“We overestimate what we can accomplish in a year or two, but we underestimate what God can accomplish in a decade or two. If you’re discouraged, zoom out. You can’t just dream big; you have to think long. In fact, you need some life goals that will take a lifetime to accomplish. Maybe even a few that can’t be accomplished!” -from “Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small” by Mark Batterson
In May of 1996 I graduated from Andress High School in El Paso, Tx. That was 21 years ago. More than two decades ago I walked across the stage at the University of Texas El Paso as my name was called to receive my high school diploma.
Over the next few weeks students from all over the country and in some cases the globe will be graduating from school. Families will cheer, mothers and fathers will shed tears, and graduates will embrace not only their friends but also their futures.
Over two decades ago I graduated for the first time and as I reflect on that moment I am humbly reminded of just how much I underestimated what God could do within what now seems like just a blink of an eye. Two decades have passed and in it have been too many miracles to count.
In 1992 I was a freshman at Austin High School in El Paso, until I wasn’t. Looking back now I would have never labeled myself a drop out, but the reality is I wasn’t going to class, a lot, and after several weeks of missing multiple classes my parents were notified that I was going to be declared truant (being out of school without explanation).
Thank God for parents who didn’t give up on me. Thank God for my mother who fought for me and with me to get me back into school and back on track. I was pretty lost, and while I understand now why school was such a struggle for me, back then I couldn’t see my purpose past two days let alone two decades.
Growing up with undiagnosed Aspergers, presented me with lots of challenges. I didn’t have the language to explain why transitioning from middle school to an enormous high school was such a terrifying experience. I didn’t have the language to explain that the sensory overload of being in noisy school filled with frightening sounds and smells was way too much for me. I didn’t have the knowledge or self-confidence to know that just because I was different from other kids that I wasn’t deficient.
So I quit going to class and I quit dreaming. I totally underestimated myself, my value, and my future.
“A man’s gift [given in love or courtesy] makes room for him And brings him before great men.” PROVERBS 18:16 AMP- King Solomon
We all want to be great. I have never come across anyone that didn’t want to be great at something. Most people want to do something significant with their life. We all want to be better. We all want to go places and do things that we have always dreamed of doing.
Solomon suggests that the gifts that we have actually pave a path to great places and joining the company of great people. Over the years I have always thought that Solomon was simply talking about having a God-given gift (or talent) and the role it plays in getting what you want out of life.
While there may be some truth to that interpretation, I think the big idea is less about getting and more about giving. When Solomon speaks of a gift making room for you, he is literally saying that having something to offer, something to give is what helps open doors to great places and gives access to great people. Simply put, learning how to give leads to great places and surrounds you with great people.
Recently I shared a few words of wisdom with graduates and their families who attend our church in Lagrange, GA. Remembering what it was like to graduate high school 21 years ago, and college 17 years ago (and many other graduations after that), I can recall that I was guilty of grossly over estimating what I would be able to accomplish in the year or two following graduation.
I was ready to take advantage of my education. I was ready to take on the world. I was ready to take what I felt was mine. The only thing I wish I would have learned to appreciate is how to take my time.
If being someone who is a giver is what places you around great people and in great places, then taking your time will help you take advantage of opportunities to give. In the rush to take over sometimes we fail to take the time to appreciate how God is trying to pave a path for us to do great things for Him by learning how to give the gifts that he has given us away to others.
I invited and challenged our graduates to pursue greatness not by taking over, but by taking time. I encouraged them to be givers but most importantly I challenged them to learn how to give three things.
- Learn how to give the future to God. His hands are the best hands to place your future in.
- Learn to give things a chance to work. Greatness is a process that demands that we give it a chance. Stick with it. Don’t rush and don’t over-estimate what you can accomplish in a year or two instead trust what God can do in a decade or two.
- Finally, learn to give it everything you have. Learn to reduce the amount of regret you have in life by resolving to give your very best when presented with an opportunity to give your gift and add value to someone’s life.
As I stand on the other side of two decades of miracles in my life, from a high school dropout to obtaining a doctoral degree, a great family and marriage, pastoring a great church, authoring books, and the list goes on and on, I have learned how to appreciate more and more what God can do over the course of His timing when I slowly but surely learned to give my gift away and wait for God to open doors to incredible opportunities to do great things for Him.
Give it to God. Give it a chance. Give it all you got.