A reality check this afternoon

when i got out of high school, i looked at my friends who were getting married and thought i knew more than they did.  i thought they were too young or too unprepared or that they were just stupid for saying goodbye to their freedom at such an early age.

but then i got married.  and all the judgment and criticism i freely gave to them became strangely prophetic for me.   i needed to put up or shut up.  and thus, a trend in my life was started.

at a young age, i started giving advice.  oh, i was covered under the cloak of ministry or education or counseling…but it was clearly advice.  and at every turn,  i have stood at the crossroads of needing to take my own advice.

before i had children, i helped parents understand their kids.  i didn’t know it from raising my own, but before my first son was born, i had logged more hours with teenagers than the average parent would spend throughout their lifetime.   from experience, i knew what kids were like.  i knew their characteristics and patterns.  i knew youth culture.  i knew what made them tick.  and i was helpful to parents.

once i had my own,  i needed to be willing to take my own advice.  and it wasn’t always easy.

with just a few years of marriage under my belt,  i started counseling married couples.  husbands and wives with deep dysfunction.  the kind that bleeds over into every area of their lives.  i helped couples communicate and resolve conflict and problem solve and grow deeper.

i have been married 37 years and i have had to constantly take my own advice.  and it hasn’t always been easy.

i’ve made a career of counseling people through financial crisis.  many of those people made significantly more money than i did.  but it didn’t make the truth any less…true.  or the reality of their pain and fear any less paralyzing.

throughout our life together, wanda and i have faced some financial mountains that seemed impossible to climb…and i have been forced to take my own advice.   and it was definitely not easy.

i have helped parents face the rebellions and failures and mistakes and questionable decisions and struggles and sicknesses…and successes…of their children.   i have spent countless hours helping parents build, fix, restore, strengthen, and heal brokenness and distance in their relationships with their kids.  it happens to the best of families.

as a parent, i have been called to take my own advice.  it was never easy.

long before it happened to my own boys, i walked with many parents who watched their kids grow up and get married.  i carefully tried to guide parents through their changing roles and evolving relationships with their adult children.  i helped them embrace the idea of becoming an “in-law” and the dynamics of merging a new, extended family into their own.

and then it happened to me.  twice.  and i desperately needed to listen to my own advice.   and the listening hasn’t always been easy.

it’s crazy to think how young and inexperienced i was when i first started helping parents wrestle with the complexities of becoming grandparents…and how often they came to me for counsel and support through their struggles.  it’s almost laughable to remember that i was helping parents with what it was going to be like to watch their own kids raise kids…and how it was going to feel to be on the outside as a spectator of that thing they did so well when they were younger.

and then it happened to me and i have had to work hard every day to remember the truth and live by the advice i have always given others.  and there is no way this is easy.

one of the greatest privileges i have been given in my life is to walk with people through death.  to have the joy and struggle of helping people face their mortality…and to challenge them to believe in the truth of god’s revealed word as their only hope…has been the greatest of the great experiences of my life.

i am not dead yet.  far from it, i hope.  but it is one of the few life experiences i have yet to encounter personally.

and i’m glad i’ve got some advice to follow.


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