by AJ Johnson
I love football, and I love the Dallas Cowboys. And yes, I understand that Tony Romo is the fine China of the NFL. He looks nice, but if you don’t take him out carefully, he breaks. But that’s my team!
One thing I love about the beginning of football season, and any sports season for that matter, is that each team begins the season with a completely clean slate (which has been especially good for me as a Cowboys fan this season). Each team, regardless of how well or poorly they did last season, begins with a record of 0-0 (praise God), and like love in Frozen, the season is an open doooooooooooor for anybody to step up and win.
Fresh starts are always attractive. That’s why New Year’s resolutions are so popular! There’s this feeling that makes you think, “All of that happened last year. This year? This year I’m gonna be an all new me. WATCH OUT WORLD! *hair flip*”.
I believe there’s something awesome, and even Biblical about that. Lamentations says that God’s mercies are new every morning, and when we experience newness in a different realm, I believe part of the reason we love it so much is because it’s a taste of the loving forgiveness and the clean slate that God’s forgiveness offers us.
Because of this, God takes this concept of newness a step further than what we think is new. We desire to break away from our old self, but God redefines our identity.
Our value is not defined by what we’ve done, but by what He declares.
Recently, my wife Heather and I found ourselves uprooted from our first home together in Anderson, SC and re-planted in a brand new community at Revolution Church in Gastonia, NC. I was recently hired as the youth pastor, and Heather and I (we both have a huge passion for youth ministry) are so pumped to be there!
Before we were offered the job at Revolution, however, I went through some pretty deep valleys.
The Lord stripped away a lot of the identity that I didn’t realize was keeping me from stepping into His identity for me. I truly realized that my time with Crossroads (where I had spent 6 years on summer staff and a year as a Crossroads Discipleship Home intern), and college (a season that I loved and felt like God was using me in) had come to an end. In both of those places, I had influence. I had a platform and I had favor. I had people. And yet, in the span of two years, I saw both of those chapters come to a close.
It rocked me.
I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in what I did and not who God made me to be.
As I began to change, I had to then ask myself, "If this part of me is gone, who am I?"
After mine and Heather's tenure as CDH interns came to a close in August of 2014, we got married in September and immediately began the process of interviewing for a job. We had a lot of promising cases but by the end of January, it all came to a halt. We had no interviews, no calls, nothing even in the works. And I was faced with this question:
If all I have for the rest of my life is my fast-food job and my wife; if that’s all the “status” I ever receive, will I be content enough in the Lord to say “My God is still good to me?"
Heather and I got married just before this identity crisis hit me, and I’m so thankful, because while I was wallowing in this self-pity-pit-of-misery, she continued to point to the things that God was doing for us.
When I didn’t have faith that He would provide, she would point to His previous provisions.
When I didn’t believe that He listened to me, she would remind me of prayers He already answered.
When I didn’t see the end, she reminded me how faithful God had been to us from the beginning.
One of mine and Heather’s favorite worship songs is by a man named Colin Mukri. It goes like this:
“You remain the same when my world is falling apart. I will look to the past and see you were there from the start.”
Our God is consistent. Our God is unchanging. And His mercies are new every single morning. That's why we can celebrate new seasons. It’s an earthly picture of a Heavenly gift that God grants for us.
But sometimes we get so focused on where we hope God is taking us, that we forget He is still Sovereign now. His plan is still perfect now. And if He can use me as a youth pastor, he can also use me as a Chick Fil A Team Member.
If we believe God has a plan for our future, we must also believe He has a plan for our present.
And if we stop telling God how wrong His timing is, we would be able to see that He has something so right and specific for us in this moment that we are currently in.
When I stopped telling God what I could do "if this changed," and "if that was different," He began to point out to me ways that He could use me at my job at Chick-fil-A. He began to show me things that I needed to work on in order to grow.
I had the freedom to love my wife better. I had the freedom to serve His people. I had the freedom to remember His will for my life wasn’t contained to that seemingly far-off, distant season.
When I let go of what I was trying to tell Him, I was able to hear what He was trying to tell me.
MAN, that’s good news... read that again!
When we stop saying, “Woe is me,” we’ll finally be able to say, “Wow, that’s God!”
In the middle of that season of turmoil for me, we got a call from Richard & Holly Myers from Revolution Church inviting us to interview for what we ultimately discovered was where the Lord had for us to be. When we got offered the job, Heather and I both knew that God had been preparing them and us specifically for each other. I felt convicted for the times in which I wasn’t patient and didn’t believe in His faithfulness.
What does this mean to you?
If you are in a new season today, thank the Lord for it. Walk forward in His purpose. A new school year, a new job, or a new circumstance can yield unlimited potential that you can allow the Lord to unleash in you to affect yourself and those around you.
Scripture tells us that “the old has gone, behold the new has come.” If you feel stuck in the same season, remind yourself of who God is, who you are to Him, and what He has called you to do. Remind yourself that you can execute that calling now, and you can place yourself in situations that give you the ability to do what you feel called to do today.
Aaron (AJ) Johnson is a Youth Pastor at Revolution Church in Gastonia, NC. He and his wife Heather met at Crossroads Summer Camp and are both graduates of the Crossroads Discipleship Home program. AJ and Heather have a passion for student ministry that’s focused on an explicit and repetitive display of the Gospel, coupled with corporate and life-on-life discipleship. Follow AJ @atodaj.