Just over two months ago I graduated from seminary, hopefully for the last time. Yes, definitely. Absolutely the last time. :)
What now? Many initiatives are underway at my church for summer ministries, with VBS taking place through July on Wednesday evenings and planning going on for August midweek ministries. Fall looms around the corner and looks to be a challenging, innovative (for me and my church), and very busy. I feel the pressure on several fronts, but I think I am weathering it well. As long as I can complete my post-doctoral detox.
It is hard to explain but school does something to me. There is an ever-present pressure to complete one more project, to delay one more personal goal, to place academics before family and friends so as to fulfill the expected benchmarks. I am so over it.
Ministry is not unlike school in this way. Maybe that is why my ministry and academic career went so well together, even though at times I had to set limits on ministry to accomplish academic aims, and occasionally vice-versa. Ministry also can place stress on family relationships and friendships. I do not intend to allow ministry to fill up what some assume is the void left by the absence of school. I intend to maintain my margin, picking and choosing carefully what I do in ministry and how I do it.
Yes, I am initiating my personalized post-doctoral detox program.
- I will still read widely, but the authors and their works are of my choosing. And, I will decide whether or not to write any reviews. Oh, and most of the works will be novels. :)
- I will continue my pattern of placing priority on relationships rather than the priorities of church business. In other words, church work is important and will receive its rightful attention in the arena of my responsibilities, but within realistic limits. Yes, this means I will continue to opt out of some of the extra-curricular duties people have been asking me to do over the years. On the other hand, I will opt in to meeting specific needs so as to bless a person, or more often, do tasks which will never be seen in the light of day.
- I will continue to be a life-long learner, but primarily through non-traditional means. They say that curiosity killed the cat. Better than being bored to death through the fear of new experiences, hobbies, friendships, and so on. I plan to keep my mind active through rigorous study and activity, but primarily outside the confines of academic halls.
- I plan to enjoy the delights that God has given us through exploring new places, and revisiting the writings of antiquity in both the biblical Hebrew and Christian traditions, as well as their contemporaries.
- Mission will ever be on my mind in whatever I think and do.
- I plan to continue loving people in the context of my love for God. Perhaps this is my most daring statement, the one most difficult to attain. It is too easily made a slogan without substance. For I know the selfishness of my own heart, preferring to be around people who show kindness to me, rather than loving others even when they despise me.
- I appreciate my time in seminary. The detox I am undergoing is more an issue of correcting my own shortcomings, than a reflection on the academy. Perhaps the days following seminary will round out my perspective as distance gives a view of the broader picture.
- I will try my best to focus on being a simple, yet thoughtful (I hope), practitioner.
- Simplicity will continue to define my personal lifestyle, even as I deal with complex issues related to work and to ministry.
- Most importantly, I will endeavor to grow closer to God.