I had goals this year.
There were things I wanted to accomplish, success I wanted to brag about. This was going to be the time when I did instead of talk, finish instead of start, when I would begin reshaping my life and times into the dreams I was going to catch instead of chase.
I was going to write like never before. My goal was to get published by Deeper Story and Prodigal Magazine, as well as finish at least one but probably two book manuscripts. I was going to figure out how to make a living at this writer life by just doing the work. Ass, chair, words. Simple. I was going to write.
I was going to be a better husband. This was our five-year anniversary. I was going to be there for Sarah in ways I wasn’t able to be before. Special days and holidays were going to be celebrated. I was going to rediscover my romantic, to finally date my wife. I was going to keep more regular writing hours, so I could be a better family man. I was going to be a better husband.
I was going to plant a church. I have talked, longed, dreamt, and felt a pull to see a congregation form. This was going to be the year it happened. With prayer, risk, and social sweat, I was going to find the people to own this vision with me and we were going to see the marginalized have a place to gather in worship. This was going to be the start of sending people to do this work elsewhere. I was going to plant a church.
It is now September. I haven’t been published yet. I have stalled out on my book progress. I failed my wife on her birthday. I still keep odd writing hours. I still have nothing more than whispers and dreams of church. Summer has passed, and I have not marked any goals off my list.
Have I failed?
What is Success?
I am tired of judging my success by what I have not yet done. See, i think of my self as a failure when I think about the goals I haven’t met and honestly most likely wont. I probably wont get published in any online magazines this year. I won’t finished my book manuscripts unless there is some miracle. I didn’t discover how to date my wife. I have no idea how to even begin talking about planting a church any more. I am a failure when I see all I didn’t do, and therefore will only be successful in my goals if I can somehow buckle down, suck it up, and work my ass off to see these things happen.
As if I haven’t been hard at work this year already. Maybe I haven’t worked hard in the ways that would make my goals come true, but I have worked damn hard at life.
As a writer, this year has been a discovery of my true voice, my style, my self as a writer. I have written essays and blog posts I am proud of. I was featured in Rachel Held Evans Sunday Superlatives twice. Sarah Bessy linked me up. I have met more people solely because of my writing. I feel I have earned at least a small amount of respect and credibility as a writer. Someone even bought me a laptop to help me continue my writing work. Book authors contact me to review and interact with their books. I’m not nearly as paralyzed by self-doubt when I sit before the blank page. I don’t obsess over my blog stats or comments I wrote. I have several irons in the fire, and I am slowly working them all. I haven’t stopped writing.
I may still screw up as a husband, but our marriage is five years old, and we have an amazing three-year old son. I’m not the perfect husband, but I am a husband who does try. I am also a father that loves his son and tries to act like it. I still want to do better for my family, but I haven’t given up, even in this hard ass summer. This has been the roughest summer of my life. My bipolar illness has kept my moods erratic. Depression has crushed me and mania has set me on an edge. Yet, even in all of that, Sarah and I have grown as a couple, and Ender is growing up into a beautiful young boy. We are a family, and we are functional, alive, and growing together. I haven’t given up.
Church planting has taken on new meanings. I am still discovering what it really means in real life for me. Yet things are happening. I have been in intentional relationship with some friends that has helped them grow in beautiful ways. I have grown because of these relationships. The idea of planting discipleship has captured me through these relationships, and I have been able to do the work, as well as share the vision with some cool people. I’ve even been on a couple of video calls with my pastor friend Ben about ways his church can begin redefining it’s self with relationship. It is a long, slow process, but it is happening. And I am part of it. I am working for the sake of church.
I’m not pretending that I am somehow fulfilling my goals in unexpected ways. That’s just lying to my self. I am ready to admit that maybe my goals need to be forgotten about. The truth is, my life is happening. As a writer, a husband and father, and a “pastor-ish worker, life is happening. Even as I learn to live with my bipolar mood disorder. Even as I fail to be as productive a writer as I want to be. Even as I fumble around at family. Even as I feel alone and in the wilderness.
I am living.
Goals are not the measure of my success or failure at being alive.