A lot of social media highlighted how uncomfortable 2016 was in the big-picture sense.

I’m far afield from humanity on this. There were deaths of people who wrote books I didn’t read, performed music I didn’t listen to, made movies I didn’t watch, and athletes whose prime preceded my understanding. There were political events that my GenX cynicism of institutions and politicians protected me from experiencing the vitriol others seem to have. There were heartbreaking world events but I remember Live Aid, so each year brings those, too…your heart just breaks for different tribes. So in the big-picture of things 2016 seemed like a pretty normal year to me.

For me, 2016 deviated from the script in that it treated me like a parent treats their graduating senior in late July before heading off to college. Every little thing became a life lesson to cram into my head before it was too late.  I responded in kind to 2016 like by taking the path of least resistance by nodding politely like I’m really interested and taking it all in.

Like doting parents, the reality is 2016 was right and I digested them once I got some distance between me & them. Here are a few of the ways:

My spiritual gift is teaching and I need to be using it. I’ve never been more convinced…and after not using it consistently for over five years, well, it’s high time to get back to that.

I’m not as good a student of my wife as I thought I was. The majority of that story is hers to tell so you’ll have to get her version. The bottom line is that while I was aware she’s an artist, I should’ve put two and two together sooner and recognized our suburban lifestyle was choking her. Our eclectic neighborhood has the crazy diversity where a 10-minute walk can provide interactions with a homeless person, a Ferrari owner, a band member, and a school teacher. I have gone more than a week not using a car. This new lifestyle fits us, man.

My identity was WAY too tied in to my profession. A quarter-century of pastoring provided recognition I embraced. “Doctoral student” is only part-time. “Teaching Assistant” is only part-time. “Substitute teacher” is only part-time. Don’t get me wrong. They’re all legit and keep most of the bill collectors at bay. My point is that pastoring, while somewhat embarrassing to bring up in some circles, opened a lot of doors and gave pats on the back in the circles I used to run in. Not so much anymore. It still stings when I apply for church jobs I feel may be perfect fits and my resume isn’t good enough. Seriously? I thought I was good at my job all that time. Maybe not. See what I mean about my identity tied to my job now?

God uses imperfect people to teach me. I’m not gonna go into it because it’s bad form to pull back the curtain on how church sausage is made. Suffice to say that some hard lessons were learned that came through people who I’m better off removing from my phone contacts and Facebook feeds. Sometimes I don’t like knowing what I know…especially when I know I’m right.

Different expressions of church life are okay. Granted, I have strong opinions about the role of the local church body and how to go about executing that role. I’ve been pretty judgmental on the local church (for the first time in our lives Tracy and I went to Sunday gatherings as visitors) and how they go about their business. Truth is they all have their place in God’s economy and need to go about their business in the way their leadership senses God pushing them. While I’m still frustrated by what I see out there in our Tribe’s business I need to give a bit more grace…even if I can’t find a comfy fit.

I need to get my edge back. Someone I admire told me over libations that I’m at my best when I challenge the status quo…and then punctuated that by saying that God wired me that way and I was bordering on disobedience because he “hadn’t seen that fire” in me for about six years. He said he didn’t want middle age to take away that “Clash, Ramones & Social Distortion” edge that “evangelicals need now more than ever.” He’s right. You know it. I know it.

So, buckle up, 2017. Let’s dance.