At Gateway Church in Austin, we celebrated the New Year by looking at the importance of Feedback.
A new year is here, and we all want to be better. But perhaps moving forward means looking back, reflecting, and seeking input from the people closest to us. How can we find community that helps us learn from the past and gives us honest feedback, so we can be a better version of ourselves in the new year?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Here is the audio message from Jon Eng:
Here are notes from the message by Jon:
Who likes making goals? Who dreads making goals?
- During this season, there’s a feeling of newness and possibility. We’re sucked into hitting reset on our lives.
- For some of us, it’s exciting. It’s invigorating.
- We think: “Things are going to be different this year.”
- I remember thinking to myself last year – I’m going to get back into marathon running shape.
- What do you think I did? I became a living cliche. I went to the gym. LA Fitness. Heard about this great new year’s deal. Forked over my cash.
- And the trainers were like – YEAH! We’ll TAKE YOUR $$. Because they know people like me. And they mock people like me. People who show up in January. People ready to change their lives. People full of passion, commitment, drive. People ready to pay for an entire year of membership. People who only show up for 2 weeks.
- Well I proved them wrong. I showed up for 4 weeks. Yeah – that’s right, 4 WEEKS. I got myself a DEAL.
- Whether you’re a goal maker or a goal hater because you’ve done what I’ve done and learned from your mistakes, here’s the truth: once the season passes, we’re all kicked back into the normal, the mundane of the everyday.
- And in that daily grind, we all know that at some point, we hit up against ourselves.
- We get stuck in the mud, and we’re turning our wheels, trying to go forward, or reverse backward. We want to change, but we don’t know how.
How do you get out of being stuck? When you’ve done everything that you know to do, when you’ve forked over your cash already, and you still can’t change, what do you do? How do you get the feedback you need to change? What will make this year different?
We’re all bound to run into ourselves at some point. Even though we want to change, we all have internal resistance. Whether it’s pride, stubbornness, or a lack of self-awareness. All of these things can keep us from getting the feedback we need to access the change we desire.
Do you have feedback sources in your life? Imagine what could happen if you got feedback from the people God’s placed in your life!
- What could be different?
Feedback helps us access change, to make a surgical, 2 degree shift, to step into the impossible, where only God’s calling and faithfulness will bring us through.
Without feedback, we’re destined to run into ourselves, to play small. There’s only so much that we can do on our own. We have blind spots and limited perspective.
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice (Proverbs 12:15)
So if it’s God’s intention for us to have a home team that supports us – family or friends who can help us become fully who God created us to be, why is it that so many of us have such a hard time seeking out feedback? Why do we ignore feedback or fail to seek it out?
To get into that question, we are going to look at scripture.
This is the Story of 2 Moses’: Egyptian Moses and Leader Moses
I love scripture – it is full of stories about people who faced the struggle of life, stories like yours and mine. People who are STUCK. We can learn from their examples – both good and bad.
Life is struggle. Yes – it’s also filled with adventure and joy. But….the struggle is real, you know what I’m saying? Because of this broken world, we’re wired for struggle. Not because of anything God’s done, but because of our own choices.
In the story of Moses, we see someone who’s stuck, and we’re going find out why. But before we get too far into his story, here’s some background:
During his first 40 years of life, Moses lived a pretty charmed life. Scripture doesn’t give much attention to this phase of his life, but we know that he lived large. Moses basked in the lap of luxury.
But his identity as an Egyptian royal wasn’t always true of him.
- His beginnings started far, far away from the palace. In a home that faced incredible struggle and trials.
- Because Moses wasn’t born Egyptian.
- He was born a Jew – a group of people that the previous Pharaoh tried to annihilate.
- He was an outcast, part of a group of people that the powerful detested and enslaved.
- At some point, the hate for his people reached a fever pitch, and out of fear that the Israelites were becoming too numerous, Pharaoh declares genocide. Blood runs through the streets.
- Moses survives.
- But he’s now alone. An entire generation of his Jewish male peers – babies – had been murdered, laid low.
Moses only survives because his mom risks greatly for him.
- With Egyptian soldiers knocking down doors in her Jewish neighborhood, she puts Moses in a wicker basket. She floats him down the river.
- And the story goes on – an Egyptian princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, discovers Moses and decides to adopt him into her royal family. THIS IS CRAZY!
- So for years, entire decades, Moses enjoys the trappings of royalty. But slowly, as he grew older, he came to realize his Jewish heritage.
In Exodus 2:11, we pick up Moses’ story: Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren”
- Moses begins to have growing awareness of his foundations.
- He realizes that his people are enslaved.
- Moses starts to empathize for these Jewish people.
- And that empathy quickly turns into anger, confusion, and resentment.
And this is a critical turning point in Moses’ life. He has the opportunity to use his privilege and his position to help the Jews. So what does he do?
Exodus 2:12: So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
In the midst of oppression and injustice, Moses decides to act. He takes justice into his own hands.
And don’t get me wrong – a part of Moses’ heart reflects something beautiful and right. He wants to see injustice and evil corrected. But there’s no feedback loop.
Moses fails to seek feedback in this moment of his life.
- Scripture doesn’t tell us why that’s the case.
- Thinking that he might be able to help rescue the Jews, angry at the injustice he sees, he lashes out. He kills an Egyptian in cold blood.
- Moses doesn’t get feedback, at least not the kind that could have helped him.
- So with self-assurance and self-confidence, he opts for “An eye for an eye, and the whole world’s blind”
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)
This may sound harsh, but in this moment, Moses is a fool. He’s a complete fool. Imagine what could have happened if Moses asked for feedback in this moment in his life. What might have happened?
- Maybe he could have used his position as the adopted son of Egypt to work for the freedom of the Jews.
- He had access to the Pharaoh that most Jews could only dream of. Maybe he could have been like Esther – someone who challenged the structures of an unjust society and saved the Jews for being killed.
- Instead, Moses acts the fool. He fails to seek out feedback. He doesn’t even seem to have trusted friends to ask. So he runs into himself and gets stuck.
Exodus 2:13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” But he said, “Who made you prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Instead of becoming the champion of the Jews, Moses runs into himself. He gets stuck.
- He murders an Egyptian!
- With more blood flowing on the ground, he can’t stay with the Egyptians anymore. He just killed one of their own.
- And he can’t stay with the Jews, because he’s lost any credibility he could have had. They now fear and distrust him.
The Egyptians, the Jews – all of his peers – are standing around, and he hears that voice. A voice that will haunt him for the next 40 years – “You’re not good. We don’t want you. Who do you even think you are?”
So what does he do? He shrinks back. He downsizes and He runs to the wilderness and stays there for the next 4 decades. How many of you have shrunk back? How long have you been in the wilderness, wandering?
This past year, when I’ve tried and tried my best to solve my marriage issues on my own. And spouses out there – don’t worry – I got permission to say that. But it usually doesn’t work out that well. I need feedback – from my friends, from counselors, from God, and yes – from my wife! And it wasn’t until I began to invite feedback and listen to it that I started to change.
- What’s voice inside of you? What does she sound like? What does he say to you?
- Maybe you’ve been stuck in the past, or maybe you’re stuck today, and you’ve done everything that you know to do.
- A situation you can’t figure out, an impossible challenge.
- An injustice you want to correct.
- Each of us will find ourselves stuck in life. And in those moments, many of us will muster up all the wisdom and courage that we have. With conviction and certainty, we’ll act against the impossible. We do all we can do to save our marriage. To make the best choices. To try and smooth things over. To move forward. But it backfires on us.
- And when that happens, what’s our natural inclination? We run. We run into the wilderness. We hide. And that voice imprisons us. You’ll never be good enough.
Without feedback, we assign ourselves to a self-imposed wilderness. We languish. Our bodies wither away. We stall out. And we keep stalling out.
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)
God loves you as you are, but God desires even more for you. But if we want to experience more of God’s life and freedom, we have to seek feedback.
So what holds us back? Pride, Stubbornness, False Sense of Maturity, Relational Mistrust
- Pride – I know that I’m right. I don’t care what anyone might tell me.
- Stubborness – I can figure this out on my own. Our culture has a weird way of celebrating the lone ranger. The man or the woman who can do it all. But the truth is – you and I are created for community. And we are our best versions of ourselves when others speak truth and love into our lives.
- False sense of maturity – we think that we already know this or that. News flash – we’re all in process. And on this side of heaven, none of us will be fully arrived. Until the day you and I die, God will always be shaping us, helping us to become more joyful, more humble, more loving. Die to Self.
- Lack of trust and relationship
- Maybe you’ve gotten really horrible, unsolicited feedback
- Chip on your shoulder because of what happened.
Any of these reasons may have hindered Moses. Or me. Or you.
Being stuck is a strange thing. I still get defensive. I still build my walls. Even when I know that I’m prideful or stubborn, even when I know I need feedback and relationship, It’s like I’ve hardwired myself to repulse feedback. Case in point, when I usually ask for feedback, I’ll subconsciously frame the question so that I only get great feedback. But if you’ve got negative feedback, I’ve got this email account set up for that. Just send your thoughts to idon’firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s like this automatic mechanism that I’ve developed to protect myself. And you can ask my wife, I’m a master at this!
But if we’re always shutting ourselves off from the feedback we need, we’ll never get unstuck. And being stuck eventually leads to destruction. God warns us.
Hosea 4:6: my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge
So how do we move forward when we don’t know how to move forward?
Let’s jump back into the story of Moses. We’re going to fast-forward a bit. As we return back to Moses, we see a man stepping fully into who God’s created him to be. Over the years, he’s made changes. He’s learned to listen and respond to feedback.
From the burning bush, where God calls this man of little words to speak to Pharaoh and rescue the Jews from slavery. To his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam, helping him to lead the people on a journey to the promised land.Moses is no longer the fool. He’s morphed into the kind of leader he self envisioned long ago. Moses gets FEEDBACK. He accesses change that was not available to him before.
What would that look like for you? What is that dream God has called forth?
- For Moses – rescue Jews
- For you? Marriage? Calling? Justice?
You won’t get there unless you choose to die to your pride and your life. You won’t get there on your own. We need feedback.
For Moses, it’s led him to this point: Moses has rescued the Jews and helped them to leave their captivity in Egypt. He’s accomplished what he couldn’t before.
By all accounts, he’s gotten unstuck. At this point, Moses has every reason to feel like he’s arrived. Like he’s come into his own. He’s at his full capacity as a leader. Things seem to be going well. And the demands don’t seem to stop – so he’s got job security.
But as he leads the massive crowds of a people formerly enslaved, he begins to max-out on his current potential. It’s at this point that Moses reaches out for feedback. He gets together with his father-in-law, Jethro. He shares all that God is doing, and they celebrate together. Then, Moses invites him to observe his leadership.
Exodus 18:13-14 “It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?….The thing that you are doing is not good. Now listen to me…”
When I read those words, something inside of me naturally just wants to push back. I want to REACT instead of RESPOND: “Wait a second! What I’m doing isn’t good? What do you mean it’s not good? Am I not good? Have I not done enough?”
Do you see how easy it is to give power again to those voices? Those are the voices that work against us. They get us stuck, even after we’ve gotten unstuck. They prevent us from fully living into God’s calling in our lives. And they are powerful.
But Moses has learned to go beyond. Moses changes! He learns to dial into feedback.. Check out what he does instead:
Exodus 18:24 – So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
Moses changes. Moses leaves his old self. He dies to the lies. The fool who lashed out and lost credibility has now become the wise who listens to advice and the entire nation of Israel experienced change. How did Moses get there? How can we get there?
- Surround yourself with a home team. People who you intentionally grant access to your life. If you don’t know, pray for provision.
- Seek and listen to feedback regularly.
- Test it – if it’s good, if it leads you to become more selfless, more loving
- Live it out, 2 degrees at a time.
Moses didn’t become an amazing leader overnight. He learned to receive feedback from God and others. His burning bush moment is marked by doubt. Moses waffles between fear and faith. But ultimately, Moses moves forward. He finds a home team. He gets feedback. And he shifts into a change that he could never access on his own. 2 degrees at a time. 2 degrees. Because of feedback.
Think about this: the 2 degree tilt of the earth’s axis.
- Scientists who study the earth’s rotation and its effect on our planet have known that the earth spins on an axis. But recently, they’ve discovered that the tilt of that axis isn’t constant. In fact, it moves about 2 degrees.
- What’s incredible about this insight is that the best science out there is now telling us that it’s that fluctuation of 2 degrees that has had perhaps the largest effect on the geology of the earth. 2 degrees of fluctuation over hundreds of thousands of years have caused things like the Ice Age, the glaciers, which in turn shape our lands – our rivers, our mountains, our valleys.
What would 2 degrees of feedback look like for you? Who’s on your home team? Who are the people who can be your Jethro? 2 degrees is a small shift. It’s a hard shift to make. 2 degrees of change, over time, can make a tremendous difference. Will you get feedback for that 2 degrees?
Bill Gates once said, “We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in 10.”
The journey won’t always be easy. But no change that’s crucial ever really is.
T.E. Lawrence once wrote: “All men (and women) dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men (and women), for they act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”
Let’s be dreamers of the day this year. Let’s act out our dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. Let’s get the feedback we need to access the change we can’t reach on our own, 2 degrees of feedback at a time.
So if you can open yourself up to feedback from trusted people, to seek it out and listen to it, to test it, and live it out, over the long haul, as you hear and respond to the adventure God’s calling you into, you’ll see mountains move. You’ll see the landscape of your life change. Because it’s not just on you. It’s on God, it’s on your community giving you feedback.