Dear January Steve
Hi, it’s June Steve here. How are you doing January Steve? Feeling bright? Feeling perky? Feeling summery? How was that family holiday in Singapore? Just the tonic, right? And what about that Test Match! Straight outta the top drawer eh! And your running was looking so good on Strava! 80-90km weeks and no injuries!
Anyway, January Steve, it’s winter here in June and I thought I’d lie in bed late one Monday morning and let you know how things have gone in the past six months, and what I’d say to you as your six month older self. I know that you have all these hopes and dreams and goals for the year, hopes and dreams and goals that December Steve will realise along the way. And that’s nice. Nice and cute. But here’s some advice from me to, er , me. I’ve put it in point form. I know you’d like a longer, more well thought out piece, but take it from me January Steve, by the time you’re June Steve, you’re pretty much skimming anything you’re reading anyway.
So, January Steve, heres my advice to you, and it’s kinda got a “less and more” theme going on.
1. Say Yes To Less
That’s different to saying “no to everything”, but January Steve, you look at your nice shiny calendar and it looks empty. So when the conference speaking invitation comes along at the start of the year, you pounce at it. After all September Steve looks pretty lonesome, pretty bored, and there’s nothing else in the calendar for that month. Besides, September is so nine months away.
The fact is, there’s plenty in the calendar for September. It just isn’t written down yet. The best speaking engagements to say “yes” to are the ones that asked you a year ago, not five months ago. Say “yes to less” because you can be sure that the rest of life and family and, in your case, ministry, will not say “no” to accommodate that extra gig.
2. Set Less Goals
January Steve, I reckon you over-estimate the number of things that you can achieve in any given year. By the time you become June Steve you will have corrected this assumption.
But what I have discovered, and you would do well with learning, is that setting less goals is not the same as setting lesser goals. In fact setting less goals may see you hit greater heights in those less goals. You won’t be running around doing Christian Busyanity, that so many Christian workers get sucked in to, and from which they draw their functional justification.
Resist the urge to tell people how busy you are. Resist the urge to tell yourself how busy you are. And the best way to do that is to not allow the bracket creep of busyness to get hold of you.
3. Attend Less Events
Well January Steve, this is one area that I have managed to work hard on over the past few years. There are actually dozens of conferences, seminars, one-day-workshops to attend that are all good. Every one of them is good. Every one of them is organised by a friend of yours or some group you think well of. Every one of them will take significant chunks of time. Everyone of them – when added up – will disrupt the flow of life and ministry that you should be involved with.
All of these events will tell you what ministry should look like – just in case you forget. And you might just forget, given that you will have, by March, filled up your calendar with events and conferences that take you away from actual ministry time.
4. Be More Ordinary
Hey January Steve, did you notice that I used the word “ordinary”? That word these days is so ordinary. So dreadful eh? It’s a death sentence in Facebookland, which incidentally you swore off this year. Only trouble being that, as June Steve, I can confess that you fell off the wagon by February as far as social media restraint was concerned. Listen up, January Steve, “ordinary” is not a negative. It describes the everyday life, the day to day tasks that are given meaning because of who you are in Christ.
An ordinary Saturday in April sounds hellish, until you’ve had a busy March, and then you realise that taking your daughter for a hot chocolate, watching your son practice his skateboarding, and hanging out with your wife at a cafe for a lazy hour is the most delicious ordinary you could imagine. So, January Steve, start pencilling in the “ordinary” in that clean, shiny calendar. Better still, write it down in indelible ink.
5. Be More Godly
That’s simple and profound at the same time. How do you measure godliness? Can you measure godliness? Well, the Bible says you can. Listen to 2 Peter 1:
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ
For you know what, January Steve, it’s completely possible to get six months MORE into the year, six months OLDER, and, if you have not given time to the disciplines of grace because of the busy life you have mapped out for yourself, be LESS godly, and LESS mature as a Christian.
Of course, you’re looking at your calendar, empty as it is, and worried that you might drift through the year by not filling it in. Yet it’s completely possible to drift in a far more dangerous manner through the year spiritually BY filling it in too quickly! Take time now to carve out time for spiritual retreat, refreshment and renewal – of yourself, not simply of others.
6. Be More Content
Hey January Steve, you know that new iPhone that you just got? Pretty impressive right? It will be just as impressive in six months time. It will be six months older, but, in the scheme of things, just as impressive. Be content with it. Don’t let the six months build up of slick advertising shake your confidence and contentment.
There’s actually something good about disciplining yourself into contentment, especially in the becalmed months between February and May when there are fewer holidays, less money to buy stuff, more temptations to quell angst or boredom with a big purchase.
And hey, January Steve, you know that house you’d bought that was supposed to be started by February? It’s still a vacant block of land with a few trenches alongside it where the drainage is being fitted. No concrete pad. No brickwork. No shiny stone bench tops. February Steve drove past it twenty times. April Steve got out and walked around it before phoning the agent. May Steve said a few choice words to the local council.
Here’s what might be happening. God is teaching you contentment. Not by making nothing happen on the building site, but by making something happen in you. By the time you roll around again next January, you may indeed be more content, not because you’ve read a book about contentment. but because you’ve had to put it into practice. And that’s no bad thing.
Anyway January Steve, I’ve gotta go. I’m not busy today, and a good thing too. I’ve had nine weeks of speaking engagements, conferences and lecturing invitations, so I’m all talked out. You get the picture?
Oh, one more thing. I cut down the weekly kilometres from 80 to 60, and it’s worked a charm. More PBs. Less injuries. Take that into the rest of life January Steve, and things will be looking good come December.
Yours truly (and your true self)