Once upon a time, I was THE MAN.
I was the 17-year-old lead trumpet tooting my horn front and center at the 50-yard line.
I was the 27-year-old shortstop stealing basehits and pummeling line drives into the gaps on the softball field.
I was the 35-year-old cool guy hired to be the pied piper of teens and build a youth ministry for the ages.
I was the 39-year-old excitable and creative preacher everyone wanted to hear.
I'm not any of those any more.
Instead, I'm now the "age of which we do not speak" guy who hasn't played the trumpet in 20 years, can no longer throw a lick, and whose role at church has changed from the cool youth pastor to the bald guy whom new kids mistake for the church custodian. Over the years my role has changed from being The One who does everything (and gets most of the attention) to being a guy who stands in the back and cheers others on, unnoticed when present and un-missed when absent.
And I'm okay with it. In fact, I'm better for it.
Here's a more concrete description of what I'm talking about. My role as a pastor is now primarily one of development instead of being hands-on, front and center. Instead of hanging out with kids and leading every meeting, I create structures and equip staff and volunteers so that we can have the maximum effect and reach as many kids as possible. I do things that few would notice so that many others will be noticed.
Yesterday, I saw this play out before my eyes. Instead of me: Our former youth leaders got the hugs from kids coming back from college. Our middle school director absolutely nailed the morning sermon. Our Girls Director made a fabulous first impression welcoming the new family. Our student leaders joyously rocked the worship, flawlessly handled sound and tech, and warmly welcomed our guests. Our current youth leaders deftly led our Family Groups.
There was a time when I did all these things in the same day. And while I might have complained a little too loudly in order to make sure everyone knew how amazing I was, the truth is that my ego enjoyed being The Man who could pull it off.
Not any more. I'm no longer The Man. I'm becoming something more.
Now, if I'm honest with you (and this is my blog, so I can be honest here), the mere fact that I'm writing this is evidence that I'm still wresting with it all. As the youngest of three brothers--the baby of my family--I've always been perfectly happy as the center of attention. I don't think I was obnoxious about it (my brothers might disagree), I just think I was spoiled enough--and good enough at enough things--to enjoy the limelight a little too much. I was happy to allow people to feed my ego with words of awe over my very mild achievements. Even as adults, we remain the children we've always been.
That's why change doesn't come easily. But it's also why change is inevitable. We grow, we mature, we move into seasons of life that force us to reinvent ourselves. As we do so, we draw upon our experiences and lean into opportunities we were not ready for in younger days. They might be less glamorous, but more meaningful. John Eldredge lists six stages of Manhood--Boyhood, Cowboy, Warrior, Lover, King and Sage. Cowboys and Warriors get most of the glory, but it's the Kings and Sages who are the most fulfilled. So now, as I near "the age of which we do not speak," I am beginning to let go of my need to the The Man. I'm helping others win the applause, get the glory, succeed in the spotlight. I'm moving to the back of the room, with a smile on my face and a cup of coffee in my hand, cheering them on. I kind of like it back here. Not always, but mostly. I'm still working on it.
I'm no longer The Man. And by God's grace, I'm becoming a better one.
Once upon a time, I was THE MAN.