1. I wish I had “picked more brains.”
When it comes to taking classes, attending a conference, or reading a book, I’m a great learner. It’s the informal relational settings that I didn’t take advantage of often enough.
More meetings with older parents who could have answered my questions about raising young boys.
More lunches with older men in vocational ministry who could have given wise insights on church issues I faced.
More questions to mature believes who could have addressed my probes about handling temptation, dealing with discouragement, or maintaining a vibrant marriage.
Put simply, I should have been more intentional about picking folks’ brains. What more could I have learned if only I had asked?
2. I wish I had asked for my wife’s opinion about taking on discretionary ministry opportunities.
With her PhD in common sense, and her discernment and intimate knowledge of me, God equipped her to give counsel that I seldom sought.
Whether my motivation was a financial payout or a desire for recognition, I often took speaking or writing assignments when I didn’t have the physical or emotional margin for the tasks. The result was often joy-sapping stress and a neglect of other priorities. She would not have said “No” all the time, but she had the uncanny capacity to know when I already had enough on my plate.
Please: whether it’s volunteer work or discretionary ministries, speak to your spouse and ask these simple questions: Do you think I have the physical and emotional margin to accomplish this additional task? Are you comfortable with me saying “Yes” to this opportunity?”
3. I wish I had confronted people who sinned against me or treated me unjustly, rather than allowing things to fester inside me.
Here is one case in point:
During my first church staff position as a Director of Christian Education, in a staff meeting, the senior pastor yelled at me and said unfair things about my motives for a particular initiative in church programming. My melancholy temperament cowered in the face of his uncontrolled choleric temperament. I was 28 years old, but I had never been spoken to in such a jarring manner.
I waited a year before I talked to him about the incident, and disclosed how much his harsh tone of voice, coupled with his false conclusion about my motives, had hurt me.
To his credit, he apologized. His respect for me actually escalated because I was willing to confront him in a forthright, yet winsome, manner. Our working relationship had been hindered because of what has simmered inside me for those twelve months.
I discovered the hard way that resentment is a poison I drink in an effort to hurt someone else. I had let the sun go down on my anger toward him, and Satan had gained a foothold in my heart that harmed my relationship with the pastor (see Ephesians 4:26-27).
4. I wish I had told that senior pastor that I was resigning, before mentioning it to a friend and to the chairman of the church board.
Because of our past history and his strong temperament, frankly, I feared him. He came to talk to me when he read the letter I had given the board chairman. I could tell he was hurt.
Apart from my wife, no one else in the church should have known I was leaving before the senior pastor, who served as my immediate supervisor. I disrespected him as a person and his position as the pastor. Later I apologized to him about this, but the damage had been done.
We can’t keep our integrity and avoid the hard conversations. It’s a similar mistake when a young man breaks up with his girlfriend with a text. Or a leader sends an assistant a reproof via email rather than meeting face to face.
It’s never too late to do what is right. With God’s help, I won’t make these mistakes again. We can’t change the past, but we can “exegete our experiences” and learn from the past.
How did God’s Spirit speak a personal word to you in this post?
What is something you wish you had done differently as a follower of Christ or in your ministry?