It is my mission to motivate and encourage you through the content I create on this blog. I think I have a lot to offer through my own thoughts and writing that may help you. However, I don’t want all of the content here to be 100% me, sharing my thoughts and opinions only because I realize there is always something I don’t know and experiences I haven’t lived. One way I will do this is by periodically sharing ideas, wisdom, and stories from others whom I trust and respect. Today’s post is in a question and answer format with my friend and pastor, Guy Smith. He studied marketing in college and worked in his family’s business for 6 years before deciding to make some significant changes in his life. I’m sure you will glean some wisdom as he shares some of his journey to finding purpose and contentment in both his personal life and in his work.
1) Briefly describe what your life used to look like (before tipping point, before change started to occur, etc). What was life like at the beginning of your journey?
I’ll share two descriptions of my life before the major change occurred.
First, I had spent the majority of my post-high school years serving and worshiping God. By all standards of ‘hey-look-at-me’ Christianity I was doing well. Attending Christian gatherings and mission trips had become my lifestyle. Throughout those years I expected to eventually end up where I am today, but something awful happened to me: I burnt out. Yep, I burnt out on ministry at the ripe old age of 23. I couldn’t understand what happened to me. I was so passionate before. Now I wanted nothing do to with it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I believed in Jesus. Looking back, the reasons are obvious. While I was doing good for God, I had done very little with God. The relational aspect of my faith was nearly non-existent. Bible study, prayer, and fellowship were an idea, not a practice. The result of my isolated attempt at faith was sin on top of sin on top of sin that led to burn out.
After burning out, my second description of life is moving home to work at my father’s business. The coolest thing about a good family is when life blows up and you’re lost they take you back to help you up. After moving out of state for college, traveling and working throughout North and Central America, I had found myself once again sleeping down the hall from mom and dad. Here’s how awesome and easy my life was: slept in my sister’s old bedroom (no bills), I walked 50 feet to work (no fuel), mom brought dad and I lunch everyday (no packing), mom made supper for us every night (no restaurants), and on top of that I was paid well (pay off debt and save fast). My dad and younger brother loved the business and still do. They couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I envy them. I tried so hard to be like them. The freedom and comfort of a family business looked so good, but no matter how hard I tried I could not get settled. I wanted out, but had no idea where to go. Six years passed by slow and fast until I had effectively spent the bulk of my twenties in the perfect job I struggled to enjoy. That’s where I was when God woke me up. I lost the depression weight, met my future wife, and moved into an apartment. The changes I needed to make were finally happening, and they were happening rapidly.
2) What was one main catalyst for change in your story? What inspired you to pursue changes in your life?
The simplest answer to this is marry a pusher. My wife encouraged me early on to be better, and she still does. If you’re not married yet I recommend adding that to your qualifications list. Oh, come on, I know you have such a list in your head at least. It may be hard to believe, but a pusher is better than the girl who encourages you to play more video games. Enjoy the games once-in-awhile, but build a life. Be productive.
My one main catalyst for change was fully surrendering my life to Christ. Through all those years of running and living in sin I had become stuck because it was all about me. All about my pleasure. All about my future. All about my career. All about my money. When I surrendered my life to Christ I was able to look at my day job and ask God if he had something different for me. Don’t misunderstand me on this. What I was doing for a living was not bad or sinful, it was good. A good job at a God-honoring business. I believe we are made to work and in our work we are worshiping God. I also believe we are each gifted and equipped and called to specific types of work. However, I don’t believe our work should give us purpose or fulfillment or identity. Those things come from God. That was one of my struggles before making a change. I thought my entire life purpose had to be wrapped up into my work. It doesn’t. Yes, now that I’m in full-time ministry most (certainly not all) of what I do has purpose, but I’m not a pastor first. It’s part of who I am, not all of me. I’m a Christian, husband, father, friend, runner, beekeeper, and fan of all professional Pittsburgh sports. Pastor of a local church is my calling, yes, but it’s also my day job, not my singular identity.
3) In what ways did your attitude/mindset/thought process change throughout your journey and how did it happen?
I really became a happier person to be around. By leaving an industry that I had little passion for and entering into one I was more likely made for, I found a new excitement for life. The process began slowly. First, an opportunity came, and I took it. As I took more opportunities I was able to discover how my gifts lined up with the career change. That’s what anyone considering a change needs to do. Get your feet wet first. Don’t jump too fast into a new career before first understanding it. The truth is every job has it’s share of fun tasks, boring tasks, and annoying tasks. Even if you’re confident you were put on the planet to do it, it’s still work.
4) What was the FIRST STEP you took toward changing your story?
My first step was to try it. The last thing I wanted to do was quit my job only to find out the next job felt the same. I like what Jon Acuff tells his readers: Be selfish at 5:00 A.M.
Find time in your week to try something new. Carve it out. It’s there. Be productive in your spare time. Bump up your side hustle.
5) Briefly share about a failure you experienced along the way and how you moved past it or even used it to your advantage.
I have a bad habit of being a lone wolf. I try to figure it out myself. Just me and the internet. For my whole first year at the church that’s what I did. No mentor. No leader. No supervisor. I was the only staff. When it came time to do my first wedding I figured it out through the internet and a book. Same for my first funeral. My big failure actually came at a funeral. I accidentally stole a funeral from another local pastor and she wasn’t all too happy. For the record, funerals are not fun to attend or officiate. Anyone who intentionally steals funerals is out of their mind. In hindsight I would have passed on this opportunity. Long story short, the experience was bad and the service did not go well because I made some comments I’d like to take back. That was the weekend I decided to take my wife’s advice and seek out a mentor. Having him to call on has been priceless.
You should get a mentor. I never wanted one because I thought it was weird to be honest. Mentorship doesn’t have to mean study a book together and spend an hour each week talking about strengths and weaknesses while the empty boxes of Puffs stack up in the corner. That’s not me. For me, a mentor just means a friend who has walked before me and is available to bounce ideas off of. He’s there to guide me through the basic, day-to-day trenches of ministry when I have questions. He’s there when people disappoint me and he’s there when people hurt me. He’s there when I mess up and he’s there for the celebrations. Mentor to me just means a friend who has walked a similar path and is willing to help. I needed a friend like that. I’d also encourage you to become a mentor to someone else.
6) List a few brief takeaways you have learned from your journey that you would like to share with others.
- It’s easier to make a change when your soul is at rest. Start by surrendering these decisions to God.
- Make a list of careers you have no interest in. Mine was in my head. For me accounting was out. My math skills are sub-par. I just wish NASA would stop calling me. Think this through for yourself. I’ll wait. See? You know more about your likes and dislikes than you thought.
- Get your feet wet. This is huge…wait for it…if you think you’ll like something….try it. Try it on a small scale then work your way up. If I had preached five times and hated it and ruined everyone’s morning then I’d have moved on (hopefully).
- There is hope for your future. Change is going to happen and we get to control a lot of it.
- Work has purpose and God made us to work, but don’t make work your purpose, and don’t make purpose your god.
Anything else you would like to share?
When I was stuck and depressed I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do. I had no motivation to change my life because life felt hopeless. Here’s what’s cool though: when you begin taking steps and start getting unstuck, the whole world opens up in your mind. Nowadays when I look at the span of my life and things I’d like to accomplish I realize I don’t have enough time to do it all. It’s exciting to dream now. I hope everyone reading this can reach that place.
I would like to thank Guy for taking time share some of his story. To learn more about him or the church he leads, you can connect with him on Facebook, check out One Life Punxsy on Facebook or at onelifepunxsy.org
If you have a story you would like to share that may benefit others, please let me know!
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