Many of you know I’m on my own creative edge these days: a group of us are planting a church, and I’m also trying to get a book published. I love being on the edge; it’s thrilling. I’m made to do new things. But it’s so very vulnerable. In meeting after meeting with people, I’m basically saying, “Here. These are some of the deepest, most important parts of me, and I’m inviting you to join me in not only caring about those things, but also doing something very tangible about it.”
In one conversation recently, someone asked me what my backup plan was if the church plant crashed and burned. Editor’s note: I’m not sure that you’re on the creative edge if you begin with a backup plan.
In another conversation, someone said, “Well, good for you. Its like you’re starting a new business during a time when people are no longer interested in the product that you’re selling.” In many ways, he is completely right. I laughed and thanked him for encouraging me.
I’ve learned that everyone has an uncle or a friend that has planted a church, and every single one of them has come up to me and tell me how it almost destroyed his life, how it was sooooooooo hard. They get this pitying look in their eyes, and then they say something like, “But good for you for doing this hard thing.” I immediately agree with them that it will be brutal, and then I ask them to write a very big check for this very hard thing I’m doing that will certainly destroy my life.
People mean well and they want to be encouraging. They just don’t know what to do when you’re doing something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Oh, you’re leaving a large church that you love in order to start over with nothing and scrape by, in a culture that is leaving church because they think it’s largely irrelevant? Bless your heart.
A few days ago, I got a phone call from a new friend, someone who has heard me speak many times, and who has been praying for me. She had a few things she wanted to say to me, and one of them was a piece of advice. She was pretty nervous to tell me these things, mostly because we hadn’t ever met or talked before. But it was some of the best advice I’ve received in a very long time.
Now, friends, I will put some asterisks around what she actually said, because she used a word that isn’t very kid friendly. But it’s very poignant and those of us who are on the creative edge really, really need to hear it.
“Steve, you have permission to f*@k things up.”
I breathed that in like it was pure oxygen. I can be perfectionistic about what I want to accomplish. I can throw my self worth along with what I’m trying to achieve in a blender and press puree. I talk a good game about how failure teaches us most of what we need to learn in life, but I never want to enroll in that course myself.
She gave me permission to dare greatly and to fail greatly and that the world will not end if a few things – or a lot of things – go wrong. Loosen up, she was saying. It’s going to be great and it’s going to be hard, and you’re going to do lots and lots of good things, but they won’t all be good, and it’s okay.
She gave me permission.
Permission to not get everything right the first time. Permission to have a few steps backwards on my march forwards. Permission to fall down and make mistakes. Permission to let your heart lead and make your head catch up. Permission to have fun and not worry so much about production and goals and success.
Permission to be human. Permission to enjoy the process. Permission to learn and grow and become.
So, to any of you who are on your own creative edge, whatever that looks like, I’ll pass along the same advice. Please, give yourself permission to f*@k up. We’re much more fun to be around when we don’t have to get everything right the first time.
In it together, friends.