Beginnings Aren’t Sexy

There is a tribe of human beings who love beginnings.  Are you one of them?

  • Did you play with toys as a child for a day or two and then move on?
  • Did you have a slew of short or shallow dating relationships?
  • Do you find yourself dreaming of what could be even while what is right in front of your face is doing well?
  • Are you kind of good at lots of stuff because you like the rush of getting to know something but the knowing it well part sounds tedious?
  • Would you rather be on a new adventure than sticking with what you know is fun and fulfilling?

If you said yes to any of those things then you might be like me: a person obsessed with beginnings.

There are other ways to describe us — visionaries, entrepreneurs, self-starters, etc.  But those descriptions are too positive, too sexy, and too deceptive.  What people like me really are is this: we’re scared of slow success, we’re impatient, and we can be a terror to lead.

When I was a freshman in college I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas.  My dad wisely resisted, saying something like this: “Why?  You’ll just put it down and not touch it for two years after you mess around it with it for a week.”

Does this sort of response sound familiar to you?  Well, it did to me then (and still does today!).  But I promised my dad that I wouldn’t quit, that I would stick with it no matter what.  This was going to be different than the skateboard, the remote-controlled car, the yo-yo, etc., etc.

And it was.  For what seemed like the first time in my life I put in effort.  I got past my obsession with beginnings and put in the hard and arduous work of learning to play the guitar as a not-so-musically-talented person.

I spent months learning how to play the G, C, and D chords so that I could play 95% of the worship songs out there.

I took three college classes on guitar and music theory for guitar.

I upgraded my guitar, selling my first one in the process, after months of saving up enough cash.

I practiced religiously for years, eventually upgrading again and helping lead worship for hundreds of people.

I finally got to experience the joy of something besides beginnings…and it was great!


Beginnings Aren’t Sexy

Here’s my contention — for some of us we need to be told again and again that beginnings aren’t sexy.  They aren’t all that they seem.  Sure, they’re fun and challenging and full of affirmation.  But their joy is short-lived.  Friends, the things in life that are worth living for can’t be fully enjoyed at just their beginnings.

What sorts of things?

  • Friendship: When you first meet someone that you think you’ll develop a friendship with it can be exhilarating.  But the joy that comes with sharing your innermost thoughts and fears with someone that you can intrinsically trust due to years of proof is too amazing for words.  Sure, there are bumps in the road.  There is difficulty.  There are tears.  But their are smiles, little victories, parties, empathy, vulnerability, and depth too.
  • Marriage: The wedding and the honeymoon are great.  But take it from an old pro (12+ years in the bank as I write this), the long car ride, the impromptu lunch, and the partnership through treacherous life stuff is better.  Way. Better.  If married people stopped at beginnings then there would be fewer epic love stories, fewer weathered rocking chairs on porches, and fewer places of uninhibited personhood.
  • Leadership: Starting out is great.  There’s stuff to learn, people to assess, vision to cast, and execution to look forward to.  But it won’t take long for those things to pass and the real work of serving the people you lead to begin.  That’s where the rubber hits the road.  That’s where people will actually buy into your vision instead of just saying that they will.  If leaders only stay around for beginnings, then they’re not really leading anything — they’re starting things.  Leadership requires patience, presence, and persistence — three things that only begin to make their presence known during beginnings.
  • Following Jesus: I want to end with the most important one.  When we first hear about and internalize the good news of Jesus and his kingdom and agree to follow him, it’s amazing!  We experience the reality of God’s love and the familial support of his people.  Often we are “on fire” and we start telling everyone we care about (and someone people we barely know!) how much God loves us.  But following Jesus isn’t just for the beginnings.  No.  Just like the things above, it is often over the span of many years that how God is calling us comes into clarity.  God takes his time to show us how we fit into his ministry of reconciliation and if we stop at beginnings we’ll miss out on all that he has for us.

So beginnings can be tantalizingly appealing.  But they really aren’t as sexy as they seem.  The real stuff comes with age, with time, and with experience.  The real stuff can’t be discovered overnight.  The real stuff must be teased out and spelled out over years and years if not decades and decades.

So here’s the challenge: Barring something exceptional (like abuse or a clear word for God), stick to the things you feel God has called you to.  Don’t jump around.  Invest in your human relationships.  Lead well for a long time in one place.  And follow Jesus for your whole life.


What do you think?  What’s is so enticing about beginnings?  And am I right, is the long haul actually better?

A Lesson from Nelson Mandela


It always seems impossible until it’s done. (Nelson Mandela, 1994)

Nelson Mandela spoke these words after his country, South Africa, held their first free election during which he was elected president.  There are two things that are remarkable about his election: 1) He was the first black, South African president in his country’s history; and 2) He was elected to be the president of the country in which he suffered 27 years of imprisonment due to his fight against racial injustice.

Nelson Mandela lived an exemplary life of service and leadership.  Though he suffered mightily, he held onto his convictions and beliefs.  He was inspired at a young age by the gospel in a Methodist school and lived a life that unassumingly proclaimed the evidence of the good news as loudly as anyone else in the 20th century.

Today, December 5th 2013, is a sad day because Nelson Mandela has died.  But it’s also an exciting day to celebrate this man and his life.  His autobiography, called Long Walk to Freedom, should be required reading for leaders everywhere!

But as I think about the quote from Nelson Mandela that I started this blog post with, I can’t help but think of the missional call that God has implanted within the gospel.  God truly doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3.9) and he calls and enables us to help him on this mission.

But the mission is long and slow and hard.  It’s fraught with difficulties and easily-committed offenses.  It takes risk, investment, and patience.

Having a missional posture and living incarnationally is no easy task.  It truly does mean putting the interests of others before our own, just like Jesus did (Philippians 2.3-8).

Being missional means getting messy.  It means “obedience in the same direction for a long time,” to paraphrase the title of a wonderful book by Eugene Peterson.  Being missional means putting our selfishness to the side for the sake of the good news of the kingdom of God.

This task seems impossible, and it is in our own power.  But Jesus whom we follow will bring his work to a close; he is the author and finisher of our faith after all (Hebrews 12.2).

So what’s the takeaway?  We must persist in our obedience to God’s missional call on our lives!  We must persevere and we must trust in Jesus who will sail this ship into harbor someday!

What lessons have you learned from the life of Nelson Mandela?