I had a pretty detailed mental picture of how I wanted to share my story here. I am always thinking back on where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced, and I know that it matters more where I’m going. Over time, my story has evolved and my personality has been molded as I peel back layers of my insecurity and become better at this thing called entrepreneurship.
As the title of this post suggests, I’ve been given countless words of wisdom and had quite a few longer discussion regarding my path and purpose. In my first official post, 01. Starting From Scratch, the book I mentioned by our wonderful pastor, Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church, called “The Principle of the Path,” has been a very critical message and it’s one of those that is on repeat in my mind daily. There are many quotes and nuggets of wisdom we’ve all heard in our lives that tend to stick with us, and it’s important to burn those in your memory because they will prove to be key in our decision-making as we navigate life.
Now, our church is not like most, in that it has been given the stereotype of a “megachurch.” That may put a bad taste in your mouth if you grew up in a small-town church like mine. If you’ve been following me since I started this site, you remember that I spent my formative years in a pretty tiny South Georgia town called Fitzgerald. When we first moved there in 1999, I remember pulling into our driveway for the first time with my parents. My dad had been staying in a hotel for a few weeks before my mom, baby brother and I made the move. His employer wanted him there early to get started at his new store while we worked to find a house.
When we got out of the car after spending the past few days packing and getting ready to move from Swainsboro, I rushed to the garage door of our new home alongside my dad, where we found a note from the choir director of the local Methodist church, insisting that my dad join her at the choir practice on Wednesday night. My dad had been in the church choir in our old town for as long as I can remember. Very soon after, we had attended a few services and met the pastor, etc. As a 13-year-old, I began to realize the importance of community when I saw how welcoming this church family was. Granted, much like most teenagers, it wasn’t quite as easy for me to “fit in” because most of the kids my age had been born in this small town and grew up with each other. They had more than a decade of a head start over me with everyone, so I had to do things I’d never done and stretch myself from within my comfort zone in order to make a positive first impression.
I go back to that story to give you a little bit of a parallel to my experience as I moved to Atlanta over ten years later. As I began attending North Point Community Church in Alpharetta (north of Atlanta), it was a complete 180 from my church back home. Thousands of people in attendance, a live band, and a pastor in blue jeans. Unheard of. I quickly learned, however, that I was growing in my faith at an exponential rate in this church. The messages were actually practical. I wasn’t falling asleep during the sermon. The songs were stirring my heart and giving me a true sense of the presence of God in my life.
Fast-forward a few years, and I had a job as a sales associate and inventory specialist at a national chain of Christian bookstores. That summer, after having been given the keys to a store and the privilege of taking part in the hiring process to grow our team, my assistant manager (I’m debating whether I should share the story behind that manager in a later post, quite controversial) rushed to the back room where I was working one day, and said “You’ll never believe who just applied for a job here!!” Knowing his excitable personality, I wasn’t really sure what to think, so of course I asked “Who??”
I laughed it off, knowing that our pastors father, Charles Stanley, who you’ve likely heard of, was one of the leading ministry leaders of our time, would never apply for a job anywhere. I did think it was funny that we may very well have an employee by that name. Long story short, my curiosity was engaged and so when I looked at the application and saw the applicant’s full name, I knew right away that Andy’s son had the same name, and when I read further to the references, it said: “Reference name: Andy Stanley, relationship: father.” In all honesty, I dropped the application in shock. This was crazy. At this point, my manager wanted me to take over and go speak with the young man.
He was a perfect fit for what we needed on our team and we ultimately made the decision to hire him. He worked for a summer with us before starting back at school, but of course, he and I had some great conversations and I couldn’t help but be nosy and ask what it was like to be the son of Andy Stanley. Ultimately, that led to Andy himself making a trip to our store to meet me and, in the brief 10-15 minutes we were able to chat, he shared with me a “Principle of the Path” question that I began to ask myself everyday. He would be disappointed if he ever read this to know that my application of his advice didn’t come for another seven years, but the question he asked me was:
(In regards to going back to college at 24 and having a Bachelor’s degree at 28):
“Do you want to be 28 WITH a degree, or without a degree?”
At 31 now, I have officially finished my second semester at a local technical college, pursuing my Associates of Applied Science in Computer Programming degree and I can’t help but be proud of myself. There’s also a great sense of disappointment that I waited so long, but I keep reminding myself that God does everything in His timing and I’ve done my best (mostly) to be faithful.
UPDATE: Since writing this post several weeks ago, my Bible app notified me yesterday before this post went out and gave me the “verse of the day,” which seemed so fitting to add in here:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV
After having met Andy that fateful day, we began chatting here and there and he offered more wisdom over the following year or so before we lost touch and I am forever grateful for those talks. We were never able to meet again in person due to his demanding schedule, but it’s my hope that one day I’ll be able to sit across this table with him and be able to know once again the joy of being able to have a great personal relationship with my pastor.
This story* was not intended to be this long, but I tend to go long with the details as I replay the memories in my head and it’s hard for me to omit parts of a memory. 😛
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
*This story was shared with permission from those involved.