32 Things I've Learned in 32 Years

As I celebrate this my 32nd birthday I truly believe I am a better person than I ever have been and am in a healthier place than ever before.  As I pondered this feeling of contentment in life I wrote a list of 32 Things I've Learned in 32 years that have helped bring me to this point.  Perhaps these lessons can help you too. :)

I have learned that...

LIFE IS DYNAMIC It is an illusion to think that any given season will always remain. You can be sure that some sort of change is always around the corner.

YOU CAN NOT DEFINE YOURSELF BY NEITHER YOUR SUCCESSES NOR YOUR FAILURES I have been tempted at different times to find my identity in the successes I've been part of. Likewise when I've made mistakes it has been even more tempting to define myself by my shortcomings.  I have learned the importance of seeing myself through Gods eyes and then acting and living according to that image regardless of my feelings.  The truth is God loves us and is for us no matter what we do.

LOVE IS POWERFUL Love is a transformative force. As I've traveled the globe it is not words that have brought transformation to the lives of people but rather love. I have experienced this type of love not only from God but also from those closest to me, my wife and my family. True love is there for you no matter what. That type of love gives you the power to be your best.

GOD IS FAITHFUL In every season of life both good and bad, He has been with me. I am truly blessed and thankful for His faithfulness in my life.

THE JOURNEY IS BETTER THAN THE DESTINATION It took me awhile to get this one but I truly believe that it is while journeying that we grow and memories are made.  I was recently reminded of this while on a 7 day hunt with my dad.  The whole point of the hunt was to get an elk but far more important than accomplishing our goal was the 7 days we spent driving and talking together.

IT IS POSSIBLE If you can dream it you can do it.  We have the creative nature of God on the inside of us ready to be released at any time.  Don’t let other people’s “impossible” become your own.  Always see through the eyes of possibility.

YOU CAN’T BE SWAYED BY CRITICS There will always be people who with an opinion, don’t let them stop you.  No matter what you do people will find reason to criticize so grow thick skin, know your purpose, and keep moving forward.

IT’S NOT OVER TIL IT’S OVER Sometimes when we go through hard times and we can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we simply must hold on.  Don’t give up hope.  Believe. Stand strong.  Lean on a friend.  Cry.  But don’t quit.

LIFE IS NOT PERFECT Between hollywood and “pretty package Christianity” it is easy to get the idea that things always work out for believers.  While I wish that were the case I’ve learned that indeed life is not perfect.  There are disappointments, shortcomings, failures, and tragedies we all have to deal with.  The good news is that in the midst of these less than perfect times God is with us.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL I believe that precisely because life is not perfect, it is also beautiful.  I think of vintage furniture that has wear and tear and has been distressed. It is the markings that give it character.  The same is true with life.  When we go through rough times we emerge stronger and more beautiful people.  We see life through a new lens.  Much like spring coming forth after winter, there is a greater appreciation for beauty.

FAMILY LOVES YOU LIKE NO ONE ELSE DOES No matter how many friends I’ve acquired nothing compares to family.  They love me just for being me.  I am so grateful for the love and support I’ve been given over the years.

HAVING FUN ON A CONSISTENT BASIS IS VITALLY IMPORTANT When I’m too serious I bore myself.  It’s easy for me to slip into “responsibility mode” and neglect fun.  I love fun. I love laughing, games, movies, competition, music, dancing, eating, traveling and so much more.  I value fun.

I WOULD RATHER BE A REAL REBEL THAN A FAKE SAINT After many years in “ministry” I have realized that everybody has varying expectations of a minister.  It is impossible to meet all of those expectations as some of them are in direct contradiction to each other.  In addition I know that I am not perfect and to pretend to be so is both fake and hypocritical.  I need Jesus as much as anybody I’ve met.  So I would rather be real and authentic at the risk of others labeling me a rebel, than I would to present a fake image of perfection.

YOU CAN NOT PLEASE EVERYBODY The quicker one learns this the better.  We live in such a polarized nation there’s almost a 50/50 split on everything.  To attempt to please everyone is insanity.  Be who you are and you’ll probably have 50% of people in your corner and 50% in the other.  Be ok with that and be true to yourself.

MAC’S ARE BETTER THAN PC’S I still remember my day of conversion. ;) Thank you Apple for all of your help throughout the years.

PEOPLE ARE THE SAME Whether speaking to a chief in the islands of Panama, a monk in the nation of Thailand, or a novelist on the streets of Paris, I’ve found that people are searching for the same things.  People long for love, seek purpose, search for ways of absolving their conscience, want good things for the next generation, etc...  I have found there are so many things that unite us as humanity.

IT IS WORTH THE RISK I’m a big risk taker.  I love putting it all on the line and stepping out.  Not fully knowing how the story will end when you first begin.  Risking reminds me that I am living.  My favorite moments in life have been when I’ve risked.

LIBERTY IS BETTER THAN SECURITY This goes hand in hand with risk.  Bottom line is liberty and freedom are dangerous and yet so is tyranny.  I don’t want the government or anybody else keeping me safe from everything.  We can not trade our freedom for security or we will end up trading our very lives.  One of the most secure places that exists is a maximum security prison, yet to experience this type of security one must first give up their liberty and essentially their life.

THE WORLD IS AN AMAZING PLACE I admit it, I am spoiled.  At a relatively young age I have seen things I once only dreamed of.  Growing up I never imagined I’d travel to the places I have.  From Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Mountains to Angkor Wat in the jungles of Cambodia, I have experienced culture first hand.  I love discovering random facts like penguins live on sandy beaches in South Africa or that there are pink dolphins that swim in the Amazon River.  But better than the great landmarks or terrains of the world are the people.  I love meeting friends from all around the world.

ADVENTURE IS IN MY BLOOD I love a thrill and rush of adrenaline!  From skydiving to simply trying out a new restaurant I love to experience new things.

THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST IS NOT JUST A STORY I would not devote my life to a legend, myth, or Sunday school story.  I do what I do because my life was transformed.  I have experienced over and over again the real transformational power of Christ both in my own life and the lives of others.

I LOVE STAYING UP LATE It is in my genes.  I am a nocturnal person.  Even now as I write it is 3:20am!  Seriously what am I doing?  Am I tired?  Yes.  Should I go to bed?  Of course.  Will I?  haha no.  This is so typical of my nights.  For whatever reason I get a freakish surge of energy at night and am often more productive.  I gave up resisting my late night tendencies long ago and now I just embrace it as part of my make up.  Oh and I recruited Christa to the nocturnal team!  (3:00 is a little beyond here endurance though)

I’M NOT PERFECT - JESUS IS Somehow I feel that often times the church get’s this wrong.  So many act as if our good deeds earn us a place in heaven.  The whole point of Jesus coming to earth was that indeed we weren’t good enough but He was.  It is because of the price He paid that we can live free of guilt and shame.  He has set us free.

BEING A DAD IS ONE OF MY GREATEST JOYS I always wanted to be a dad but I never knew just how much I would treasure that role.  What an honor to be entrusted with such innocence, and such life.  I am so grateful to have Zion as my son, I couldn’t imagine a better boy.

IT IS MUCH EASIER TO JUST BE YOURSELF THAN STRIVE TO BE SOMEONE ELSE You can not confidently be somebody else because you never know if you are doing it right.  “What would they say?”  “What would they do”?  “How would they react?”  Trying to be someone else is a total guess because you have no idea what they’d do so you can not do it confidently.  It is easy to have confidence in being yourself because you don’t even have to think about what you’d do, you just do it.  So much less pressure.  Be who you are and know that you are good enough.

I LOVE BEING FROM A SMALL RURAL TOWN The longer I’m away the more I appreciate where I’m from.  I love the outdoors and small town way of life.  I like that people have decency and help one another out.  I like going to the store and running into 3 or 4 or 5 or 10 people you know.  There is something to be said about living in community.

I DON’T HAVE ALL OF THE ANSWERS I used to think I had to, and now I’m so glad I don’t.  What arrogance to think that in my tiny 32 year existence I have it figured out.  The truth is there is so much that I don’t know.  That fact is what keeps me hungry to discover and learn and seek truth.  If you have it all figured out then what more is there to learn?

YOU CAN LEARN FROM EVERYONE Because I’m always seeking to learn I have developed an appreciation for the fact that everybody has something to offer and is therefore a potential teacher.  I have learned some of the most powerful lessons in some of the most unlikely places.

FOR ME FOOD IS FOR MUCH MORE THAN SUSTENANCE.  IT IS  ENTERTAINMENT AND ART In another life I’d be a food critic...mainly just to eat for free!  Seriously I love food.  One of my fav parts of traveling is eating various cuisine.  I honestly feel like I’m a 500lb fat man trapped inside a 160lb body.  hahaha grateful for metabolism to accompany my palet.

LOVING AND SERVING OTHERS IS A WORTHY PURSUIT The world is full of hurting people who have it worse off than we do.  Serving and loving others is the best way to spend one’s life in my opinion.  It is in fact one of the only things that will outlive you.

A 22 YEAR OLD BOY MADE THE BEST DECISION WHEN HE MARRIED CHRISTA BACA When you are young and “in love” you have no true idea of the journey you are about to embark on in marriage.  It amazes me how little you truly understand about love at the point of “I do”.  I think you get it conceptually but living life with someone day in and day out is where true love is defined.  I am so grateful for the choice I made in Christa as my spouse.  She has been there beside me every step of the way.  The hard times we’ve walked through have forged us closer together.  I can honestly say I’m a better person and lead a better life because of her.

PEACE, LOVE, JOY, AND CONTENTMENT ARE FAR MORE VALUABLE THAN MONEY OR SUCCESS. There is no greater feeling than being at peace within your own soul.  Knowing that things in life are right and in proper place is invaluable.  I am by nature a driven person but over the past few years I have learned to be content with where I am yet to keep moving forward with peace.  I truly find myself more and more living each day with contentment thinking “there’s nowhere else I’d rather be”.