Every now and then life takes a major turning point. Something changes that means every other aspect of your life is affected.
From an external perspective, my family and I are in a moment like that right now.
In eight days time we will be boarding a Qantas flight to head back to Australia. I will begin my new job as Senior Pastor of Citywide Baptist church, Hobart, a week later.
On the surface it looks and feels like a very big thing. It feels like a life turning point. At a deeper level though, I think real life turning points look much less dramatic.
Last Sunday I gave my last sermon at St. Albert Alliance church. It was challenging to try to capture what the journey of the last four years had meant.
In my sermon I talked about three moments in my life that were life changing.
The first was the point at which Leeanne and I agreed that we wanted our marriage to be about seeking first the Kingdom of God. I showed a picture of the day we got engaged, and as I did I, and everyone else, realized how young we were at the time.
None of these moments would have looked as consequential to an outsider as what it means to move your family to a different country, but each of them were profoundly life shaping. Each one of them contributed to the fact that we found ourselves in Canada in 2012, and each one of them has affected our understanding that it is right to once again board a plane next week.
The moments when you decide your core vales are actually the biggest turning points of your life.
Perhaps like me, you can point to points in your early adulthood that shaped your core values. The work doesn’t finish there, though. The job of working out who you are and what matters to you is an ongoing one. New circumstances will raise new questions and often demand a new level of reflection on your values.
An example of that for me has been my changing understanding of the importance of the local church, and how it really is the cornerstone of Jesus’s plan for changing the world.
As someone who had been very involved in a mission organization that was outside but working with churches I had tended to see the important thing as the actions people did in the world, however I have come to see that the core importance of the church is not so much about what it does but what it is. This shift in understanding has become a part of how I see the world and deeply influences me as I prepare to lead a local church in Hobart. I have a core value about the importance of the local church.
The thing about core values is that they shape who you actually are as a person. They change what you consider to be normal.
I am very conscious of my own limitations and see just how far I still have to go as a person. I see so many ways I could have been more effective or done things differently. I also know how close I came to giving up at different times, or how easily I could have done, or have done or said something that undermined people’s trust in me.
In the midst of the real complexity of life, my core values help me find my bearings and help me know when I am, and when I am not, living the kind of life I want to be living. I am seeing the importance of the moments where I made the decisions that shaped my values.
It was both encouraging and a little bewildering to see the video that was played during Sunday’s service.
It was encouraging to hear people talk about how I have affected them, however it was a little bewildering because from my perspective I haven’t really been doing all that much.
I am grateful to see that our time in Canada has had a positive impact, but I also see that it wasn’t any particular decision I made, or moment that happened. It was the fact that Leeanne and I consistently did our best to live from values that we established early in our marriage.
We certainly didn’t get it all right, but the consistent feedback has been it that is who we are as people, rather than anything in particular we have done, that has been the most important part of our ministry here in Canada.
Perhaps I am finally growing up…
The Apostle Paul calls immature people “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14)
I believe he central question of our lives will be whether or not we will live reactively… bouncing off life events, or whether we will live from core values that help us find our bearings.
What are the moments and decisions that have shaped your life?