Wednesday, May 31, 2017

25 Years Ago: Part Two--When You Put Your Heart In It

If I had written my valedictory address using today's technology, part of my speech would have certainly turned out much different; for I quoted at length a song by Kenny Rogers, "When You Put Your Heart In It."

This was back in the day when you couldn't purchase individual songs.  No, you had to buy the whole album, and it was on cassette tape.  We had to be talented back then in order to listen to the same song over and over again.  We had to learn to time the rewind of our tape recorders so that we'd push play having our favorite song begin without having to hear any of the other songs THAT HAD NEVER BEEN PLAYED ON THE RADIO!!!

But I was always willing to give those other songs a chance.  I'd at least listen to an entire album to see what other songs were on it.  When I purchased Roger's album "Something Inside so Strong," I first heard "When You Put Your Heart In It."  I loved the song.  It resonated with me so much so that I wanted to include a portion of it in my speech.

There is a certain song that I really like that described how we got here.  It is called "When You Put Your Heart In It" and I am going to recite a few lines from it.  Don't worry, I'm not going to sing.  The song reads: 
This road was so long and winding
It was such a hard road
But we couldn't stop once we got started
We were always getting closer
Suddenly it happened
A chance at a lifetime
And we're gonna take it
We can make it
When you put your heart in it
It can take you anywhere
Who's to say that we can't make it
It's the same dream that we share
When you put your heart in it
It can take you anywhere. 
Well, so far, our hearts have gotten us here.  Graduation.  A few years ago it seemed like a dream, but now we're here.  Just like the words of the song said; it was a long, hard, winding road that we just couldn't seem to stop once we started, but now we've finished this part.  Notice I said this part.  The problem is, there is some more road ahead.  College, jobs, uncertainty all lie on the next leg of the road.  Time to dig down again and put your heart in it.  (Valedictory Address, 1992)

I think that most of us who have the perspective of 25 years looking back at high school know that the "long, hard, winding road" of school was neither long nor hard nor winding compared to the reality of adult life.  Life in the world has many more twists and turns and ups and downs.  For most of us, there are trials and difficulties.  And, unfortunately, broken hearts.

That's the one thing that I think I would qualify in my speech today.  If you are going to put your heart into something, be prepared that it might--and likely will--get broken.  Because simply putting your heart into something is no guarantee of "success."

I put success in quotes because people oftentimes measure success differently.  I personally have a much different definition of success now than I did when I wrote this speech 25 years ago.  Back then, my idea of success would have been excelling in everything I did: job, relationships, private life, you name it.

But I know now that even if you put your heart into such matters, it can easily be broken because in just about everything that you do, you never have total control.  You are dependent upon someone or something else.  As a pastor, I can't make people believe what I preach and teach.  Neither can I make them do what it takes to make a church grow and thrive.  I can't make them come to worship or sing when they do come.  I am dependent upon others for my "success" if "success" is measured by church growth and attendance.  And if you put your heart into achieving the success of church growth and attendance; and if folks don't share your passion for growth; sooner rather than later, your heart breaks because you feel let down.

But this is not exclusive to pastors.  Farmers, at the very least are dependent upon the weather.  If all your hopes rest on having a bumper crop, and a hail storm wipes it out: heartbreak.  Doctors can experience the same thing if their definition of success means saving every patient.  If someone dies despite your best efforts: heartbreak.  A salesperson who defines success by selling something to every client finds heartbreak in rejection.  A person who defines success by having a perfect marriage finds heartbreak if the marriage is full of argument, estrangement, and the finality of divorce.  I could go on and on.

I think many, many people find heartbreak along the way, but I think one of the true measures of success comes in how you deal with heartbreak--how you deal with picking yourself up after being knocked down.  Do you dare risk again?  Do you dare take another chance?  Do you dare to put your heart in it one more time?

Some people don't want to take that chance and risk.  The pain is too great.  I understand that very well.  But I have learned something along the way--something that enables me to take great risk with others and yet be protected.  I put my heart in God.  I live for God.  I work for God.  I measure success by my relationship with Him instead of the things of this world.  In fact, I expect that the world will let me down.  I expect that I will fail.  I expect that people will let me down.  I will have pain, but I know "that all things work together toward good for those who love God."  (Romans 8)  This means that even though not all things are good, God will use whatever happens to make me and mold me into what He needs me to become.  Even my pain and failure will be used for my benefit in the long run.  And so I put my ultimate trust in God, not in myself; not in others; not in the world.

Notice I used the word "ultimate" in that last sentence.  I intentionally said that because I know that I still have to trust people in this world.  I trust my wife.  I trust my congregation.  I trust my friends.  I trust my family.  They are all imperfect, just as I am imperfect, so we will hurt one another along the way.  We will break each other's hearts.  But because I put my heart in God, healing and forgiveness comes quickly.  I am able to risk; to try again; to take a few more steps down that long and winding road.

If I were to use part of my speech today, I would urge folks to put their hearts in God--for He will not break them, and He can still take you anywhere.

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