This was written in conjunction with an assignment in a doctoral class – Intrapersonal Leadership. The assignment was to write a letter to a younger version of myself and I chose 25 years ago. I was 33 and a few months into a brand new job. The intervening years between that time and now have been challenging and rich, and sometimes at the same time.
I know that you’re enjoying your relatively new role at Oklahoma City First Nazarene. No doubt the excitement of all the different experiences in the executive pastor role are fulfilling.
The church is doing great and you’re thinking life can’t get any better, but there will be challenging times ahead. You’ll be learning life lessons as a result, but you only have another couple of years before you’re going to be shopping your resume around in hopes of landing another job.
But, you know what, you’re going to be okay!
You’ll wonder sometimes if God forgot where you live, but you’ll also end up working on some incredible projects, not the least of which is restarting the baseball program after a 20-year absence at Southern Nazarene University. You won’t be there past the first season, but you’ll start something that will end up changing the trajectory of the lives of many young men, most of whom you’ll never meet.
You don’t know it now, but the tough times you’ll go through in the next four years will actually lead you and the family back home to Nashville and Trevecca. Sarah and the boys are loving Oklahoma City and it’s been great being back in the land of your birth, but Nashville’s lure is still strong and the opportunity to regain some financial stability while working in student development for 12 years will be among the best times of your life.
You’ll also end up back in coaching at Trevecca. The women’s softball team will need a shot in the arm for a season, the men’s golf team will need an assistant for a couple years and, before you know it, you’ll be the head coach of women’s golf at Trevecca for 12 1/2 years. Your team will win a lot of tournaments, go to a national championship in 2009, and see some terrific individual performances. Mostly, you’ll experience life with some of the finest young ladies you would never have known otherwise.
Turns out 2009 is going to set the course for the next phase of your professional life as well. Moving from student development into a role in the president’s office and eventually external relations will lead you on a multi-faceted journey putting you in touch with two constituencies that are near to your heart: Trevecca alumni around the world and Nazarene churches throughout the southeastern US.
You’ll travel more than you can imagine and interact with more people than you can fathom. It will be exhilarating and exhausting all at once, and you’ll wish you had heard what I’m about to tell you.
First, study the impact of stress and exhaustion on quality of life and personal health. You simply cannot expect to work effectively if you’re at a low ebb physically, but I know you and you won’t listen when people tell you that finding balance between work and play is paramount for a guy like you. You think you’re different and that you can handle lots of travel and high-calorie, high-fat foods without it taking a toll.
And you won’t want to hear this, but there’s going to be a guy that writes a book called “Boundaries,” and you’re going to hear people talking about it and you’ll think it’s for other people. You’ll even make fun of it, but at some point, you’ll know you need it for yourself. Work hard but allow yourself to believe it’s okay to unplug every now and then.
If I could give you one piece of advice that will serve you well over the next 25 years, it would be this: Take a step back and let each day breathe on its own. You’ll continue to have some high highs and some low lows, but God will be with you.
You’ll stay in love with Sarah, it’ll just get deeper and stronger. Your boys will be such impressive young men who marry well and bring you grandchildren. Your parents and in-laws will still be around to bless you and you, them. And the friends you’ve made across the years will be faithful and true.
God is good and you’re going to be so grateful, especially when they call you Dr. Johnson in the spring of 2020!