The Best Advice I’ve Received in a Long Time

April 23, 2014 — 13 Comments

spilt milk

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.

Photo source.

13 responses to The Best Advice I’ve Received in a Long Time

  1. I left a large church to help plant a smaller one a few years back. It seems as though it’s fading right now, but even if it does fade away, the effects of what God planted in the community because of this church are endless. It brought together youth that don’t attend church regularly and was the beginning of a non-profit that will continue to bless the community around it. God does amazing things when we dare to step out of the boat and on to the water.

  2. I would add…”it’s ok to f*@k things up, and if/when you do, it’s definitely ok to forgive yourself”. As a person who has spent a lifetime trying to measure up to…something…not even sure what exactly, it has taken me a long time to learn that grace and mercy aren’t just things I should learn to show others, I need to learn to show them to myself.

    Praying for this work and looking forward to joining you in worship in June!

  3. Yes. This. Perfectionists unite and shout loud and proud, “It’s ok to f$#% things up.” then actually believe those words. What a huge step for you. I can’t wait to see how it challenges you and how you grow and all the many who will be blessed because you stepped out on the ledge.

    And how did I miss the church plant? Where are you doing that?
    DeNae recently posted…Meet AubreyMy Profile

  4. Failure is failing to try! I thought you were crazy too but I understand and I know that if this is God, He will see it through. If not, He can still use it for His glory, and for your blessing. And believe it or not, people are still searching, and maybe they will find the answers in your church.
    Amy Hetland recently posted…Church of the Open DoorMy Profile

  5. I thought the exact same thing as Nancy! Haha, you are indeed one of the wholehearted Steve. If you haven’t, check out this TED talk by Brené Brown:

  6. Steve-

    Sounds like her advice came to from Brene Brown and her book Daring Greatly. If you have not read this book it is very good and well worth the time. She also has a couple of TED talks that are worth the listen.

  7. You know, the word “fuck” and the phrase “fuck up” can be terribly powerful and useful to those with the courage to use them not as some lazy crutch but to honestly and frankly communicate.

    In all things, let us obey God and continuously press into our Lord and Savior.

    Blessings to you and your obedience, Steve, you potty mouth!

  8. Thanks for the timely post Steve!!. I am flying to Chicago on Sunday to get certified as a Legal Nurse Consultant with the desire to start my own consulting business. This adventure is way bigger than me, full of uncertainty and I am so excited. I realize that I am in desperate need of something bigger than myself. I appropriately get asked questions like “What is your transition strategy?” My response is “I don’t know.” Now Steve, you and everyone else know what a control freak I am and so people are looking at my quite perplexed with my response. But, I do believe that God is in this and that he will use this experience to “loose me up” and teach me that he wants me to walk in blind trust and faith as he leads. So, I am excited to start something new–I am an activator, educator, resource person and I am excited about being able to be what God has created me to be!!! So. Steve. I do appreciate the permission to “screw up” which is good for me since I struggle with perfectionism as well. Thanks for your service at Open Door and blessings to you. Mary and the boys on your new adventure!!!! I have no doubt that God will use you and your family in mighty ways.

  9. Bless you for risking.

  10. Its not a step back… Its the cha-cha!… And we all know how hott the cha-cha is!

    Granted steps back can be frustrating at best, and devastating at worst, but steps back are part of the process of this life.

    Do this thing. If you f-up, try again.

  11. So true! Like everyone else, I know of a church planter in your backyard – but he has been both successful and quite satisfied with the whole process, and the church is in it’s 12th year now. Would be happy to pass on his info is you ever need encouragement from within the ring!
    Jennifer Marion recently posted…Getting More Than I Bargained ForMy Profile

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