Today I want to challenge five of the many slogans you have heard or will hear, not because they are always entirely wrong, but because they are almost never entirely right.
#1 Keep On Being You! You’re Perfect Just The Way You Are!
No, you’re not. I’m not either. You have issues. If you don’t know that yet, you will learn soon enough. Your teacher in college will give you a C, and you will have earned it. Your boss will write you up, your girlfriend or boyfriend will be rightly upset with you, and your parents will not like every decision you make. No one is perfect but God, and He, too, is well aware of your deficits. As C.S. Lewis noted, God wants to take the shack of your life and turn it into a mansion. That will take some remodeling.
Learn to see your frailties and failures with honesty but without shame. Grow. Build your strengths and at least address your weaknesses, but don’t hide the fact that you are imperfect. We all know it already. It’s okay. We aren’t either. And it is in the midst of our weakness that the strength of God is seen most clearly.
#2 You can be anything you want to be!
No, you can’t. You are not limitless in your potential. You can't fly even if you believe you can. There are boundaries around your personality, opportunities, and skill set. Einstein once noted that the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius knows its limits. Be a genius. Seek to know and be what God has equipped you to be, because it’s within those boundaries that fullness of life is found.
Now, don’t settle for the safe middle of life. Push to the edges. Find out what you are capable of doing. Be fearless as you explore the risky and uncomfortable perimeters of the life you have been given, and don’t be afraid to fail. But don’t get so caught up in what you wish you could do that you overlook the goodness of what you can do.
#3 Be A Leader!
We hear that so much that I want to push back just to be contrarian. I get it – don’t be easily manipulated; don’t blindly follow someone else; don’t settle in with a mediocre crowd. Those are all good reasons to be a leader. I am challenging you today to forget about leading until you learn what it means to follow. Jesus told his disciples that if they wanted to become great, they had to first become a servant of all.
I don’t think Jesus meant, “Just punch the clock as a servant and impatiently put in your time until you finally get the recognition you deserve.” Don’t be a servant just so you can become a leader; be a servant because in so doing you display the heart of Christ for the world. The best leaders I know are the ones who learned how to be content in a life of service, overlooked and unnoticed, knowing that their labor served a greater purpose. It’s in those places that God raises up those who are ready to lead. Learn how to follow and serve.
#4 Don’t Let Good Be The Enemy of Great!
This is often used to remind us that we can settle for mediocrity when we should be shooting for excellence. That’s true, but I think it’s more complicated than that. Don’t let ‘great’ be the enemy of ‘good’ either. Don’t get so caught up in waiting for the perfect job that you turn your nose up at a very ordinary but very good job that can prepare you for the future. Don’t get caught up in waiting for the perfect spouse, or the perfect college, or the perfect church. There are none.
We can get so caught up in holding out for something that meets our every possible expectation that we do nothing. Meanwhile, a lot of good falls into our laps and we fail to see it. Oswald Chambers once wrote, “It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people.” Ordinary can be great too. Learn how to settle into the good without settling for just the good.
#5 Follow Your Dreams!
Not every dream deserves to be followed. The book of Proverbs warns us that even though a way can seem right, it can be terribly wrong.If they take you down a lousy path, scrap the dream. The only way you should follow your dreams is if they build your maturity, integrity, and character while helping the world around you flourish. Don’t just rely on yourself to find out if that’s what’s happening in your life. Ask your family, your mentors and your trusted friends. Study history. Read God’s word. Do the hard work of seeing if your dreams match your gifts and talents, and if they will build the world rather than break it.