Long-term work (Or why microwaves work for frozen meals but not life change)
When you're a college student, microwaves are one of the most prized possessions in your apartment.
With this wonder of technology, you can produce the wonders of one-minute rice, faux meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and quesadillas. (By quesadillas I mean taking two tortillas and microwaving shredded cheese between the two of them.)
On a related note, microwaving tortillas makes them very chewy and tough to eat. Who knew?
Microwaves work for some things in life (read: not quesadillas). But for most things - for the best things - in life, it can't be rushed.
Like a good pizza. And a deep friendship. Delicious cakes & a fruitful harvest from a garden. A joy-filled marriage & hope-filled community. A home renovation & a life transformation.
Sometimes it is the hard work - put in over a long period of time - that produces the most important things in our lives.
Vegetables are simply plants that you try to find good prices on at a store until you spend weeks and months tending to and nurturing those plants in your own garden. Then those vegetables are so much more valuable than a "per pound" price tag.
A new home is an exciting event because of it's novelty until you spend months and years renovating your dream home with your friends and loved ones. Then it becomes more than a simple asset, it becomes a mile marker of accomplishment in your life.
The same is true for food, work, communities, and relationships.
The hard work produces value. And the long-term investment creates real change.
Have you embarked on a health fad anytime recently? Like Paleo, Whole30, Keto, or Vegetarian?
If you were like me, some of these nutritional programs brought benefits that quickly evaporated once I changed my diet "back to normal."
The change didn't last because my commitment didn't last.
In order to achieve life-long health, a life-long commitment to exercise and healthy eating is required.
No 30 day program or smoothie or pill can make you healthy. It requires the long-term hard work.
Only through the hard work will your life change for the better.
I've heard it put this way, "The obstacle is the way."
When it gets hard, you're probably headed in the right direction.
This principle that long-term hard work creates the only meaningful life change applies beyond food and exercise.
It has real life application in our churches and in our communities.
Some of the most impactful church and community leaders I have met are those who have committed to the same group of people and same geographic area for the long haul. These are pastors of 30 years and neighborhood association leaders who have only ever lived in the neighborhood. People who are so invested in the neighborhood that it has become the only place they consider home. And that comes with embracing the good and the bad of these communities.
Microwaved leadership flees when things get difficult.
Leadership that is centered on the long-term digs in it's heels when faced with adversity.
And this plays a dramatic role in the health of both churches and communities.
In churches, long-term healthy leadership is able to lead a church congregation into a better, more Christ-like future because they have the relationship equity and buy-in from their time with the church. While they run the risk of growing stagnant, going through hard times and obstacles together are the only way to grow as a community of people.
In neighborhoods, transiency has been shown time and time again to have a negative effect on a community. When you stay long-term, you are deeply invested in the health and growth of the group. It is why home-owner dominated communities are often healthier than transient, rent-majority neighborhoods.
We've all seen this first hand right? People are much more careless with hotel rooms and rental cars because they don't have an invested interest in them for the long run. But when someone owns something (like the newest iPhone), they protect it with their lives.
Here are 5 projects that you can make a long-term investment in:
- Discipleship. One of my mentors always reminds that I should always be a mentee to someone and a mentor of someone. Getting poured into & pouring into others is one of the best ways to grow in maturity and love.
- Community Development. For neighborhoods that are blighted by poverty, crime, or hopelessness, long-term residents can help change the future for their neighbors. You can bring hope to your neighborhood through block parties, street clean ups, a neighborhood association, a community garden, or housing renovations.
- Agriculture Projects. Transform your property, or your church's property, by converting it into a garden. You can use this to space to grow some fresh food (on the cheap!) or create a business that helps provide some income for those involved in the garden.
- Building Community. All humans are built for community. Our DNA seems to have relationships as one of its core components. And community with others is built through a lot of time together. Decide where you want to help build community and commit to a life of consistency there to help nurture community.
- Empowering Compassion. Jesus calls us to lives of compassion, not pity. Where we see injustices in the world - we are called to act (as I've previously written about here and here). The compassion of Jesus calls us to invest in compassionate acts through deep relationships and empowering opportunities.
"The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
J. R. R. Tolkien
The point of all of this?
The best things in life take time.
Life change comes slow. You cannot microwave transformation.
When you try to microwave things you shouldn't, you end up with sloppy relationships and chewy quesadillas.
So have patience. Take your time and invest your life in things that matter. In things that grow and flourish through hard work and lots of time.
Unlike microwaveable meals, you won't regret it.