3 Things I Learned in Baton Rouge

Within the first six days of 2014, I'd dropped down on one knee and proposed to my now wife and moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, I volunteered with an organization who works with vulnerable and abandoned kids in southern Africa. I remember being told that I was going to be "worked to the bone" and that the experience would be a challenge. With a pride-filled attitude, I didn't even consider the possibility of that being true. I'd worked in the diamond mines of South Africa and thought there was no way Baton Rouge could offer me a more challenging work environment. 

But within a matter of days, I realized what that person meant by "challenge." I'd never worked in an office before, and my new role was a predominantly administrative one. I felt like a caged animal... and soon began to act like one. 

Only when Julie gave me a love-filled reminder to honorably face the obstacles in front of me did I start to accept and embrace the season God had me in. Still, it was a constant battle. I left South Africa thinking I was headed to the "Land of the Free" only to get there and feel, well, not free at all. Just when I thought diamond diving was the most challenging job in the world (which I still do), I faced a close second—office clerk. And looking back, I can see that I had unrealistic expectations from the beginning.

Let me share with you three things I needed to learn in order to get where I am today.

Discipline
In life, sometimes you have to do things you don't necessarily enjoy doing, and by doing so, you're likely being equipped to do the thing you're ultimately called to do. Before I became a husband and the co-founder of YEBO Life, I needed to grow in self-discipline. While in Baton Rouge, I realized the importance of what are often deemed "daily menial tasks." But those tasks are all things that need to be accomplished in order for an organization to develop, operate and grow.

A few sharpening moments were: 

  • Sticking hundreds upon hundreds of stamps on tax statement envelopes and licking them closed. I can still taste the glue.
  • Spending hours in front of a computer fixing database errors. My attitude was: "The person who made these mistakes should fix them. This isn't my problem."
  • Packing over 16,000 books into boxes then logging the category of every book before taping the boxes and stacking them in numerical order. I wanted to pile the books randomly into the boxes and ship them. I didn't see the point in the process. My way was better… and much faster.

Work was all about me and my opinion. My pride was unbearable, and I was a handful to manage. The "stallion" in me reared its mighty head on a daily basis.

 Source: www.gruntledemployees.com

Source: www.gruntledemployees.com

Introspection
Up until my trip to Baton Rouge, my life consisted of one crazy thing after the next. I'd never taken the time to sit with my "emotional house," but when I found myself in Louisiana with very little community, I was forced to dive into the depths of the real me—who I was, where I'd been and where I was headed.

Sitting still and being silent were two things I'd always struggled with, but after a month of really exploring my "self" in relation to God, I became more accustomed to these disciplines. Soon, I was able to resolve struggles I'd been facing for years. I walked through insecurity after insecurity, experienced raw pain and suffered the loss of a loved one (my most difficult loss to date). It was amidst the cry of introspection that I was met with the peace of God that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:17, a verse that Julie Tucker texted me on the day my dear friend passed). God brought healing to my past and comfort to my present. 

An impactful thing I was taught in this season was something Viktor Frankl wrote about—having a redemptive perspecive on past sufferings. A redemptive perspective helped me move forward from my past in a healthy and mature manner, and only through introspection was I able to find it.

 One of my journal entries from my time in Baton Rouge.

One of my journal entries from my time in Baton Rouge.

"The Grass isn't Always Greener."
No matter where you live in the world, it's easy to believe that things are better elsewhere. I'd venture to say, that's not usually the case. In my experience, it was easier to think America's "greener" because it's a country with more wealth, bigger cars and faster internet than South Africa. It's got to be "the land of milk and honey," right? Not necessarily.

It doesn't matter where you are on earth, where there are people, there will also be "mess." When I arrived in the States, I had unrealistic expectations of how people would be and how life would go, and when none of my expectations were met, I became bitter and self-righteous. God has since taught me more about 1) being OK with people's messy lives (after all, He's OK with mine) and 2) being thankful for where He has me.

 Source: www.tinywhitedaisies.tumblr.com

Source: www.tinywhitedaisies.tumblr.com

Through all of these challenges, God constantly reminded me that I was called to be in Baton Rouge. The rest didn't really matter. Whether I was happy, comfortable, hurt, impressed or extremely disappointed, I was always able to fall back on the truth that Christ had called me there for a unique and divine purpose. My only job was to be obedient to Him. 

Once I realized that, I honestly tried to be the best stamp-licker/book-boxer/database-fixer the world had ever seen. And even though all of my colleagues were more administratively gifted than I was, I was able to go to bed at night knowing that my heart was surrendered to God. Success in my work environment wasn't (and isn't) measured by efficiency or speed, but by my obedience to the One who called me there.

I sit here today, practicing all three of these things: discipline, introspection and contentment. And although there are still ways for me to mature in each, I understand that maturity is a never-ending journey.

I want to take a moment to thank Larry and Julie Tucker, a generous couple who gave me a safe place to live, grow and mature while I was in Baton Rouge:

Thank you for loving me for who I am and encouraging me to do what I love and dream big. I truly believe God gives us exactly what we need in each season in life, and for the first half of 2014, the residents of Club Tucker were a blessing, a gift and exactly what I needed. If it wasn't for the two of you, I don't think I would've walked out of that season the way I did. I love y'all. 

Heart to God.
Spread the Stoke. 

Tony