Thursday, October 15, 2009

A New Question (part 1)

Who am I? Have you ever really stopped to think about the answer to this question. I was stopped dead in my tracks this week when confronted with these three simple words: "Who are you?" It's easy to answer this with things like, "I'm a property manager for the public housing authority in Grand Rapids," or "I'm a husband and a father," or "I'm a worship leader." But these are not so much who we are as they are what we are or what we do.

I think for the past several years I've found my identity (or tried to establish my identity) in what I do. Out of college I was a business consultant, then I moved to property management, then I was a youth pastor and a worship leader, then back to property management. But these really don't answer who I am. I've been married for a little more than seven years to Heidi, and we have a beautiful daughter named Ella...but this doesn't really answer who I am. I've led worship for years in big and small venues, but this still doesn't really answer who I am. I've played music in bars and clubs and coffee shops, but this still doesn't provide the answers I'm looking for. These all point towards gifts and talents and personality traits. But, at the end of the day they don't say a thing about who I really am.

This question came up at a Bible study I'm a part of...and it really got me thinking. I've tried for too long to characterize who I am by what I do. I think this might be part of the reason that I find myself so easily discontent. I try to force who I am into whatever I'm doing (job, ministry, friendships), and it doesn't fit. My job and ministry and friendships...even my family...cannot contain who I am. Which looking back over the past few years is a good thing...if my job was who I am, I would have been five different people in the last five years. That's right, five different jobs...horrible, I know. But as I look at each of those jobs, I see how I tried to squeeze who I am into them instead of letting them fit into who I am (current position excluded because I've adjusted my outlook on some things). At Woodhaven I tried to force passion into tradition. At Origins I tried to force high expectations into the status quo. At Park Place I tried to force leadership into a community that didn't want to be led. At Stone Falls I tried to force myself to be someone I was not in order to make the sale. Interestingly enough, these are all very good traits that I think I have...passion, high expectations, leadership, and even the ability to be all things to all people. I don't think these traits alone are who I am, but they certainly feed into it. And I've spent my whole life, really, trying to fit these into whatever I do.

I'm not going to go into who I am right now because I would like you, my faithful few readers, to ask that same question of yourself: "Who am I?" When you strip everything away, who are you?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Passion

It's been almost three months since I started working for the Grand Rapids Housing Commission. And, I must say, it's going really well. I love the people I work with, as well as the work that I'm doing. My work doesn't feel empty day in and day out. I feel like I'm actually making a difference in people's lives, and that's a very good feeling to have.

Speaking of making a difference in people's lives, there's someone who's making a difference in mine. I don't know his name, but nearly every day I drive past him. He stands on the corner of Burton and Eastern in Grand Rapids with a sign for Happy's Pizza. Now, I don't really like Happy's Pizza that much (in fact, I think Pizza places should be limited to...well...Pizza and subs/grinders...and simple Italian dishes...Happy's menu has everything...but that's for another day), but this guy makes me smile. He has what most would consider a boring, uneventful job. I know I would HATE standing on the corner with sign that says, "2 large pizzas $10.99" (and I would hate it even more to have to dress up like the Statue of Liberty at tax time and wave people in to get their taxes done). But this guy gets it done. Rain or shine, there he is. And he doesn't just stand and wave. No, this guy gets into his job. He paces back and forth around the corner of this busy intersection and dances and sings (or raps...I can't be sure because I can't actually hear him...I just see him mouthing words). And, he does this for hours on end I would assume. He's taken a job that most of us would hate and made it fun. He's passionate about it. He doesn't care what people are thinking. He just unashamedly draws attention to himself so that his audience...the cars driving by...will hopefully go to Happy's Pizza. I have the fortune of having some really good employees that work for me, but if I'm ever in a spot to hire someone, I want to hire this guy because of the energy he pours into his job. Not only does he make me smile when I see him, but he encourages me to live passionately...to not just go through the motions.

So, here's to you, "guy that dances and sings on the corner of Burton and Eastern"...you have single-handedly revolutionized your line of work.