Learnings from Colombia

Have you ever taken an extended break from work? As I write this post, I’m currently visiting my wife’s family in Colombia, South America. I love Colombia, and even though my Spanish is “no bueno”, I always feel tremendous warmth and affection from everyone that I meet. I also enjoy the added benefit of eating fresh fruits and warm bread while drinking the best coffee in the world.

Whenever traveling internationally, I try to understand how the local culture differs from the United States. On this particular trip, the thing that has stuck out most is the speed of life. I suppose there is some good that comes from slowing down, but I personally find it incredibly uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, I feel a sense of anxiety when I’m unable to move things forward at the speed I’d like.

Speed of life is an interesting topic that I rarely seen done right. Think about the last time you asked someone how they were doing. Was their response “busy”? Why are we so busy? What has caused our normal position to be rushed or behind schedule? As I personally wrestle with these questions, I’m reminded of Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Paul’s position was to release anxiety by bringing his concerns to God. It is interesting to note that part of releasing those concerns starts from a position of thanksgiving. So often, we fail to see the good things God is doing because our hearts are not grateful. When we submit our requests to God with a thankful heart, we are often able to see how he is working in our present circumstances.

So what is God teaching me as I slow down on this extended break? Here are three learnings from my time in Colombia:

Pace- It seems evident to me that my current pace is too fast. I’m constantly feeling behind, which likely means I’m trying to do too much. I love this quote from Mary Slessor, “Christ never was in a hurry. There was no rushing forward, no anticipating, no fretting over what might be. Each day’s duties were done as each day brought them, and the rest was left with God.”

Does your life feel rushed? When was the last time you walked around in nature for an hour? It is often in these moments of solitude where I can hear God most clearly. We read about Jesus taking time in solitude to pray and meditate, but both of these disciplines require intentionality and time. Why not pencil in a walk this week during your lunch break and see if you can hear God’s whispers

Presence- I am convinced that presence and pace are closely aligned. When our pace is too fast, it is incredibly difficult for us to be present in relationships. Because I have a limited audience of English speakers, I’ve been much more present in interacting with my kids. It is incredible to see how excited they get when they receive all of daddy’s attention.

My greatest stewardship responsibility is my family. Andy Stanley says, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.” I used to think that meant that our kids would be the next great world changers. Thankfully, God has changed my understanding of Andy’s quote and revealed that I will forever be my kid’s only father. That is such a unique role that nobody can ever replace, so instead of trying to fix the world outside my home, I’m recommitting to being the most present father possible. I also want to ensure that I’ll be my wife’s only husband, so giving her my full presence and affection have become equally elevated.

Purpose- What do I want to do when I get back to my real life? I’ve been extremely blessed to work at Willow Creek for the last 6 years. I truly am passionate about helping people find freedom in their finances. The last couple of years have been challenging, but this church continues to be a place where I feel encouraged and motivated to bring my best. That being said, Stewardship is much bigger than money. I know many people who are financially independent and yet struggle with purpose.

As I continue to ask God what my unique purpose is, He continually points me back towards a life of obedience. So often in the Stewardship space, we encourage proper planning. Planning is both Biblical and a wise principle to live by, but planning doesn’t always result in Purpose. In fact, Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

To truly find purpose, we must first start with our place in God’s plan. We are children of God, loved and known by our creator. When we start by embracing this fact, we can then ask God how He’d like to use us within His plans. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that he came to give us “Life and life to its fullest”, but a full life is rarely easy or comfortable. It generally requires hard work, sacrifice, and understanding our skills and weaknesses. For those who I have seen do this well, they generally take advantage of resources like books, podcasts, workshops, or talking to a counselor. One easy first step would be to listen to Willow’s RELATE podcast where you can learn how to relate better to yourself, others, and God. If you are interested in connecting with a local Christian therapist, you can also reach out to a Willow Response Pastor for a free referral.

As you look towards the new year, I’d encourage you to spend some time thinking about these words. What does your current Pace look like, and do you need to adjust the speed? Are you able to give your full Presence in your relationships, and what is one practical way to improve this week? Lastly, are you living within God’s Purpose for your life, and if not, what steps do you need to take to better understand his plan for you? If we can ever help you work through these or any other questions, please feel free to reach out to us at stewardship@willowcreek.org.

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