to do good. Doing good will win you favor in your relationships and lead you to embrace the character you will need once God gives you the desires of your heart.

Are you in a time of transition right now? Welcome to the club. What that means for most of us is that we need to befriend faithfulness and intentionally do good to one another, all the while trusting God, delighting in Him, and waiting patiently for Him to give us the desires of our hearts.

My Hope

Recently I was asked, “Twenty years from now, what do you hope you’ll think about your life now?”

I thought for a moment and answered, “Hopefully, twenty years from now I will see that I was faithful with the my seeds. Because I know that what I have now is a little, but that when I’ve been faithful with it, God will make it become much.”

As I thought about my answer in the days following this exchange, I realized that the biggest reason I gave this as my answer is because of how I think about eternity. I know that while my place in heaven is based on the grace of Jesus, my reward in heaven is based on my faithfulness on earth. For that reason, I am highly motivated to be a wise steward of all my little things on earth that they might become much, so that one day I will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

But I realized that this also led to a fear about heaven because eventually in leaving earth I will leave things undone. This feels like a measure of unfaithfulness for which I would be unable to account before God, and my reward might suffer simply because I had died with things unfinished.

The first alternative to this is to try to pace yourself as you see the end coming (assuming you do see it coming), so that you can leave earth with no loose ends. The problem here is that you might end up accomplishing less because you’re sort of coasting to the finish line and be counted as less faithful because of it.

Finally, I realized the solution, and it’s as simple as fatherhood. If I do my job as a father, then my work will be passed on to others who will carry on after I’m gone, tying up my loose ends for me without me needing to coast to the end.

While this is a wonderful solution to my fears about the everlasting implications of my earthly faithfulness, there’s something deeper that I see here, and that’s that the real measure of my faithfulness is not in my ability to accomplish much, but in my ability to father well.

I think maybe this is part of what Jesus meant when He said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” The servant wasn’t rewarded just because he was faithful, but also because he was good.

My hope, twenty years from now and in eternity, is that I will have been faithful with my first charge – my family – and that beyond that, I will have grown much from what God has entrusted to me, so that through me He may entrust it to my children for them to continue in a legacy of being both faithful and good.

What is a father?

What is a father?

Is a father merely someone who has biological or adopted children? Is he someone who provides for children under his roof or pays their way through college? Or is a father someone who teaches us how to skip stones, tie fishing knots, and ride a bike?

The truth is that all of these may describe things a father does, but they do not define what a father is. Fatherhood is defined by two essential elements – Nature and Inheritance.

I will describe inheritance first, so that I can immediately clear up any misunderstanding about what I mean. What I do not mean is that fathers are only good for their money. There is much more to fatherhood than simply amassing a small treasure to bequeath to our children so that they can have an easier life.

What I do mean is that a true father wants his children to go farther than he can, and consequently lives in such a way as to make that happen. This requires fathers to gain something of value to leave as an inheritance – not necessarily finances, though that is a possibility – just something of value to pass on to their children. My father labored to gain an incredible knowledge of the scriptures, and my inheritance from that is a depth of faith in God and knowledge of the Word that continually surpassed my peers as a child. It means that today I am teaching God’s Word instead of merely trying to grasp basic concepts.

The things of value that we gain for our children can be from any area of life – including finances – but the heart of a father is expressed in the intentional growth and passing on of these things so that our children can surpass us. Our ceiling must be their floor.

Inheritance does little good, however, if a father does not pass on his nature. This requires him to invest in his children so that they have his heart and are going the same direction he is. If our children do not go the same direction we are going, then how can they go farther than us? This means that we must train our children regarding what is important to us and work with them to develop the character and responsibility to remain strong on our path.

In the past we have thought ourselves to be successful fathers and parents if our children can graduate college, hold down a good job, have a nice family, pay their mortgage, and save up enough to retire by age 65. We need to realize now that successful fatherhood goes beyond teaching the actions of building a life to teaching the heart we should have in life. It is the difference between only teaching my children how to shoot a gun and also teaching them when and why to shoot it.

The definition of fatherhood is not limited to fatherly actions, finding its ultimate fulfillment in the heart behind those actions. It is not simply to produce offspring, but to impart a nature and release a destiny by endowing provision, protection, and identity.

This is who a father is. This is a father’s heart.