Sometimes it feels like I learn the same things over and over again. I'm not sure if it's because I didn't fully process the lessons the first time, because God is driving home a point, or both. So I thought it might be time to put some down in writing. I'm hoping that by writing out the lessons I've learned, I'll take them to heart.
1. It's not about you.
Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life opens with the above statement, and it's one of the most profound four-word sentences ("Jesus Christ is Lord" is of course the best four-word sentence). This lesson could stand alone, but I've found a couple of corollaries.
2. Not everyone who is mad is mad at you.
See Lesson #1.
3. People don't spend time obsessing over you, so stop obsessing over yourself. This lesson could also read: The impurities that you focus on when you are a half inch from the mirror cannot be seen my most people.
See Lesson #1, again.
4. Worry accomplishes nothing.
As a follow-up to lesson 3, I thought this was worth mentioning because I've struggled with worry. It constantly makes a come-back. But I'm trying to leave it off my mind's to-do list.
5. Back away from the lists occasionally to see if what is on them REALLY matters.
I've learned that if I leave things on my to-do list for long enough, some of the items become moot. Chances are some of the things I put on my lists weren't important to begin with, which is probably why I never found time to do them.
6. Focus on people more than things and tasks.
I'm embarrassed to admit how much I struggle with this. I have a strong affinity for completed tasks, and sometimes my single-minded focus on a task causes me to ignore the people God has put in my life.
7. Take down the to-do list from its pedestal as an idol.
This will make Lesson #7 easier. There are no rewards on earth or in Heaven for the number of completed to-do lists. I need to let that sink in.
8. Keep the Sabbath.
I've written about the benefits of Sabbath rest multiple times on here. I can't say enough about how observing this spiritual discipline has changed me for the better.
9. Fight for other white space on your calendar in addition to the Sabbath.
A Saturday, or even an evening, with nothing on the agenda can be as healing as a vacation and avoids the hassle of packing and traveling; plus, it's cheaper.
10. Count your blessings using a pen and paper.
For me, this is my one thousand (or now almost 3,500) gifts list. Write them down so that you can go back and see God's faithfulness. Fears are conquered when thankfulness abounds.
11. Most people are more approachable than we think; dare to speak.
I approached the Head Coach of the University of Texas baseball team after a loss, even after being warned that he might not sign the ball because he takes losses hard. I didn't get a word out of him, but I did get an autograph.
12. People never tire of encouragement.
I haven't yet experienced a time when someone rejected this.
13. People never tire of genuine praise.
Same as with Lesson 12.
14. Knowing when to speak and when to be silent is hard.
I'm not sure if I'll ever grasp this lesson on this side of eternity. It's one area I constantly need to pray for wisdom about.
15. Don't assume you know how people feel; ask them.
I tend to say things like, "I bet you had a great vacation." But maybe it was the vacation that everyone got sick on or that didn't go as planned. Open-ended questions are better for finding out how people really feel.
16. There is a ministry of presence.
Simply showing up and being present with people means you gave the gift of time. I experienced this when a friend made the three-hour drive in from Houston for my dad's funeral and then turned around and made the three-hour drive back. It ministered to me deeply.
17. You do not have to finish every book you start.
It took a long time for the "finish-what-you start" part of me to be okay with this. But when I realized that you don't get back the time that you spend on bad books, I took this to heart. Give yourself the grace to put down a bad book.
18. It's okay to give away things that you were given but that you don't use and don't see yourself ever using.
Clutter takes up physical and emotional space and can be a drain. Let someone else love your stuff, and let them get the "joy" of taking care of it.
19. Comparison is the thief of joy. - Theodore Roosevelt
Roosevelt hit this right on the mark. When I feel this setting in, it's time to get the gifts book out and start recording what I'm thankful for.
20. You can change your story.
Shauna Niequist just wrote an excellent blog post on this topic. It's also fresh on my mind because there are thirteen weeks of summer ahead. Unfortunately, I still have to work. But the days feel longer with sunlight lasting until almost 9 p.m., and I want to make the most of them. I feel like thirteen weeks is a good chunk of time to try new things and develop new habits. So, we'll see how it goes.
This is just a start, but I know there are many other life lessons to learn. What lessons have you learned?