Monday, June 05, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thirty-four years ago today I made my debut at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. I usually don't make a big deal out of birthdays, but recent events have led me to be more introspective at this time. As I look at my life, I have to say that things have not turned out the way I would have expected. Some things have turned out better than I thought, others have been worse. But either way, things are as they are.

On a personal level, life has been far more wonderful than I ever dreamed. For 12 years I have been married to the most amazing and wonderful woman. Maria complements me in nearly every way. She is incredibly compassionate, never meets a stranger, and just makes people feel at ease. But if she perceives that someone is trying to hurt me, she transforms from the image of perfect sweetness into a she-bear! She is not just my wife; she is my best friend in this world. I never knew that it was possible to love another human being as much as I love Maria. I have a hard time even remembering what life was like before I knew her.

I am personally blessed in many other ways. I am in good health, although if I remain a member of the 300-club that will probably change in the future. I still have both of my parents and all of my siblings; I have never lived more than 3 hours away from them (but that could change in the next few months). And for nearly 34 years I had a grandmother; she passed away May 19 at the age of 94. I'm so glad that for the past decade or so I was able to see her nearly every month.

On a professional level, however, my life has fallen far short of what I, or anyone who knew me when I was younger, expected. I was valedictorian of my high school class, was voted "Most Likely to Succeed," graduated from college magna cum laude, have a master's degree, and even spent 3 years in a Ph.D. program (which is where I was called to the ministry). I never would have thought that at age 34 I would be barely scraping by financially or would be a failure (from a human perspective) in my vocation. I never would have thought that my wife would be the primary breadwinner in our family. And I have no idea how I got here. When I look back over the last 10-15 years, I don't see where I made any really bad decision that led me to where I am. I sometimes feel like most of my 20s were wasted, pursuing degrees that I would use very little, but I had no idea at the time that I would be a pastor.

So here I am. Overall, I would say that I am happy. After all, I'd rather have a great personal life and a not-so-good professional life than a successful professional life and an empty personal life. To be honest, I do desire to succeed in my ministry; maybe I shouldn't, but I do. Whether or not I will ever be "successful" is beyond my ability to know, but what I do know is that God is in control and that He has brought me to this point for a reason.

17 comments:

Gary Snowden said...

Tim,

Happy Birthday to you, brother! I sent you an email with some observations about some similarities in our pilgrimages.

Kevin Bussey said...

Happy Birthday!

Success in God's eyes is different than ours!

greg hicks said...

Happy Birthday, Tim!

I think you'll feel better if you go read the Beattitudes again. You sound like a "blessed" man.

Ultimately, all that matters are hearing the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant" and you seem to be well on your way.

Dan Paden said...

When I was very young, my parents took me and my younger brother to get our IQ's tested. To this day, my mother won't tell me what my score was, but apparently it was high enough that those in the know thought I was naturally destined for greatness.

In high school, I got high marks virtually without effort and standardized test scores in the stratosphere. In my freshman year of college, I was asked to join the Rhodes scholar program, and I joined Mensa and remained a member for about a dozen years.

However, I had virtually no study habits. No real discipline. No real heart for what I was doing. I dropped out of college and more or less drifted through the next fourteen years before I discovered that I could do--and enjoyed doing--a wide variety of things that, when I was younger, I considered terribly unsuited for a burgeoning intellectual, which is what I considered myself to be. Two years later, God took pity on me and showed me what a miserable, lazy wretch I was. Bit by bit, things are turning around. My work habits are much better at work, though a good deal of improvement is still needed at home.

I'm not suggesting that you are lazy, and I hope that I'm not coming across as having said any such thing. Rather, my intent is to let you know that you are not alone in having great things expected of you, only to fall flat (so far); to encourage you, for it ain't over yet; and to let you know that the problem may not be one that is immediately apparent to you. It may be a personal problem that you're not aware of, or it may be something as simple as God using you to teach others something about patience.

Just don't ever give up.

GuyMuse said...

Sounds like you have a lot to be grateful to the Lord for as you celebrate this 34th B-Day! Counting our blessings is a fine way to spend a birthday remembering how good God has been. Sure there are things that haven't gone the way we would have hoped, but then again, 34 is still pretty young. No telling what surprises the Lord has up his sleeve in the coming days! As Avalon sings, "For as long as I shall live, I shall testify to love..."

Tim Sweatman said...

Gary,

I replied to you via email. Your passion for missions has been evident in your comments on the blogs. I think we have some other similarities that may not be apparent from this post.

**********

Kevin,

I thought about saying something like that at the end of my post, but to be honest it would really have been just for the sake of sounding "holy." I know and believe it, but I needed to hear someone else say it. Thanks.

**********

Greg,

I am blessed far more than I deserve. Even though I fall far short of the standards Jesus spelled out in the Beatitudes, God has been so gracious and good to me.

**********

Dan,

It looks like we have a lot in common. I was reading the encyclopedia by the time I was 3, I was doing 6th-grade-level work in 1st grade, and I made straight A's all through high school (a private school) without studying. But when I got to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I finally settled on a history major because history was my favorite subject. Unfortunately, I habitually skipped classes throughout college and still graduated with an A average. I didn't do as well in grad school because it was so discussion oriented, but I still made good grades. However, I never really enjoyed the academic side of history. Then, 3 years into my Ph.D. God called me into the ministry, but that's an entirely different story.

In my entire adult life I have never really had a full time job that would be considered "suitable" for someone with my education. The closest I came was when I was a research assistant in grad school, and I later taught one college class as an adjunct. I pastor a church that runs about 20. My longest lasting secular job was working in a university bookstore for 2 years just before I was called to the church where I am now. But I have been happy in most of these jobs, even though I have never made a decent salary.

Honesty requires me to admit that I do struggle with laziness to some extent, but mostly when it comes to physically intensive work. I tend to be optimistic about the future, believing that opportunity is right around the corner.

**********

Guy,

You know what group to pick a song from! Right now the song that really speaks to me is "The Other Side" from their new CD:

I've been so long in midnight praying
For the light of dawn
And hope's been my companion
In the dark to keep me strong
But there's something awesome
Shining out through the ebony
And now my soul can finally see

There is glory in the night
So beautiful and bright
A glimpse of You
Coming from the other side
You are reaching through the stars
And You're speaking to my heart
I know it's You
Calling from the other side

Kiki Cherry said...

Happy Birthday, Tim! You Spring Chicken, you!!!

Just wait until you make it up here to your LATE thirties! You start losing your memory and forgetting what you've done with you life anyway, so it gets less and less important. : )

On a serious note--you have something that many people who are considered "succesful" in the world's eyes don't have--depth of character. The value of a life lived well is not fully seen until the end.

We'll be celebrating your success with you for the rest of eternity. Because you've chosen "the most excellent way." What you see now is just temporal. But you're storing up all kinds of treasure on the other side.

Looking forward to seeing you at Greensboro. We've got a little belated birthday present for you. : )

Wade Burleson said...

Happy (Belated) Birthday Tim,

I want you to know I am doing everything I can to get your name before committees in our state.

You have an open invitation to preach from the pulpit at Emmanuel if any church needs to hear you prior to inviting you in view of a call.

Wish I could do more, but I'll do everything I can.

In His Grace,

Wade

Tim Sweatman said...

Kiki,

Your age has given you great wisdom. ;)

Your comment has given me something to think about: what exactly DOES a spring chicken become when it hits its late 30s? I always thought I would end up being an old goat, but if a chicken becomes a goat then that would mean that evolution is true.

**********

Wade,

I appreciate your encouragement and your efforts on my behalf. Of course, I don't know if Oklahoma can handle another troublemaker, between you, Paul Littleton, Wes, and now with Art heading out there.

Kiki Cherry said...

Tim,

That's an interesting theory. Since they call really old people "old farts", does that mean we eventually evolve into a vapor and just blow away??? : )

Dorcas said...

Tim -

Happy Birthday!

Your story is an encouragement to me too. I am 33 1/2 and started out in history. Went through law school, but still feel like I should be doing more with this "brain power" too. Everyone expected me to be a rocket scientist and also to have cured cancer by now.

I have a tendency toward procrastination that stems from the sheer overwhelm of such high expectations on my life. Not an excuse for my laziness at times, but at least I have discovered the source thereof.

Again, Happy Birthday to a fellow historian!

John Stickley said...

Happy birthday Tim!

Hang in there, God is no doubt pleased with you, and that's what REALLY matters.

CW said...

Happy Birthday!! You already have much more than most people in the world. You have a lasting marriage that is filled with love.

I've struggled with some of the same things. I believe God used those times in my life to teach me to measure success from his point of view.

Ashlee said...

Happy Belated birthday! And just to encourage you, you may be "scraping by" now, but you're storing up treasures in Heaven!

Anonymous said...

Tim,

To be loved by a Godly woman, to live with integrity to be used to influence many lives through ministry both on-line and off is to have acheived a great deal!

George Truett once said that:
"Sucess is being in the center of the will of God". Tim...you are a sucess!

During a tough time in my own ministry journey, God directed me to " Tempered Steel" a book by Stevw Farrar...I highly recommend it!

Thankful for you!
Mark Hensley
Senior Pastor Mountain View
Baptist Church
Lafayette, Colorado www.mvsbc.org

Hashman said...

Happy Birthday Tim!

Hashman said...

I've got some good calvinist propoganda for you. Just come by the house and get it. Such a wonderful gift.