“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”– Leo Tolstoy
I was thoroughly convinced as a younger man that I would change the world. Much older now, I confess I haven’t made a dent, except perhaps within me. I began preaching at the age of sixteen and was pastor of a part-time church by age twenty. The Midyett Baptist Church of DeBerry doubled in attendance from four to eight during my eleven month tenure; convinced of my pastoral prowess, I moved on to greener pastures where I intended to serve God and make a name for myself. I landed in Nacogdoches, where some called me preacher boy, a few white haired widows lauded me the next Billy Graham, and several seniors, covered in calluses and scars from battles with previous preachers, called me names I prefer not to repeat. By God, I was a preacher, and spent the decade of my twenties intent on changing the Church.
In my early thirties, providence and ambition conspired to take me to the mission field. True to my previous mindset, I went to Africa fully intent on changing the face of missions. I was, in my mind, the great white hope for the Dark Continent. By God, I was a missionary, and spent my third decade intent on changing the world. Upon returning to the United States, my alma mater extended an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I went to work for the school I loved but from which I’d been estranged due to living overseas. As alumni director and then Chaplain of the University, I observed ways that we could improve on carrying out our mission, and so I embarked on a plan to bring about those enhancements. By God, I was a Christian educator, and spent my fourth decade intent on changing Christian higher education. That crusade has now extended into my fifth.
Thirty five years removed from my initial vision, I understand that my biggest challenge is not to change the world, but to change myself. The most difficult problems to solve are internal; there are depths to plumb because they determine what shows. Daily I’m confronted with the demands of growing in likeness to Christ, gaining the mind of Christ, and in granting others a clear view of Jesus in me. By God, I am a Christ-follower and my most difficult frontier lies within.