You can learn a lot of about someone from their office or workspace. In most cases, it's easy to tell their work habits and general interests by simply looking around the room.
If you step foot in my office, you'll quickly notice a few sporadic themes centered around the following, the Patriots, Disney, The Office, degrees and certifications, white boards and one purple and gold picture frame.
Of all the random nicknacks and obsessive amounts of Tom Brady memorabilia in my office, this one picture frame is the most valuable -- even more than the two pieces of paper that cost $50,000 on my wall. It's valuable not because of what's in it (an old magazine article) but instead because of the story behind it.
It's a story that has radically changed my life, one that haphazardly led me on two excessive emotional extremes.
Emotion 1 - Removing the Memory
What's inside the picture frame is one of my proudest moments as a journalist. Behind the glass stands an article I wrote for Sports Illustrated on LSU's Billy Cannon. This article is a fun memory of Summer 2011 when I interned and contributed for Sports Illustrated. Ever since I was in middle school I always dreamed of writing for SI. I remember anxiously waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail and spending hours going through the material.
It's safe to say I was living the dream at age 21 as one of only 14 people in the world selected to intern with them in New York.
Fast forward to exactly one year after the internship. There I was unpacking boxes in Kayla's grandmother's house -- in a town of less than 4,000 people -- starting my new journey as a youth pastor at a church. As I went through each box, I remember carelessly throwing away any journalism related accolade or article I ever wrote. I was a big-bad pastor now, I couldn't let my past to be an idol.
You ever look back to a younger version of yourself and want to slap younger you in the face? Yeah, that's where I'm at.
I was so self-righteous because I was a new man of God (I strongly dislike this term by the way) that I just willy-nilly threw away years of memories because it was beneath my new position and adventure.
This started a stretch of about two years in my life where I didn't want anything to do with my past experiences. In fact, being so obsessed over throwing it all away I even casually got rid of a glass award from LSU when I won Male Journalist of the Year.
I was under the false impression that nothing mattered before I started working in a church. I was under the impression that it was all meaningless.
Emotion 2 - Regretting the Now
My ministry career and calling trended downward and by the start of year three, I was in a constant state of depression. The church we served at during those three years was struggling and we faced the unavoidable hurdles of a declining church.
I woke up most days not reading my Bible or praying as I continually grew more distant in my relationship with Jesus. As Sunday's approached, I was openly disgruntled and loathed the thought of going to church.
As my life seemed to be spiraling out of control, I looked around.
My former roommates and once co-workers in college, at Sports Illustrated, and with Fox Sports, were now living the dream. Each one were living in recognized big cities with their names headlined across publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and ESPN (to just name a few).
I headed over to Twitter and saw there profiles with more than 10, 20 and 30,000 followers, and there I was steadly sitting at a whopping 125 faithful accounts.
I began to regret the decisions that changed my life during college. Maybe God hadn't called me to ministry. Maybe what I experienced was me and not God. Maybe I can be the best Christian I can be who writes for a sports publication. Maybe I can just go serve at a great church and still get to do what I loved.
These thoughts were my daily struggle as I dug myself into a hole of discontentment. I was done with the local church and I hated myself for throwing away my education and experiences for a life to which a small few took notice.
What had I done?
The Right Balance
A close friend of mind had a great idea while standing in my office. He suggested having an article I wrote for Sports Illustrated framed for the gaping part of my wall that was at the time naked.
I drove home knowing that I threw away almost all of my articles, digging for just one to frame. As luck would have it, I found the one article I wrote that was featured on the cover of the magazine. Bingo! (Thanks to my wife who would secretly dig up and keep things she saw me throw away)
It's been five years since I graduated college, and for the first-time I have found the right balance to these two emotions. In the beginning, I tried everything within me to erase every positive memory centered around journalism, while I later flip flopped to the other side - deeply regretting the transition to ministry and wishing I was doing what I originally pursued. But now I get it.
There's no shame in enjoying and celebrating previous memories with the positive perspective, the perspective that those memories and experiences have paved the way for where you are today. I find myself with a fun story and life experience. It's something to even share with my kids one day, while I'm happily knowing I'm living in God's purpose for my life right now.
You know what's funny? As I look up from my laptop (sitting in the same office) I also see an AT&T name tag with my name on it. I wore that name tag everyday for a year going to job I hated but needed for my spiritual and leadership growth.
When I see that tag, I'm reminded of the daily struggle to quit; I'm reminded how many times I wanted to leave and move to another city; I'm reminded of the struggle of not seeing my family, but I'm also reminded of God's faithfulness. I'm reminded of how much I grew. I'm reminded of the people I encountered. I'm reminded of where I am now.
What does that look like in your life?
Seriously think on that. We become so fixated on the bad memories. We remain fixated on removing them, but in doing so, we can forget about the good.
Maybe it's a picture of someone not with you anymore; maybe it's a memory of great moment for you; maybe it was a job or experience. But regardless of the 'thing,' it has played a part of your journey and is a valuable asset to your story.
God brings us all on a journey. The journey looks different for everyone, but along the journey He gives us new opportunities and challenges. Every experience along the way plays an important life role to who we are becoming. Every experience lends itself, as just that, an experience. An experience to learn and get better for what God's purposed your life to be.
Where you are right now is not the end and where you've been doesn't define you.
When I look up at that spot in my office, I won't see regret or an invisible memory. Instead, I will see an experience that shaped me as a leader to help me live in where I am today.