in a couple hours, i’ll get on a plane to fly to sacramento for the first of our three national youth workers conventions. these are the highlight of my year, in so many ways. they’re completely exhausting for me, and i usually get about 3 – 5 hours sleep/night for 7 days. but the real exhaustion comes from the whiplash swapping of roles i do at these babies — one minute i’m presenting a seminar, the next i’m having lunch with a key author or potential ministry partner, then i’m MCing a general session or trying to figure out how to explain one life revolution in two minutes, then i’m hosting people at a reception or giving a 5-minute “we’re glad you’re here” pitch to an affinity group of some sort.
my family is joining me on friday, and staying through monday, so that will be great.
but here’s the “muscles tensing” part. i can do seminars about middle schoolers all day long and not get stressed. and now that i’ve done the MCing thing for a few years, that doesn’t make me nervous (it did at first!). but this year, i’m actually giving a general session talk in all three cities. it’s difficult to describe the level and complexity of both self-projected and real pressures this brings. i mean, just the fact that i’ll be speaking in front of 3400 of my peers, and in a general session line-up of speakers who do this all the time and have really good things to say — that should be enough to send me cowering to the closet in my hotel room, right? but that’s truly just the beginning. last year was the first time yaconelli didn’t speak in the closing general session (since he’d died the year before). so there’s been a one-year buffer. but it still feels (at least to me and many of the ys insiders) like this spot i’m speaking in is “yac’s”. and that makes some sense that i would speak in it — but it adds a level of comparison and expectation (again, both real and self-projected). it’s pretty much unavoidable that many of my closest friends — like those on our CORE team — will be seeing how i do “in yac’s spot”.
then, there’s the general youth ministry professional audience, who, while they might not be thinking of “yac’s spot”, will (many of them) be thinking, “ok, so here’s the new guy. let’s see if he can bring it. probably can’t. how come i’m not up there?” (i’m exaggerating a bit, and bringing together several different kinds of responses into one quote there).
finally, there’s the internal (tic and i even agreed to this) sense of “test”. if i suck, i likely won’t be up there next year. to be honest, sucking isn’t likely. but “ok, but not great” is always possible!
wrap all that up into a burrito and here’s where i’m at: i don’t want to be driven by these factors. i don’t want them to influence my prep or delivery or anything. i want to speak from my heart to those willing to stay (and, i do feel like god has given me something to share — which almost makes it MORE stressful!). but i’m human and imperfect and do care more than i should that people like me and approve of me being the president of this thing.
i’d hoped to be way further along the preparation-road by now (shoot, frankly in maturity also!) — but i can hide in my hotel room tomorrow and wednesday.