What do you want from your life?
That question will draw a lot of different responses and many reasons for those responses. I have known my answer for several years, but I have not been able to articulate it as clearly as I would have liked.
That changed last week. I will share my newfound clarity momentarily, but first, let me share the challenge.
If you have been following this blog for long you know that I want to encourage people, including myself to live in, not of the world. That is the message of fotonni (again, fotonni is in not of spelled backwards – we need to turn the word around to make sense of it, and we need to turn the world around with the lives we lead).
But my real purpose is to teach. That is how God wired me. I want to teach. I need to teach. I love to teach.
And teaching means that I am leading others to (hopefully) have more knowledge, a more thorough understanding, a greater desire to apply the learning, etc.
And leading others in that way, even as a teacher, means that I have some level of influence. And that is what leadership is – influence (hat tip to John Maxwell!).
But my real challenge is that I can confuse influence (or impact) with having an audience. Without any doubt, someone who has a larger audience has the capacity to influence someone who has a smaller audience, but each person still has a choice to make regarding the influence they exert.
And that is the difference. As I tried to piece together my understanding over the years, I generally knew what I was thinking, but I just could not fit the thoughts together (which is quite frustrating for me). I was stuck on the idea of fame and influence.
I knew I didn’t want to be famous. I don’t. I really don’t. But I knew (know) that I want to be a person of influence. For some reason, I could not separate the two mentally, even though I have taken practical steps toward that end (like taking time away from my personal accounts on social media).
I still fall into this mind trap from time to time. But last Friday, I got clarity in hearing the words I have thought many times. Sometimes, it simply takes someone else saying what you already know. That was the case for me.
Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Elmer Towns for the second time. I interviewed him in late September for one of the podcasts I host. (That interview will likely air early next year on Biblical Perspectives on Aging.) At the time, I asked to interview him for my podcast, Christian Educator Weekly. He agreed, and that interview took place last Friday.
Dr. Towns is a treasure trove of knowledge. If you do not know him, he is the co-founder of Liberty University, which is a Christian university with approximately 100,000 total students. He is well-respected and it was an honor to be able to talk with him (twice!).
Dr. Towns is what some would call famous – at least in some circles. But he is also influential. And his fame came from his influence, not the other way around. But it was his words near the end of the interview that gave me the clarity I needed. I honestly do not what prompted his statement, but when I prepare the podcast for airing, I will have that reminder.
Anyway, his words that day were simple, but profound. They were: “I do not want to be famous. I want to have influence.”
See, I told you they were simple words. I hope you are not disappointed. And I had already alluded to those words a few times above. But again, sometimes you just need to hear something out loud. That was me. I needed someone to say those words. And I needed them to be said to me, not about me.
So, now I have clarity. As simple as that statement might have been, it has eluded me for years. But no longer. As I wrote earlier, I knew my answer to the question that began this post, but now I can articulate it.
Frankly, I am almost embarrassed that it was so difficult for me to understand something so simple. But that is life sometimes. And not being able to uncover, or unmask, that simple statement trips up all of us sometimes. The problem is when we are not willing to admit it, we are yielding to our pride, which might be about losing our fame.
But being humble enough to admit our flaws, our mistakes, our oversights, and yes, even our inability to discover truth that should be so evident, will generally build credibility, and provide an avenue for influence.
If I want to be influential, I need to be humble enough to admit my shortcomings. Likewise, you need to do the same. I do not mean that I/you need to air all of my/your dirty laundry. But we need to be real.
Living in, not of the world, is not easy. But it is only possible when we have others alongside to help us, to lift us when we fall, to encourage us when we struggle, etc. We need others to speak simple truths to us when we cannot see them for ourselves.
Like my issue with clarifying the truth of what I want from my life, we all need reminders at times. I hope this blog can be that reminder and encouragement from afar. But I hope you have someone, or perhaps several, around you that can be that person (or persons) for you as you ponder what God wants from you and how to go about it.
So, what do you want from your life? Do you know? Do you have someone who can help you discover that purpose? Do you need someone to clarify that truth for you? Whatever your answer, be ready. You never know who might be there to speak to you (or show you) just what is needed at a particular moment.
It happened to me.
It can happen to you too.