The Next Phase

 In Books, Community, Duty, Faith, Fred's Blog, Leadership, Service, Teaching, Transitions, Uncategorized, Vocation

Looking back now, it is difficult to believe in early 1972 I was singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in a choir for one of Arthur Blessitt’s crusades in Boston. You might remember Arthur as the man who carried the wooden cross around the world on foot. He logged 38,000 miles and visited 315 nations. A new Christian and like so many others, I had been swept up in the adventure of it. In June of that same year, I was part of the 100,000 high school and college students swarming in Dallas, Texas at the Cotton Bowl for Explo‘72. Sponsored by Campus Crusade, we had come from around the world to learn in the mornings how to do evangelism and then spread out over Dallas in the afternoons doing door-to-door and personal witnessing. The evenings were my first exposure to Christian concerts in large venues with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and others. It was also my introduction to the Four Spiritual Laws and street evangelism. By the last part of 1972, I had opened a coffee house in Key West, Florida, working the streets at night with tracts, making sandwiches, and focused on the crowds of drifters who came to Key West as it was the end of the line. If you wanted to find a motto for my life at that point it would have been taken straight from Crusade: “Come Help Change The World.”

Over the course of the next ten years, I discovered I had to dial back that enthusiasm a bit. Realizing I was not likely to change the world as I had once imagined, I gradually understood my influence was not global but local. It was with students and teaching in a small school that mattered most to me. No, not changing the world but another phrase I had heard gave me encouragement. Mother Teresa when asked if she believed what she was doing mattered at all given the scope of the problems replied, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” For a decade that became a motto for me. “Be tireless and faithful in small things.”

Fifteen years later I was in Texas working with a friend, Bob Buford. Together, we had created Leadership Network and then Bob published his first book, “Half-Time.” It came out of our relationships with men and women who were successful in careers at a young age and were starting to think about what was next in their lives. That described Bob and Linda perfectly and they had a heart for the couples who were seeking something beyond success. The phrase “Success to Significance” was coined for summing up that search and became the focus of our work for the next several years. It was not only true for those couples who were a part of what we called The Foundation conference but, over time, it was clearly descriptive of thousands of others across the country and around the world. I believe Bob’s first book (followed by several more) has sold well over 750,000 copies and been translated into several languages. That phrase “success to significance” became part of my own life and it was then I started the next phase. It was not about finding significance. Rather, something Henri Nouwen shared about his work with L’Arche led me. It was moving from significance to serving. Not doing great or even significant things but being focused on where strength lies. I think I have been in that stage with The Gathering for the last twenty years.

Two weeks ago in a conversation with friends, I realized I have begun living in the next phase. If you know anything about fly fishing you will recognize it right away: “Catch and Release.” This is the stage of life where the enjoyment is not in the continued accumulation of things and experiences but in the creative art of letting go. For me, this phase is best defined by the writer of Ecclesiastes: “God gives some people the ability to enjoy what he gives them, as well as the ability to accept their state in life and enjoy their work. They do not worry about how short life is because God keeps them busy with what they love to do.” I am busy with what I love to do. I have been given, after many years and changes, the ability to enjoy the gifts and instead of comparing my life to others as I might have done by desiring to change the world or finding significance, I have found the place I was meant to be.

 

 

 

 

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  • Avatar
    Andrew Keuer
    Reply

    what a post. it led me to feel content. thank you for talking about the stages of your journey.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Contentment is a huge challenge for our whole lives…but Ecclesiastes is right.

  • Avatar
    Malcolm Morris
    Reply

    Love you Fred! You didn’t just find God but you travel His road laid out by Him for your life. You inspire others – not to follow Fred – but to seek what God has written on their own hearts. In all your ways acknowledge Him and if he boast do so by remembering and saying I boast in the name of the Lord Jesús Christ who loved me enough to call me His friend and He loves you too!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Malcolm. You’ve been a part of the whole journey and watched it develop.

  • Avatar
    Michael Harrison
    Reply

    Fred — Loved reading your life’s journey. East TX & Tyler is very appreciate of your work. We are thankful you have settled here.
    Blessings to you & yours.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Michael. I appreciate this.

  • Avatar
    Walter Hansen
    Reply

    Fred, your post is reassuring and confirming. I find myself in a similar phase on a parallel track, no longer circling the globe, but dwelling in my hometown, seeking the welfare of my city.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Walter. Chicago will keep you busy for the rest of your life!

  • Avatar
    Kimberly Miller
    Reply

    Thank you, Fred, for the reminder to be faithful in small things. Your words encouraged me today.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      That’s a great quote, isn’t it? She had enormous struggles as a person but her life was a gift to all of us.

  • Avatar
    Michele Dillon
    Reply

    Fred, so encouraging to me and a great reminder that our great loves for people are God’s loves as well.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Michele. I so appreciate your taking the time to respond.

  • Avatar
    Jeff Pope
    Reply

    Great post, Fred. Puts words to my life, too, but with more insight. The “success to significance” journey is more relevant than ever as I get older. Thanks for sharing and giving your prospective.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Jeff. I used your quote “I can do that” the other day in a meeting. You cannot know how important that simple thought has been. I would call it “significant” for sure.

  • Avatar
    Terry Parker
    Reply

    Brings back memories Fred, I was involved with Crusade at the same time with “Here’s Life Atlanta “, and we learned to share the 4Laws every day, everywhere. I did – that is until I found myself leading a bum on the street to Christ who insisted I kneel with him to pray. All I could think about was not his salvation, but that the Senior Partners of my law firm would see me in the middle of the day, in downtown Atlanta, down on the curb, and I’d lose my job. I was ashamed – like Peter – and it made me rethink my reasons for sharing Christ. After much soul searching, I gained the confidence that losing my job wasn’t important if one more person came to know Christ. But it didn’t happen over night.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      I have had similar experiences, Terry. Nothing good really does happen over night!

  • Avatar
    Tim Winn
    Reply

    Thanks, Fred, for sharing. I am thankful I have been able to be on a part of your journey. Speaking of journeys, my daily journaling this morning focused, in part, on Jesus’ journey in Luke 13:22. It says He was passing through on His way to Jerusalem. That was His destination in obedience to the Father. Turning that to my journey, Jesus’ destination was me — and I am not to let Him just pass through. You have been a good and comfortable destination for Him.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Tim. I just sent a blog to a young founder this morning that references your wise words to me so many years ago.

  • Avatar
    Lauren Dillon-Thomas
    Reply

    I have so far to come in the challenges of contented life that you lay out here.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      There are some things that only come with time and experience. Ecclesiastes did not make sense to me until I was in my 60’s. It’s like studying Shakespeare when young. You cannot understand so much of it because there is no context in your own life. Try understanding the character of Lear at twenty. There are some things worth waiting for!

  • Fred Smith
    Fred Smith
    Reply

    Thank you, John. What more could I ask?

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