Joel, 25, is on staff in Mars Hill's Preaching & Theology department as an assistant, aka "agent". Like most any other single, 20-something (guy or girl), he's spent his time watching DVD box sets with roommates until 3 am and countless weeknights exhausting all the happy hours in the neighborhood. These days, he still does those things sometimes, but when he does, it's part of a schedule, what he calls his Ideal Week. The schedule is part of a deliberate effort on his part to steward his time purposefully and in a way that honors scripture. Here's what he's learned:Seven nights a week of hanging out is detrimental to some priorities. Everything takes a sacrifice. Everything. It’s about being more tactful. It’s either gonna be sacrificing time to hang out for the opportunity to work and do something, or to sacrifice the work and doing something for hanging out. Those are my choices these days as a 20-something: It’s either work or screw around. Screwing around's not bad, but it is if it’s dominating everything. Before, my friends were my life. This was no fault of theirs, but rather my own misunderstanding of friendship. Every decision I made was based on my social capital. I found that my hanging out with friends was actually feeding my own selfishness, my need and desire to be loved was feeding my need and desire to give them all of me. I wanted to be wanted. So I was the guy where, whatever anybody wanted, I gave them so that we could continue on our "wanted" economy. Giving it out, for me, is not the hard part: It’s learning to fill it up. I got to the point where I could constantly see the bottom of my proverbial bucket. Even with something as simple as grace, my bucket was being emptied to the point where doing either my job or in Community Group just felt like I was leading and pouring out, I didn’t have any more to give. I thought my friends or co-workers were responsible for filling me up, or that one day a wife would fill me up and I that all I needed to do was find a wife (who I was thinking of like a functional savior) if I wanted to be full. So I started to protect my bucket from other people, withholding my self from them. I started to feel like all I did was pour out and nothing poured into me.
Boaz was a man with a plan.One of the lights turning on for me was in the Ruth series, hearing about Boaz. It’s a guy who got his calling and he was doing everything he needed to do–maybe looking or maybe not looking for Ruth–but just on his own mission. When he found Ruth, she was someone that could come alongside him to a place he was already going. A lot of the thinking is, "I’ll start life when I get married, and we’ll figure out our direction and then we’ll go there." And it’s just become a little bit more apparent to me as someone who’s unmarried to ask, "Which direction am I heading?" and then solidify that. Another lesson was from the idea of reverse engineering that we got to see out of Nehemiah, where, if you want to do something, you gotta figure out where you want to go, and then identify the steps in between that’ll get you there. If you’re dead, you’re not gonna get to any of your priorities. So it doesn’t do any good to kill yourself for your priorities. You need to, at some level, be healthy and able to do what you need to do. Does that mean sit on a beach and be selfish and not do anything? No. It just means to care for yourself. It’s definitely a notion of Sabbath. So I sat down and set some priorities. I realized I’d been so frustrated because I had no investment in the things I was doing and "getting done". My life and body had priorities and I’d been ignoring them. There is real freedom in scheduling. When I set time limits on time spent working on projects, for example, I know the time I do have today to work on that, and the time I don’t, but will have tomorrow or the next day. And all I can do is all I can do.
"You will become like the five people closest to you."There are other options than just hanging out. And I don’t mean to be a jerk and say it’s not worth it cause it definitely is, but it’s that odd question of asking yourself, "Wow, no one around me looks like anything I want to be. No one around me is where I want to go." That should be troubling. Even if you don’t know where want to go, you know "I don’t want to be there." Because you will become like the five people closest to you. Maturity and responsibility, a lot of times, is having to make the right decision between two equal options, neither one good nor bad. The choice between one bad option and one good one is easy: Pick the good. But as we face more "grown-up" decisions, we have to discern more what we sacrifice (don’t do) and what we do. I’ve learned that God needs to be my source, that I’m empty not because I’m giving too much out, but rather cause I’m not filling up. So that’s why my first priority is to fill up: Life with Christ and to first be a son of God. Everything else can fall in line after that.
Joel’s 5 Priorities
- Life with Christ
- Freelance project
- Community Group leader