Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mapping the Present - How did you get here and where are you headed?

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and had a very hard time getting back to sleep.  Before we went to bed, Duane set the thermostat in the hotel room and asked me if 69 would be too warm.  Let's just say I should have said yes.

Instead of sleeping, I had a lot of time to think about things.  I thought about the introduction to my thesis, what I need to do with what I've already written.  I thought about the literature review, the section that goes over the history of religion on the web internet churches and what other academics have said in the last 15 years.  I thought about how happy I am to be in school, teaching, researching, and writing.  And I then started thinking about what got me here.

I probably wouldn't write about this at all except that when I started reading Mark Batterson's Soulprint this morning, he started talking about the same thing.  How do we get from point A to point B, where God wants us to get.  Sometimes we feel like we're sitting on the sidelines, and sometimes it takes a long time to actually do the things we want to do.  Sometimes along the way we develop skills we don't think we'll ever need.  And those are the skills that actually help us do what we want.  But sometimes we get frustrated.  As Batterson says, "You know you have a destiny to fulfill, but the elapsed time causes you to second-guess yourself" (27).

And so after I read that, I decided to go ahead and map out how I got where I am.  Incidentally I haven't arrived yet.  I'm not exactly sure where I'll end up, but I've got a good idea.  Right now it's more about the journey.

I hope if you're reading this, you'll begin thinking about your own unique journey, where you've been, and where God wants to you go.  (By the way, I recommend Batterson's book.  You can get a copy from Amazon just by clicking on the Soulprint link.)

  • One of the first steps in my journey actually looked like a step backwards.  I got frustrated with God, frustrated with people, and started asking myself if being a Christian and going to church was really worth it.  Those thoughts scared me.  If God isn't real, then what?  We changed churches, found Newbreak (then Canyon View) and I started reading the Bible.  I pored over Scripture and because it didn't always make sense, I kept a journal.  I wrote down verses, paraphrased them in my own words, focused on the importance of specific words, and then thought about how these verses applied to my own life.  I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out that this is a major part of rhetorical analysis.
  • A couple years later, I discovered home school debate.  Immediately I though to myself that Kirsten should be a debater.  At that time, San Diego had no debate clubs, and fortunately I didn't have to start one.  A friend happened to have been a communications major started one, and I jumped on board.  Kirsten and I loved debate.  All the research, all the logic, all the writing.  Exposure to debate exposed to me to rhetorical principles for the very first time.  And it allowed me to work with high school students, critiquing their cases, encouraging them to develop strong arguments.  I love teaching.  I love encouraging students.
  • Probably five years after that, our worship leader held the very first worship retreat and challenged every team member to live creatively.  I attended a Easter service planning meeting, and accidentally volunteered to write an Easter drama.  The first draft, a biblical drama, was incredibly bad.  I was so humiliated to write something so terrible that I sat on the bathroom floor and sobbed.  And then I wrote something else.  Something totally out of the box.  Something that I hoped would appeal to a new audience, not of church people, but of people who only attend church on Easter.  Pastor Mike liked it and then I started babbling on about a Scripture passage that I thought would go well with the sermon.  When I realized I was going on and on, I stopped myself and apologized, joking that I like to write sermons in my spare time.  Pastor Mike laughed and asked, "Really?"
A few days later, he called me up and asked if I wanted to meet him at his office to go over some ideas about the sermon for Easter.  We worked on the outline and he asked if I might like to do that more often.  After a few months, this was a weekly event and then Sara Zeller joined us.  Together, we worked with Pastor Mike and developed creative elements to throw into sermons.  This opportunity allowed me to work with Mike to craft messages with specific goals.  How do we word interrogative questions?  What passages do we choose?  What connotations do words have?  How do we prompt listeners to respond?

I worked with Mike for nearly three years as a volunteer and then a year as his assignment.  I got to research what other churches do, with creative elements, with multi-site, with sermons.  I got to study the Bible with Mike and explore various passages in-depth, learning strategies of communication, what works and what doesn't work quite as well.

I felt like I was doing exactly what I was made for.  Except for sometimes I wished I was following and researching my own ideas, writing the way I wanted to write.

One day I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, "This is the last sermon series you're going to work on."  And then it was over.

  • After that I worked for Robert and moved into the business/HR side of ministry, working for Robert.  I focused on other types of communication.  Writing giving letters.  Writing business memos.  Writing a staff handbook.  
As long as I was writing, as long as I was researching new things, I loved my job.  But when duties       required administration, copying, filing, scheduling etc., I didn't like it quite so much.  And over time, the job required more and more of the things I didn't like and fewer and fewer of the things I love.  And so one day I scrolled through master's programs at SDSU, looking for something exciting, something to offer hope to a very bored woman, and I discovered the rhetoric program that would allow me to teach writing at the college level, a program that included all the things I loved.

  • Before that, though, one more thing happened.  My dad died.  There's something about death that reminds us that, well, we don't live forever.  It made me want to seize life and do the things I love instead of the things that I don't love.  It made me want to chase after something new, something that makes me me.  It made me want to write and teach and do research, all the things I love doing.  I knew my dad would be happy.  He would want me to do this.  

  • Oh, and then I changed jobs again and worked only 20 hours per week.  And then I got laid off altogether.  I felt devalued and rejected.  And I cried buckets.  And then God took care of the details and all I do is teach and write and research.  

So about ten years passed from the time I discovered debate and the time I applied for grad school, along with many disappointments, crushing defeats, and rejections.  I didn't include all of the disappointments.  That's a long time.  

Sometimes I wish I had gone after my dream right away and skipped all the parts I don't like.  

But without those things, I don't think I get here.  At least not with the same skills or the same desire to do well.  I don't think I have the same courage or the same confidence.   

And so I'm grateful for all the "giving letters" I wrote, all the memos, all the procedural sheets.  They prepared me to write things I actually enjoy writing.  I'm grateful for all the dinners I catered and the relationships I developed with people from multiple ministries.  That taught me to network.  And I'm grateful for the monotonous chores that I hated.  They made me want to find something else.  

I'm grateful that I didn't get to keep working for Pastor Mike, because if I had, I would never have had the energy to write.  And I would never have gotten bored and I would never have gone back to school and I would never have gotten to teach.  

One more quote from Batterson, and this is a good one.
God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go.  So take a deep breath, enjoy the journey, and know that God will get you there when you're ready to get there.  Your current frustration will be cause for future celebration if you hang in there long enough.  So don't give up! (28)

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