Success in the Journey

Last fall I (Dustin) wasn’t getting a whole lot of sleep.  That whole “Eat, Sleep, Breathe (your sport here)” t-shirt was proving to be true – well at least the sleep part.  I was coaching girls’ volleyball at Franklin, and was quite literally dreaming about coaching so much it was keeping me awake at night.  This is pretty much the standard protocol for me whenever a sport/activity consumes a lot of my time.   I know what you’re thinking – this is completely normal and you can totally relate.  Thanks for not thinking I’m crazy. 

So at this point we knew I would be stepping down from my position as Student Ministries Pastor at AAUB (check out Our Story for more background info).  We were in the process of interviewing new candidates for my position, assimilating a new junior high pastor, getting our house ready to sell, and applying/interviewing for new jobs ourselves, all while still doing full-time ministry.  Sleep is so overrated. 

If I’m honest, I often found myself thinking I wish I hadn’t signed up to coach this year.  As much as I love the girls, coaches, volunteers, etc. that I worked with, I was tired, frustrated, and felt very ineffective.  And not just ineffective coaching a sport, but ineffective as someone who desperately wanted to invest into the lives of these young ladies God had placed in front of me.  Coaching was always about people first and the sport second for me, but I was having a hard time making it about either. 

While the season ended with some sadness, I was mostly happy it was over.  I was preparing to close this chapter of my life, and I needed some time to eat, sleep, and breathe something other than volleyball.  As soon as all of my post-season responsibilities were completed, I resigned from my coaching position wondering if it had really been worth my time.

December came and went, I left my position at the church, and we continued on the roller-coaster ride that eventually landed us with Amazima Ministries!  We were moving forward, opening up a new chapter in our story.  There were so many exciting things in front of us, so many things to do, and so many new relationships being made.  And yet, I kept thinking about those girls; had it been worth it?

Summer came and went, and fall sports were in full swing again.  As much as I was relieved to have the extra time, I missed coaching.  I really wanted to try to make it to as many home games as possible to support my team, but we were traveling a lot and meeting with potential supporters, and the season flew by.  Then, one evening I got a text from one of my seniors saying “Sorry for the late notice, but it is senior night and we’re all hoping to see you here.”  (I added punctuation – we all know teens don’t actually use punctuation when they text).  How do you say no to that?!  So I bailed out of work, got cleaned up, and hurried down to the game.

Arriving just in time to see the seniors get recognized, I was blown away by what happened next.  Each senior stood to be acknowledged.  The announcer read through their school involvement, their future plans, their memories, and eventually arrived at their “thank yous.”  One-by-one, she spoke humbling and overwhelming words of encouragement written by each senior, thanking me for the impact I had on their lives.  They all said something about what I taught them in the sport – I honestly don’t remember much of that.  What I do remember were the comments about what I had meant to them outside of the sport; things they would take with them when volleyball was a past memory.  Thinking about it now, several weeks later, still brings me to pause as my appreciation of it all floods over me.  It had been worth it.

On my drive home from the game I turned on the radio and heard pastor/author Levi Lusko say the following: “Heaven looked on Paul’s work at Thessalonica as a smashing success.  And that’s what God sees when He looks at you; when you’re doing what you have been called to do, and it doesn’t seem to be working.  So don’t give up.  Progress isn’t always visible.  Philippians 1:6; ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.’  So you just keep doing your part.  Don’t give up, even when it feels like you’re not making a difference…Don’t give up, even when your sacrifice isn’t noticed or appreciated.  Don’t give up, even when you’re giving it all you got, and no one’s writing you thank you notes.”  With tears in my eyes I thanked God for a night I didn’t deserve, but He knew I needed. 

In 42 days we will be on a plane to Uganda.  It’s coming so quickly, and I don’t know what to expect.  There are days I wonder if we will be effective, if we will think it is worth it, if we will see any results.  But God continues to teach me that His work is not bound by my feelings of success or failure.  He has also shown me time and time again that “success” is not measured in my ability to see the results.  Sometimes I am fortunate enough to see the results; sometimes I am not.  God simply offers me a chance to be a part of the journey, part of the amazing things He is doing.  I’m learning to see success through the lens of being willing to stay on that journey, to love well along the way, and to leave the rest in the hands of the One who sets the trajectory of my story.  

Learning to just be faithful…

From Dust and Ash

Psalm 113:7

(Quinn, Cells, Alex, Meghan, Michaela, and Madi: Thank you! Your words and impact on my life mean more than you know…)

You can hear the rest of Levi Lusko’s message here