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03- How to Navigate Past Brick Walls

Sebastien Braxton
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In our third podcast, listen in as Shauna Chung and Esther Louw discuss how to overcome failure and disappointment with Sebastien Braxton. Sebastien’s perspective is down-to-earth as he describes practical lessons from his own life. In this lively discussion, Sebastien addresses practical tips for overcoming failure as well as encouragement for pursuing the passions and dreams that God is laying on your heart and life. Join us on the journey as we travel with Sebastien from the projects of Chicago to the jungles of India.


Sebastien Braxton

Co-Founder, R3


  • February 12, 2018
    10:00 AM


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Failure is a town that everyone visits whether you're trying to get a ministry idea of the ground or you're simply trying to move forward in your experience of God you're guaranteed to come across obstacles that are and to bring an end to your plans and the book Christ after class and the other states that whatever is to be done I God's command may be accomplished in his strength all his biddings our neighbor and yet despite knowing this it's easy to become discouraged when we can't see God working through us in this episode shine Chung and I talk with the best in Braxton about how to navigate past brick walls Sebastian speaks to us of personal experience as a child growing up in the projects he learnt to move forward even Everything seemed to be going against him later when he joined the Marines Sebastian came to recognize failure as a challenge rather than a discouragement obstacles were the things that pushed him today Sebastian is an entrepreneur and a radical preacher as well as a former program director of campus and the founder stride public campus minister chain programs in Michigan and Boston join with us in a conversation at that he was a conference in Phoenix in twenty seventeen. Thank you so much the fashion for being here. For talking about how to navigate past brick walls what is ideas your personal experience with obstacles. Well when I think about my personal experience what obstacles I imagined my life kind of started off with every possible obstacle you know my parents divorced at a young age. I was born out of wedlock grew up in inner city single. Government funding and had money didn't have Christmas presents didn't have sometimes and you had gang violence and you have school violence and you have younger siblings you have to protect but your mom's working sixteen hours so I didn't get to get piano lessons and you know different things so you you know much of my life was a fulfilling a promise a. Me to my mom you know I was a kid that you know where there was a night when my mom had gotten her check and our government food stamp funding and so she was like on a like stock the fridge and I have all this food and my mom is all about creating these experiences and so we had the food stock and we're all oh we got this for the very first time in like these like Flintstone pops whatever and so we went to bed and in the middle of the night we just heard a crash right and then this crash was like what was going on and so I get out of bed because I'm a little more you know rushed towards danger not stay at the bed and then eventually my mom comes and basically you know long story short gang broke into our house took all the food out the fridge all of it I mean all of it freezer fridge for the bills everything and I just saw my mom just slowly you know sit into the couch and just cry like just so frustrated and so I remember as a kid I was like you know mom you know one day when I can be poor analysis like you know it's like seven year old kid like you know mommy riginal meditator you were going to do all of this kind of stuff and so then for me it just became this thing that obstacles were kind of my courage and they were my impetus they would have things that push me because it was like well I've been through worse than one of the most profound thing as my dad said to me was that you know there's a good thing about being poor and he says a good thing about being poor is you know what you can live without you can still move forward without all of these things you don't have Nintendo you don't have games you don't have all this money you don't have new Nike's but you can move forward and I think for me obstacles became more opportunities right they became moments of innovation like when we were poorest kids who couldn't afford checkers and these kind of things are monopoly so we would take like you know milk caps from different colors a whole milk is red two percent is blue and then we would save up enough caps and draw our own board and you could play checkers. And kind of for monopoly but our apartment building had like a sidewalk that went all the way around so then we just took chalk was like three bucks right my mom bought it for us and then we just drew the spaces of the Monopoly board on the sidewalk squares and then we like created our own money from like some different paper that we had and we like cut it up and we put the amounts and like we had to go we had Park Place and like all this stuff and so then we used our bikes as kind of like our pieces and drove around it's like you know so it was like we created our own monopoly so to me my experience what obstacles really always converged on looking at the mass opportunities but also things that push me to get to innovation to like well maybe I need to do it a different way because in my mind I should have money I want to have money I can get these new shoes and then I can become cool and everybody will like me in The Girl In The Chair leading teams going to attention to me and so that's kind of where I Frame obstacles it's like it's an opportunity so you're talking about having him back and just obstacles in your life you have no control over. How about once you became a Christian and having this in both the ministry did you find yourself approaching obstacles and way had originally talked to Misty of course because when I when I came into the church I was in the Marine Corps as well in the Marine Corps just kind of takes that mindset to like the next level like there is no failures if you're a Marine slick so you know when I actually when I was baptized I was still a Marine when I was baptized so to me that military mindset of failure is not an option and obstacles are basically like the difference between you and greatness that's all the Marine Corps looks at it right the ones who are remembered are the want to conquer obstacles the ones who are forgotten are the ones that look at them so essentially when I came into the church again right I didn't have a Christian admin it's back ground I did. No all the hymns I did all the Bible texts so I remember my first time being asked to teach Saba school before I was baptized actually so I'd only started going to church the second Sabbath of January two thousand and two this was the first Sabbath the February right so I'm there at church and this girl at my school because I was baptized on the secular campus she didn't know that I was Adventists Howard that I was going to the administration I don't know she was admin is and she was clearly worldly in not living a Christian life so when I found out she's on with the SAB school S. And she's like your admin is only. Your Avenue this is like yeah I go to this church and so she got a youth director to invite me to teach Sabbath school the crazy thing was I was so overwhelmed with the idea that I didn't have the background in the Bible and all these doctrines so I memorized the whole lesson like the paragraphs the verses everything so I came to teach the class and everyone's like I'm fielding questions I'm answering them from memory so where does you know that I member the lesson is on the armor of God And so they're like All right many thanks is a great job and come to find out the you've leader was actually there. And afterwards he's like Yeah man so how long you've been having this I'm like I'm not having This is like what do you mean and also like I actually just started going to church three satis ago what and so he's like What are you talking about was like so you raise a question only No actually I wasn't and you just get these constant shock looks you know so for me it was like the fact that I didn't know the Bible the fact I didn't even know what the books of the Bible were I didn't know if you asked me who you know job was you told ole Saul I didn't know there were two like you know those are things I didn't know so I used to study you know seven eight nine hours a day in the Bible because again I come from the poor background in the Marine background which says here's an obstacle so guess what I just got to study and catch up to my knowledge. I really admire the journey that you take and the fact that you've used obstacles as a catalyst to improve something or to create something for those who see obstacles as debilitating right that they're unable to get past it to see if anything useful in their life will kind of response might she have that situation well to me I mean you definitely have to start with mindset in perception first right you know you you recognize that I didn't I wasn't born that way right there were circumstances where I had to make a decision and a lot of times when people think of obstacles they are what they're really think about is crises I don't want to be put in a situation where I have to be have to make a decision that's what a crisis have to decide between this or this you want to make it so you can just use your own time and when you have time to review things and get a good feel of it so to me when a lot of people feel like they're stuck at an obstacle what they're really stuck at is a crossroad where they have to make a decision that may not be popular or preferred or whatever and so to me you first have to take your mindset to say guess what making decisions is a part of life and I can't be afraid of where this is going to take me the second thing is that once you get the perception piece under control then you have to recognize that obstacles may take time to overcome you know some people there I'm trapped or I'm stuck is not really I'm stuck it means it's not moving fast as I would like right it's not going the way when I wanted to go away but the reality is is that when you know I need to finish school I'm not going to finish my medical degree in two years right it's just not going to happen but it's an obstacle I have to overcome and I'm not going to baptize this person by next month like it's not going to happen so I have to accept the fact that there is a process there's a time and that's where you know. We get to the third element which is when you involve God in what's happening then you also have to take into account that these things that are coming up before me there are allowed by God So then the question becomes what is his purpose in allowing the obstacle to be there all pray three times to get that thorn removed from his flesh and God said My grace is sufficient He didn't say I'll take it away just give me some time right you know verses Daniel prays three three weeks of fasting and God says Oh Gabriel I well with the prince the devil was basically fighting and I had to send Jesus Michael to come and to deal with it so you have on one level you were praying and fasting which was anticipating the success of overcome any obstacle versus the other one it was like I'm never going to remove it but you have to trust that my grace is sufficient to carry you through so I think those are three things I feel when you feel stuck you can have to keep in mind yeah that's powerful you know we're talking about obstacles and what I've seen and a big obstacle can be like a fear failure or failure itself Yeah so has a great. Way to. Specify that. So that you can get behind you know failure is something that the fear of failure is definitely something that constrains people and my There's no question on that it's probably one of my most exciting things to address with people and the reason for that is because when you sit down you ask them a set of questions things begin to emerge a lot clearer in their mind so they say well what's wrong I'm afraid I might fail OK do you fail now. But you still live life right at the truth of the matter is feel your failure to its logical conclusion leads to life paralysis if you're really going to live that way you'll do nothing well five go and get this degree what if I never get hired Well if I become a medical that what if I don't go. Into the rotation I want the fear of failure is always there but somehow you're able to transcend it in by pass it so to me you have to step back and ask yourself this question right the fear of failure is what constrains us from living a meaningful and passionate life the things that are exciting in life where your purpose lies think about every single biblical character who was called into a great work by God he or she would have never experienced what they experienced of what God was willing to do for them if they were constrained by the fear of failure Noah build an ark one of your afraid of failure you will never know his name Abraham David you can go from person to person to person so in every single thing that we find ourselves saying man I'm afraid to fail you're only afraid to fail primarily in a Christian world view because you think it's dependent on you. But you look at Moses you look at Joshua you look at these people who had faults and yet God was still able to accomplish his purpose so that lets me know that God can still work his purpose out through imperfect me. And still fulfill His perfect plan so that helps me to see that failure for me in a Christian context has always been this thing that why would I be afraid of failure. If number one would God is calling me to do is what he's calling me to do right this is what I'm doing so it's not like David Wright he wanted to build a house for God And God said no but that's because it was it wasn't something God had commanded David to do. But when it was something I got called David to do he was always guaranteed success so that removes the fear of failure but then let's say you're doing something got called you to do like evangelism and this I will God come in to do this well why would God tell you to do something you were destined to fail and. Ah so that's where we have the whole point that all his biddings are any buildings so if he calls you to it he'll bring you through it to give. The skills to do it because he called you to do it and guess what when you do it on his command he's responsible for the results that's a military concept right if you send fifty me Marines into a territory and they die it's not on the sergeant it's on the commander who sent you lost fifty troops because you were the one who commanded them they were going on your orders. So in this sense when we look at failure in this sense of those Marines fail it's on him not the Marines in the same sense with God we go when he commands it's on God it's not on me and I guess on a little more lighter sense because I know I'm a lot more edgy and you know rough with it so I'm very exacting You know so I also want to speak to the fact that I do have a tender side and then I recognize that. There are obstacles in life that. Are harder to face than others for various reasons right emotional reasons primarily right you we we don't want to face those things because for whatever reason there's some emotional barrier or baggage to like men to face this thing is like you just can't see yourself emotionally surviving it right and so I think in those circumstances it's it's something where you can't Marine your way on the you can just say I'm going to push through it it's got to be something where you accept that this is going to be a journey of a thousand steps. And I just got to start by taking one. And I just got to move it just a little bit just move the needle a little bit and I think for those kind of obstacles for people who are like I feel stuck in and I feel constrained by that fear of failure like why even try you know I think we address that but I think on the other side. It's not a why should I try it's more of a like if I try and this happens. I don't know if I'm emotionally ready. To deal with that because the truth of the matter is we can develop cycles of life where you know we get the pink elephant syndrome right the elephant with the pink straight so you have the fact that because he was always chained on his leg right when he grows up you just need to put a pink string because the chain has moved from his leg to his mind in his mind there is a chain there because every single time he's tried to kick he couldn't get free. And I think for a lot of people they are living the elephant with pink string experience where this obstacle and there has been here for so long I don't even try to break free when now you actually have the strength to break free. Because the chain is moved from your leg from your finances from your self-esteem from your family to your mind. Before these were the barriers but now you've grown out of this you're big enough you're full grown package you can break free of this thing. But in your mind you can't so therefore there is no reason to try yeah I think when we bring the principles. Conceptions of failure into ministry man to the spiritual around there's a tendency for things to kind of be overshadowed by spiritual and ledge Yeah I think that we don't oftentimes see the parallels between the failure that we've been discussing this entire time with the failure that is oftentimes experienced in ministry and so for those that are I guess they feel called by God to do something and yet Yeah they're experiencing is failure after failure after failure and it's just like God is calling me to do this how how do they I guess retain their motivation to keep going you know I had a. Business mentor of mine say something that helps me address that point as an entrepreneur because entrepreneurship is all of a. Your ability to sustain failure and he said you know eighty percent of life is showing up and when you think about the fact that for a lot of people who are like I'm doing something God called me to do but I'm failing and I'm failing and I'm failing and what they fail to realize is that God didn't call you necessarily to success tomorrow he just called you to do the act I am successful because I'm fulfilling the command. And for a lot of then it's just showing up because if you think about Joshua walking around Jericho he's training his army for this immense battle with this immensely fortified city how to climb walls how to do what Errol's fire what how to build your armor like Joshua's training is Army but then he goes out he's like our guys all this hard work and push ups and like running the Lord has called us to walk. What you want to walk around a city yeah and then what we're going to go home he just want just wants musicians in the front musicians. Like if you think about this idea write your trade I'm a trained soldier and my general says we're going to walk around and go home seven days in a row what in the world is this but you you recognize the fact that you are not called to go into Jericho on some hero mission through the windows into rehab secret passageway and conquer the city you're called to do it God's way in God's design. That's right and you got except that right now you see the walk around the city and you could perceive that as failure because we have not conquered. So in a sense when people say I keep seeing failure failure we have to recognize that we do what is right because it is right we leave the consequences with God success. It's faithfulness to the task Yeah but then you come around to say Jericho gives us the hope of like Eventually the walls are going to come down and you're going to say now some slight sort of training you did was not for not it was for this moment so let's say someone you think that they have been there and they're not getting anywhere with it and they keep persisting how do we know whether our vision is worthwhile if you keep trying we should actually. I see you guys saved all the hard questions. So when you think about having a vision and it keeps not working out I mean it's a very good question I don't know if there is a textbook answer or a clinical answer to that question if I'm to be honest but I do believe there are concepts that speak to that experience you know one of you know the sermons I preach in the passes unfulfilled dreams which partially addresses that question right which is should I even dream at all if life seems to be a continual story of unfulfilled dreams it's a phrase I borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr So when you look at the fact that I sat down with a man in India and he had not heard the sermon and so we were sitting in Bangalore India and he was a doctor. And he went out into the bush with his wife and his two kids I'm talking like deep in the woods which is run by I gangsters and marauders like every night they would fight with the government unlike local people and all this on the stuff people get injured bloody he's a doctor she's living in this hut like Lear is no security right there's no vivant there's none of this stuff them to protect him they break into his house in the middle of the night and we're kidnapping him every night for ten years. And say look they will blindfold him drag him through the night of the. Indian jungle and say listen put a machete to his neck and leave someone his house and say Look you there hear my friend or your wife or your kids are dead. So he would perform medical procedures like Guys I need supplies right impression what do you need so then they would go and steal the stuff that he needed fitted he would be operating in helping restore these people and he is like Lloyd you call me Al here Rice was telling me the story and when I went to India at that time he had just returned from this whole experience right he was now back in pursuing a different vision. Him and his wife and while we're sitting there talking at lunch you know he said Sebastian I just I left and not one soul ten years of that. And then that's when I told him those words that you know I said David it was in the heart of day to build a house Solomon said and God said to David you know you're a man of blood so you can build me a house but he said it is well because it was within your heart. So in God's mind it was in your heart. And he said. And I said now the true depth here is when you understand it in the light of Christ. That it was in the heart of Jesus. To save all men. And to lead them all to the truth and he's going to go to heaven and there's only people outside the city. And he's going to say Father I wanted to save all men. In God's Name see to Jesus it is well. Because it was within your heart. And I mean this man just broke down and that study always makes me cry personally simply because I understand the feeling. But I also understand that it gives you a different insight into Jesus his heart be. Because even Jesus experiences guaranteed eternal failure. And yet he still did it so when you talk about having a dream in a vision is like how do I know to persist you know I think for those individuals who go through those things right there is a. I don't think there's a clinical answer but I think there is something in the fact that when God is laid upon my heart. You know I have to be comforted by at least knowing that God is saying look it's well because Elisa was within your heart to do it you know in the words of the why Moody someone came to me I said how you are preaching with your broken English and why movies like well I'm out here with the souls of my broken English what do you do with your perfect English. Because the point is like I'm doing something so to me when you have your vision in your dream you're trying to build something for God God is never the author of confusion he'll lead you know when he wants you to deviate God does not operate in nebulous spaces he says God talking to me you know that's our own minds right notice when he came out of Egypt is the Lord among us or not what are you talking about you just cross the Red Sea you want a cloud by day pillar of fire by night man in the morning is the Lord among us Brother what. It's like OK And so I think that we have to put those things into context that these situations in the Bible are usually acknowledged those moments of confusion in kind of a nebulous thought like is this the Suzi in our minds our lack of face but in other times when God did not want David to build he made it clear to David you know and that's what I believe God loves us too much to be confusing and. You know breadcrumbs and Hansel and Gretel us to the woods of life and say hopefully you'll arrive at the destination I want why would he sent his only Son to die for us and make it confusing to fulfill His purpose in. You're my maker so why you make it difficult for me to do would you make me to do. At least to know it because I'm an intelligent being. And this is the same gone this is Come let us reason all these different things some I just don't buy into the idea that this question which is really undermined it by how do I know God's will for my life yeah right right it's it always reeks of that concept that God would literally make it difficult for you to know what he wants no one who is in a loving relationship. Makes it difficult for the other person to know what they want you just don't do that in life and so for me it's I just don't see that question being fully accurate in its presuppositions but I think I understand the pathos in the experience of it and I think I go through it as an entrepreneur in my doing what I'm supposed to be doing is distracted from preaching should I just quit this thing shut down my business in just everyone go through that but that's when you have to kind of go back and look at the Red Sea and the pillar of cloud and all those different things and be like them I don't need to wonder if the Lord someone because I have plenty of evidence and signs well as you were talking about everything I think one of the aspects of moving on or growing and learning from the year is learning when to let go and then when you actually let Have you kind of pick yourself back up and keep going. Resilience. You know I. I found for myself that we sometimes as humans expect ourselves to be superhuman we expect ourselves to. Operate mathematically I subtracted this therefore it is no longer part of the equation we move forward in life does not work that way you know logic cannot codified everything you know and I think that's why I changed my major from math right when I was an engineer because I saw that. There's a certain things numbers in math cannot explain and cannot quantify and so I think when it comes to resilience and recovering from circumstances right there is this concept that they call you know synthetic happiness where you're constructing your happiness from the situation of the guy I was supposed to partner with Ray Kroc and didn't and he's like best decision of his life you know the guy who spent time in prison for a crime he didn't commit the an evidence released him and he said. You know I feel just as happy as ever and you expect these people to be better to be broken but they were able to recognize that life has its highs in life has a lot and they gave themselves time to come to grips and to accept what they had gone through what they had lost what they had gained. And I think a fundamental change that you know concept that helps us to heal is the ability to accept good and bad I think sometimes only do the Let Go dance it's got to be all that right there has to be nothing good about my ex-girlfriend because I had to end that relationship my exploration was a complete or you know and I have to say the negative things because how can you justify leaving a perfectly good seventy eight minutes young men it's like this makes no sense as I know because as my father used to say you can do everything right and still loose it's one hundred percent possible that there is nothing wrong with you we just don't fit it just doesn't work and we have to accept the fact that you know in those in those circumstances where I'm looking at you know letting go of a situation it doesn't always have to be drastic or disaster driven it can just be whatever it was and I can accept that she was a nice girl we had some good times I grew in certain ways because of her but I need to move on and I think for a lot of people that's a part of emotional maturity that's a part of adulthood that I'm able to accept good and that I don't have to criticize my girlfriend my. Ex-wife or whatever in order to justify my decision to let go and I think that helps with resilience. You know kind of recently was a counseling young woman who came out of a relationship and she's like yeah I don't know what to expect and I'm afraid the last time I ended a relationship I kind of stopped going to church and stuff studying the Bible and just became emotionally distant and she was kind of like you know I want you to hold me accountable you know to not do that. So this was a Saturday afternoon I was at my church and so week later I called I said Hey how are you doing which was actually you know it's crazy I feel perfectly fine and like I think I'm ready to talk to him and was it whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa let's give this some time and you know then she had an instance where I told her when you have a relationship you had a pattern of life when a person is removed when those patterns come back around then it starts to get too emotional and through that she understood it because of a circumstance that came up where she was used to being involved he was in that pattern and now he's not there and that's not happening so the letting go you know my argument is always you have to give yourself the time the space to process there's no rush you don't have to be debilitated but you also don't have to be like Oh sorry things fine. I think you just have to accept that there's good there's bad some days are going to be easier than others and this is my process and whatever I need to do to go through my process the process that that's my process is my journey because it's my loss and you don't have to compare yourself to others you don't have to live up to some you know a more physic spectating floating around out there in your mind or in the minds of the peers around you you can just say well this is my journey this is my I would. Think that the permanently. Down and. That kind of wraps it everything that we've been talking about that in their eyes and there are lows. Because looking. Outside of ourselves and transforming the pain into something productive and proactive agreed Greek you very much for your perspective I do my best thank you for having me these are very deep questions so. I hope that I did them justice and you know I think there is a lot more that needs to be explored on this talk a lot more talked about a lot more vulnerability from these heroes and so-called icons. Of communities and churches like you know people need to learn from failure rate and see that there is a way back from. And to recognize it's a town that everybody has its. Special thanks to Sebastian Braxton for sharing with us I hope you have been challenged in the past the obstacles in your life and to view failure not as a debilitating experience but as a motivator an enabler for achieving success.


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