It’s an interesting week in my life, as God has taught me a major lesson in priorities and selfishness. I feel like I can relate to Archippus, who was reminded by Paul the Apostle:
Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17)
Allow me to back up. If you know me, you know that I am a gun nut. I just dig firearms. I love to shoot and love to hunt. Some guys like cars, some are into computers, some play lots of sports. (I do all of that to various degrees, too…) But for me, shooting is it. I am good at it, I enjoy it, and it is stress-relieving. It’s not any more expensive than golf and there is less beer involved.
So a couple of months ago a friend encouraged me to send in an audition email to the producers of Top Shot. I am a big fan of the show, so I went ahead and sent their producers a casting email just for fun. I got a call from their producers! After a 20-minute phone interview they asked me to make a casting video for them; this is what we made. (hat tip to Lowman Photography for the amazing video)
After the video was submitted, Laura and I started really praying in earnest about it. It wasn’t a slam dunk that I would be cast, of course, but there was a real chance that I could be chosen I think. (I have friends who have worked in the industry and they liked my chances) The hitch: the production schedule. Filming for the show is August 3rd-September 15th, during which time the cast is sequestered. They go live in Southern California and have no contact with friends and family for 6 weeks.
That was a pretty steep price to pay. I was asking my wife to let me have 6 weeks of no contact with her; same with my kids. I was asking my church to allow me to basically take a sabbatical of 6 weeks and our two other pastors to pick up the slack. I was asking both schools I teach at part time (ACU and Phoenix Seminary) to let me take about 4 weeks at the beginning of the fall semester off or maybe replace me for a semester.
So I did what I always do when things are not clear: I started praying, and started talking to my mentors. I talked to the man who led me to Christ, Keith, who is a wonderful mentor and friend. His advice was that this is a great, national opportunity to preach the gospel but if Laura wasn’t fully on board I should let it go. I talked to several other people about it too. We decided just to let the process take its course and hey, if they said no then fine.
After awhile of not hearing, I finally sent a follow-up email to the producers asking if I had been eliminated to just put the idea to rest. I didn’t want it hanging around if I were out of the running! He emailed me back and said that I was still “in the running,” and that was when I really had to make a decision. That email, telling me I was still in, didn’t fill me with excitement or joy; instead I felt a sinking feeling because I still had to decide if I could ask everyone to go out of their way for me.
But more than anything the advice of the man I call my “hunting mentor,” Norm, rang in my ears. Norm reminded me that I have a very unique calling and opportunity. He reminded me that I get the unique privilege to be a shepherd and to serve people with the message of Christ. And that got me thinking about underlying motives. It got me thinking about why I wanted to be a contestant on Top Shot. It’s because it is a cool show and the contestants get to participate in some awesome marksmanship contests.
So, at the core of it, I was asking everyone around me to sacrifice a bunch so that I could go play with guns for six weeks. Now, how much does that sound like what Jesus says?
“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Luke 9:23–25)
Yeah, not much. Sounds pretty selfish to me.
So Laura and I prayed. And Wednesday I sent the producers an email asking them to take me out of consideration. They were disappointed, but understood. Someone else will take my place for sure!
I don’t post this to toot my own horn, but just to let you, dear readers, in on my thought process. As Paul tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. ” (1 Corinthians 6:12) It would be “lawful” for me to go, but even if profitable for me it wouldn’t be for my wife, my kids, and my church. (okay, if I won the $100,000 grand prize it would be…but there are no guarantees there for sure)
So God reminded me that I needed to focus on the great rather than the good and the fun. That I needed to die to self a little and think of those around me. After a few early days this week of self-focus about this, He has reminded me again to put others ahead of my pleasure and seek the kingdom of God.
How about you? How is God leading you to put aside ambition and self-interest in His cause? How is God changing your priorities and habits to be more like Him?