Thirty-Two Things I Think I’ve Learned in Life

Birthdays are odd creatures.

Yesterday, I was 31. Today, I am 32. I don’t feel different. Am I supposed to? Of course, everywhere I go today I will get the normal birthday question of, “Do you feel older?” Well, honestly … no, I don’t. Again, am I supposed to? If I don’t, does that mean my new Jerry West book is taken away?

I’m not big on birthdays and, to be fair, Abbi and I celebrated on Saturday because today is a busy day. If there is anything I have learned is life doesn’t stop because it’s your birthday. Of course, we would all prefer if we could sneak off and play 9 holes. Maybe that’s just me.

But, there is something about birthdays that makes you reflective. Almost naturally you look back at the year that was and look forward to where you are going. It is almost like New Year’s Day without the flimsy resolutions that don’t make it past the Super Bowl. My nature is somewhat reflective to begin with, so it almost makes the task too easy. Because of that, here are some random things I have learned in my life. In fact, here are 32 things. These are in no particular order.

1 – There are some people in life whom you cannot joke with. It is best to learn that quickly than to be constantly upset that someone took you the wrong way.

2 – Perseverance is a key attribute to have, especially as you get older.

3 – Pastors can get too caught up in their own soapbox issues. These might be important topics, and perhaps need to be said, but let’s not miss the greater focus of our proclamation – to proclaim the glory of the Risen Lord.

4 – Always have a spare key available.

5 – Know who your friends are in life and know who among your friends you can depend on when times are rough. Who is the person in your life that you could call at 3 a.m.?

6 – Mistakes made when younger can have lasting impact on the things you want to accomplish.

7 – Social media is great and has tremendous value, but it cannot replace face-to-face conversation.

8 – If you chase the expectations of others, you will end up confused, battered, and overwhelmed.

9 – Popularity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

10 – Systems are broken institutions run by humans. We cannot expect every decision to be perfect, but we can work to make the systems better.

11 – Threats to leave an organization, or the church, because a decision doesn’t go your way is an ineffective model of leadership and discipleship. It’s the equivalent of being the child who wasn’t picked on a team. Upset, the child takes their ball and goes home.

12 – Find time for rest. Even if others around you do not rest, you need to rest.

13 – Resentment is a friend to no one.

14 – No matter what I do in life, to a certain group of people from WVU I am always going to be “Big Texas.” I am more than OK with that.

15 – Because of the nature of the Internet, a sermon you deliver to your congregation may have a bigger impact to someone who wasn’t there to hear the actual message delivered.

16 – If you make changes in your life to please others, the changes will be ineffective. Change must come from a desire within.

17 – Grace and forgiveness is important in a relationship, especially a marriage.

18 – Sometimes, you cannot go home again. As much as I love West Virginia, I could never preach or serve there. To recognize that in seminary was very important and led me to where I am today.

19 – Twitter fights cause more harm than good. Pastors, we are just as guilty.

20 – If you want to be a better preacher, do not just listen to other preachers. Listen to people who give speeches and presentations routinely, such as politicians and comedians. There is something to be said about learning from others and adapting their styles to make for better preaching.

21 – I will never be the next “American Idol.” I do not have “The Voice.” I am not proof that America has talent.

22 – If I have one regret in athletics it is that I never pushed forward with wrestling in high school. I gave up to pursue writing, but also because I didn’t think I was good enough and I was tired of having my teammates root against me in “challenge” matches.

23 – In my 32 years, I have moved quite a bit. I’ve had some good friends in the places where I have lived. One of the hardest things for me has always been the lack of connection after those moves. At times, for right or wrong, it has made me question the validity of those friendships.

24 – My wife is awesome.

25 – Sometimes in life you are going to offend someone.

26 – Idolatry is as common in the church as it is in the world.

27 – Because I grew up in Appalachia (West Virginia) and went to a land grant institution (WVU), I have had to make excuses about my education to some who went to more prestigious institutions. It’s not something I am proud of. You should never make an excuse for your heritage. It is who you are.

28 – Every moment in my life, from the interviews with athletes to politicians to being yelled at by a parent at the state wrestling tournament, has prepared me for being a pastor. I am thankful to God for that.

29 – I don’t want to live a life that is easily forgotten. I want to impact others.

30 – Get out of your bubble. It is good for air circulation and perspective.

31 – I’m not big on titles. Just call me Shannon.

32 – Being humbled and awe by God’s grace is a daily joy.

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