How Have You Changed (And What Changed You)

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of catching up with a dear friend of mine from my college days, who had a meaningful impact on my Christian faith and leadership perspective. He lives and works overseas but was in the US on furlough, and we were able to have lunch together. He asked me a simple but profound question, which has caused me to accelerate some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for the past few weeks, which was: “How have you changed since I last hung out with you in college 15 years ago?”

A couple of years ago, I posted my “ten purposes in life,” and I have been meaning to update that list and cross-reference it with formative experiences in my life that helped identify and mature those purposes. My friend’s good question has propelled that exercise forward, resulting in today’s post.

Below is my original list of ten purposes, plus some additions in parentheses; those next to original list items are simply a restatement of an existing purpose, and those at the bottom represent ones that were not previously on the list. Below that is a mapping of that list of now 15 purposes against some key life events, in chronological order, so you can see where those purposes came from and how they evolved over time.

Time does not permit me this morning to elaborate more than what is below, which may make it kind of cryptic to read for anyone but me. Also, I could just as easily partake of this exercise as it relates to influential people or personal crises; actually both are probably juicier, but for now I’m sticking with these life experiences. Hopefully at some point I’ll follow through on this post to say more, but for now I just wanted to get these thoughts down.

I’ll close by noting something that I mentioned in my lunch conversation with my old friend. When I was 20, I recall having a little bit of a prayer retreat, and saying to myself and to God that, while it was very likely that I would be a markedly different person at 30, I would still be praying to the same God. When I reached 30, I thought the same thought about 40. Indeed, over time, we may change, in good and bad ways, but He is the same, and there is something very profound to me about that.

Like the aging athlete whose body is not as dynamic but who can draw from a longer career’s worth of repetitions and thus prolong his or her effectiveness at the most elite levels, so do I feel less radical but more wise when compared to my collegiate self. As the years pile on, and who knows how many more I have, that is my comfort as a believer and an influencer: the body may decay, but with more reps come the ability to make a positive contribution to my generation.

I’m sure I have forgotten many lessons along the way, but heck if I won’t try my darnedst to hold fast to the ones I do remember. It is for this reason that I think about things like life purposes and formative experiences, and encourage you to do the same.

15 Life Purposes
A. Be fully allocated
B. Blaze a new trail
C. Broadcast good news (Always seek to influence)
D. Champion and shepherd others along
E. Cross-pollinate between religious and secular
F. Give God room to come through (Go radically out of your comfort zone)
G. Learn, savor, and live God's word
H. Love the unlovely with Jesus (Continue to love through the messiness of life)
I. See mistakes, delays, and losses as opportunities (Look for beauty amidst brokenness)
J. Synthesize, document, and disseminate life lessons (Fit experiences into the bigger narrative)
K. (Be where people are and do what they do)
L. (Find rejuvenation from community)
M. (Say what needs to be said no matter how jarring it may sound)
N. (Engage in the city and in city systems and city folks)
O. (Tend to your roots)

Formative life experiences
• 1991 – volunteer as a PennPal to an inner city kid in West Philadelphia (FHKN)
• 1991-1995 – attend the Wharton School of Business (EJ)
• 1991-1996 – do campus ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the Penn campus (ABCDFGHIKLO)
• 1992 – turn the “Love Boat” cultural study tour in Taiwan into an evangelical project (ABCDFGHKLM)
• 1992 – volunteer at City Team Ministries in downtown San Jose (CFHKN)
• 1994 – do Christian missions work in Russia, Albania, Hungary, and Romania (BCFHIK)
• 1995-2005 – work at The Enterprise Center to accelerate minority entrepreneurship (ABDEFHIJKMN)
• 1996 – lead a team of Penn students on a service project to Whosoever Gospel Mission in North Philadelphia (BCDEFGHIKN)
• 1996-1998 – volunteer with the youth group at Woodland Presbyterian Church in West Philadelphia (ACDFGHKN)
• 1998-present – serve as an elder at Woodland Presbyterian Church in West Philadelphia (CDFGHIKLNO)
• 2000-present – get married and walk with my wife through many trials and tribulations (DFHIKMO)
• 2002-2003 take a one-year sabbatical from my job (JO)
• 2002-2003 attend Leadership Inc classes (EFIJN)
• 2003, 2007 – campaign for David Oh for City Council at Large (EN)
• 2003-present – publish the “Musings of an Urban Christian” blog (ABCEIJMNO)
• 2004-2006 – attend the Fels Institute of Government (EJN)
• 2005-present – be a dad to two kids (ADFGHIJKMO)
• 2006-present – work at Econsult as an economic consultant (EJMN)

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