Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Forming Habits

They say the best way to make something become habitual is to keep doing it. Isn't that what habitual means? And who are They?

I thought it would be best to keep this blogging thing up, for posterity sake. Who knows what will happen ten or fifteen years from now - I may look back on this time of life and shake my head, or I might be wondering what was happening in my mid-thirties to make me what I will have become.

I think life happens in stages. These stages may or may not coincide with decade markers - I haven't figured that one out yet - but as far as I can figure, there have been at least four, possibly more, life shaping events that have occurred approximately 10 years apart from each other. Or maybe it's that as I look back, I can see myself progressing through life, reacting to things with varying levels of grace and very different attitudes, and that these shifts happen at approximately 10-year intervals, and the life events around this time have served to shape me into what I have been and am at the time I'm observing myself.

Confused? Maybe I am too. It's late. I'll try to explain.

When I was 5, I had a dream about the occupations I would have to decide between. One was construction work, and the other was more vague, but I came to believe (later, when I was reflecting on the dream as an adult) that the other vocation was youth ministry. I would forget the dream in time, although it was a recurring dream that happened so often, that when I was in my late teen years, and I had the dream again (after deciding my vocational path), I immediately recognized it and found its contents more than mere coincidence.
I think I might have had that dream at the time that I did, because it required the simple belief of a child to not dismiss it right away, as an adult would. I also found faith when I was 5.

When I was 15, my first taste of ministry came in the form of traveling down to Chicago to work with the pre-teens at a camp. I also was asked to be a camp counselor at a camp in Ontario (Pioneer Camp) immediately following this missions trip. My attitudes and actions were clearly not that of a 5 year old, but probably more reflected the crazy energetic actions of an early teen... which was probably perfect timing for whatever seed was being planted there, at that time.

When I was 26, I got my first job as a youth pastor in a church. I remember distinctly feeling that I wasn't a teen anymore, and wondering how I was going to both relate to the teens in the area I was called to, as well as direct student ministries in a church of people almost twice my age. It was a difficult time (I might write more on that later), but I learned a lot. Mostly I learned that youth ministry is hard, but that I'm called to do it, and anything else would be a Jonah experience (read up on Jonah in the bible if you're not familiar with this - it's only four chapters, and has a really cool ending). My reactions were not those of a 15-year-old, nor a 5-year-old, yet I can look back on that era, and I know I didn't have the maturity I have now (just as I will likely look back at this time when I'm 45, and realize how far I've progressed then).

Now I'm 34, turning 35 this year. I'm married; no children yet - that looks to be a great struggle we have only just started grappling with. I have a great working relationship with the church I'm with currently, but I feel called to leave it and go to the Anglican communion, which is in the middle of a potentially great upheaval. It looks like it's going to be an interesting and rocky time, but I think that I'm here in this time, having weathered the storms I have, in preparation for the storm(s) ahead. I find myself to be more patient than I have ever been, and more grace-giving. And, I'm surprised to find myself as sad as I am, when I have the thought that I might never be a father.

I'm definitely a different person now than I ever have been, and I think that change has only just recently come about - or, maybe it has been gradually taking shape, but I'm just noticing it now. I'm getting older. And hopefully, wiser.

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