What advice would I give myself if I could send a letter back in time?
The Noble Heart Ministry is putting together an eBook made up of the responses to this challenge, and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without sending a response. It isn’t an easy question. Most of what I’ve learned had to be learned along the journey, when I was ready, when I was listening. I doubt I would learn the same lessons if confronted at a younger age. I told Clark, “I think what I really did was reiterate what I've said so many times while teaching young couples.”
From: Berry Simpson, January 2012, 55 years old, married 32 years, father and grandfather and uncle
To: Berry Simpson, September 1990, 34 years old, married 11 years, father of a 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.
Mr. Simpson, you are just beginning your phase of life as a Bible teacher to adults, transitioning you into a new season of influence. Here is my advice to help you make the most of your impact. Take your time working through this list. You are a marathoner not a sprinter, so pace yourself. Start with the points that make the most sense to you, but don’t wait forever before embracing all the others. Remember, it matters how you live. Casual living breeds casualties, so be intentional with your life.
Be a wanderer for Christ. Be satisfied you will never arrive at some exalted position where you know all you need to know to live as you should. That doesn’t mean failure; in fact, your life would be too boring if you achieved a place of no challenges with nothing left to learn. This is who you are: Peregrinatio pro Christi; a lifelong wanderer for Christ. Don’t give up your search.
Be a man of hope. There are too few voices of hope in the world, so make yours one of them. Everyone you meet has a story beyond belief, an unspoken struggle beyond description, and they all need your hope.
Live an authentic life. I say that with reservation knowing that authenticity is no virtue on its own. Some people are authentic jerks, and being true to their own nature only hurts themselves and people around them. But know that your authentic self longs to be like Jesus, so be real and true and honest about your journey.
Share what you learn. It is in the sharing itself that you will speak into the hearts of those around you. Right now, you think it is the information you teach that is important, but know that in the end, it is the act of sharing that matters most.
Stay culturally relevant. That doesn’t mean butterflying trend to trend, and it doesn’t mean sacrificing core beliefs for cultural acceptance. It means you shouldn’t long for the good old days when things were better and simpler. They weren’t. God is in the future, not the past. Don’t marginalize your message by becoming a “get off my lawn” curmudgeon, but be a forward-leaning voice calling your peers into the future.
Be a lifelong student of significant things. Don’t stop learning about history and theology, math and science, relationships and romance, adventure and courage, or art and love. Go after them. Keep a record. Take notes.
Search for God every day. You can grow closer and deeper into your relationship with God every day by following spiritual disciplines like reading your Bible, writing in your journal, sharing what you’ve learned, and memorizing scripture.
Pursue your love. In the movie, The Constant Gardener, Tessa says to Justin “You can learn me.” Spend the rest of your life learning your love: learn Cyndi; learn writing; learn teaching; learn your family; learn Cyndi.
Grow strong in community. You think you are strongest as an individual, with face set like flint to the wind, but you aren’t. You are stronger when surrounded by friends and family. Especially make friends with the men around you. God put them close to your life on purpose.
Let people get close. You cannot touch someone’s heart while standing behind a teaching podium in the same way you can while hiking on mountain trails together or sitting alongside at a baseball game. Let people see your life up close. Don’t be afraid to show them your failures. The closer they look, the more they’ll see past your own failures and find Jesus in your heart.
Keep your legs moving. To be honest, you have strong dependable legs, but arthritis and wear-and-tear will limit their range as you get older. Sorry, but It’s the truth. Even so, keep them moving. God will speak to you while your legs are moving more than while you are sitting. Who knows why this is true, but I can promise it is. Keep your legs moving and your ears open.
Don’t stay the way you’ve been. Reboot yourself and your habits and your hobbies regularly. It is in the transition between your safe older-self and your unknown future-self that your heart is most open to God.
Don’t wait to get started. You are afraid to look like a novice, and that stops you from trying. You are afraid to start new things without the right gear or knowledge. Thinks like writing, or backpacking, or cycling, or owning your own business. I am telling you to start anyway. Learn what you need, and what you need to know, on the fly. Besides, the best learning happens after you start.
The teacher always learns the most. Volunteer to be the teacher as often as possible. That is where real transformation takes place.
Men make friends outside. You are intimidated by other men because you don’t hunt or fish, you don’t play golf, and you didn’t play team sports. Stop worrying about that. Find some way to get outside with other men and let them get close to you.
It is OK to lean back in your chair. Furniture that moves is more satisfying to your heart and soul than inanimate, stationary, fixed furniture. Movement, in all its forms, keeps your heart alive. However, understand that you’ll get in trouble for doing it, so be discreet.
Run long races now. You know in your heart that you want to run more marathons and even ultra-marathons. Stop waiting for your fitness to improve, or for the situation to get better. Do it now, before arthritis takes away your knees. Stop being so nervous about how long it will take you to finish. Just go.
Talk to Cyndi about parenting styles and why you do things differently than she does. She feels alone and abandoned sometimes, like she is the only one who cares about disciplining your kids. Share your heart with her so she’ll know you are on her side.
Know this: All those people who love you today will still love you when you are 55 years old. You are fortunate. It is a rare life, so don’t take it for granted. Depend on it. It has given you a glimpse of God’s grace that few get to experience.
Give your life away. Share it with those people God has entrusted to you. Loot your life to the walls in search of better ways to share God’s story. This is your call: “For what I received I passed on to you …” (I Cor. 15:3a)
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org