Every day I receive a minimum of 30 messages and I do my best to reply to all of them. I believe if someone takes the time to reach out they deserve a response.
Despite this lofty goal, I often fail. I am truly sorry if you’ve sent words my way and never heard back. During my sabbatical from the ministry last June-December, I didn’t have the capacity to respond to 95% of them.
Yesterday, in one of these messages, this question came flying in on Instagram: “Can I ask you what makes you want to do this and why …what do you get out of this just curious?”
As I work behind the scenes to prepare Recklessly Alive for its next season, I’ve been wrestling with a lot of hard questions including this one: what is my why?
As Simon Sinek says in his book, “Start With Why,”
“If we want to feel an undying passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY.”
On the surface, my why seems to be continuously evolving—sometimes moment to moment.
When I first started blogging eight years ago, my why was this:
Dear God, show me a way to use all this pain I’ve experienced to help others.
1.4 million blog views later, that why continues to be the backbone of everything I do.
In May 2016, when I officially started the ministry, we had lost two students, a teacher, and principal to suicide over a short period in my home community and I knew I had a story that might be able to help someone.
I started public speaking and my why became:
to help ONE person know they aren’t alone in their suicidal thoughts and help them decide to stay.
I’ve always wanted my life to be about helping others. It’s why I became a teacher. It’s why I spent a good chunk of my 20’s mentoring and running small groups for high school kids. It’s why I coach high school soccer.
So my lifelong WHY has been: I want as many young people as possible to know there are good people in the world who care about them.
After speaking for 3.5 years, I’ve met a number of the most beautiful families who’ve lost a son or daughter to suicide as a teenager or young adult. I’ve seen first hand the devastation and on-going pain this loss exudes.
So my why became this: a world with zero deaths from suicide so that no family has to bury their child too soon.
But what do I actually get out of this work?
It’s not money. I’ve poured thousands and thousands of my own hard-earned dollars into this ministry because my why’s are more important than going on an all-inclusive vacation to “pamper” myself.
It’s not fame. I am not a person who seeks the spotlight. If it weren’t for the ministry, I don’t know that I would have social media at all.
It’s not love. Yes, I’ve received some beautiful thank you’s. I’ve also fielded enormous amounts of hate, internet stalking, and awkwardness. If anything, I’ve lost more people than gained doing this work.
In the eyes of this world that is obsessed with surface-level distractions, I gain nothing.
Yet what I actually gain is something so much greater than anything this world has to offer. I get the opportunity to give love.
3 But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13, (VOICE) “For God so loved the world, that he gave…” -John 3:16 “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” -Acts 20:35 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” – Colossians 3:23 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Five different books of the Bible showing us how to be more like Jesus.
To truly love others is to give, to work heartily towards a cause greater than ourselves, and to bear the burdens of others. You can say it’s because I’m an INFJ, enneagram 3 or whatever personality test is in vogue to try and justify why I am the way I am.
Despite my self-destructive and sinful nature, all I freaking care about is that my life radiates the love of Jesus to every dark corner of the world. No boundaries. No limits.
No one too dirty. No one too disgusting. No untouchables. No they and us.
Just me and Jesus and the boundless love we give to a broken and f’d up world.
My response to this small question is so much more than the 53-word response I instinctively sent.
I guess I am just naive enough to truly believe love can change the world and the course of history.
One teenager who decides to stay in the hardest moment of his life, whose family doesn’t spend every day missing him and wishing he’d come home. He goes on to do wonderful things for the world and his community. He learns how much God loved him through every heartbreak. He quietly tells others about this man named Jesus who can be a game-changer in anyone’s story, including his.
It’s okay if you don’t understand my why.
It’s okay if you mock me or send me all caps emails.
It’s okay if you hate me for not being the cookie-cutter, never swears Christian many of you wish I would be.
It’s okay if I spend my whole life feeling mostly misunderstood with few places to belong.
It’s okay because my WHY is greater than anything this world has to offer.
So to you my friend—wherever you are in life—I hope you stop and think about your why.
And I hope your why is something bigger than yourself. I hope your why helps bear the burdens of others. I hope your why is rooted in love.
For when you choose the tough road of living this way, you finally realize that loving others is the only way to ever feel fully and recklessly alive.
And that is my why.
See you soon.