This is going to be one of those sort of rambling JE's, because I'm putting things down just as I'm thinking about them, which will likely yield a less than cohesive set of thoughts.
I went to the dentist this morning. My teeth and gums were pretty much perfect to begin with, and the hygeinist did a good job, so they're even cleaner and polished and swell. They did bite wing X-rays, which revealed I have a cavity between two of the back teeth. So I get to go back on Monday for them to take care of it.
I went to the doctor last week. I have been having problems with a lot of fluid in my throat and lungs, which collects in the night and wakes me up because I can't breathe and need to sit up in bed and cough for a while. They told me I have bronchitis of the trachea, and they gave me an antibiotic, which I am taking, and which appears to be helping. Nothing's perfect yet, but I'm not waking up at night anymore.
Last week Shimmin and I went to my insurance guy to get his car insurance transferred over to all one thing, and we made an appointment for Thursday to have an insurance checkup. This will be where Tom (my insurance guy) looks at us and our finances and our lives and our ages and the health/life/liability insurance policies that we already have, and asks us questions about our futures, where we want to be, what we want to do, how we want to plan our lives, and then makes suggestions about how much life insurance we need to acquire, if any (well, we know we need to get Shimmin some), etc. And so we have that to look forward to, especially that while I am a fairly risk-averse person, I truly dislike spending too much money on warding against potential disasters, etc.
So... all of these things have got me thinking. I went to the dentist for a checkup. Why do I go for checkups? Because it is good to get one's teeth cleaned and looked at, and if I do have any cavities, they are caught and taken care of before I ever even know about them and never feel pain as a result of them. But yet, I don't go to the doctor for physicals. I go when I'm sick, and hope that if there's anything wrong with me that I don't already know about, they'll catch it via the few vital signs tests the nurse takes at the beginning. Also, although I've never been to an insurance/financial checkup before, I figure they are probably good to do occasionally, not necessarily so I can do all the stuff the guy recommends, but so that I can at least think about it, and it at least gets the ball going in my head for planning about my future. In general, checkups are a good idea. Tuneups are good for the car, oil changes are good more frequently than that, etc. Planning is a good thing.
I am beginning my final semester of the advanced leadership training program at church. During the past 1.5 years I've been able to wander through various jobs and service requirements at church to see what it is that I like, what it is that the church needs, and what it is that I am good at. I've also acquired more permanent responsibilities than I previously had; the service requirements are temporary, but sometimes you find that doing something isn't that much trouble, or is something you like, or both, and you hold on to it. When I started I was teaching the 3's every other Sunday during the 10:00 service, leading a small group, and singing with the worship team every third week or so at the young adult service. Now I am still doing all of that, and I am also helping greet guests after the service in a little nook we call the guest cafe, making them feel welcome, introducing them to the pastors, and telling them a little bit about our church. I also lead a corporate prayer/worship event for the young adults on the first Friday of every month.
I've had the opportunity to hand out bulletins, teach kindergarteners, pray for people taking the Learning to Minister Like Jesus class, cook food for 150 people, make coffee for more, volunteer at various local mission agencies, lead discussion groups for adult classes, raise up new interns in a small group and hand it over to them as leaders, change oil for single moms/widows, lead a discussion group for Christians and non-Christians in a local bar, pray for people after services, and all kinds of other stuff that I can't even remember.
So here's what I want to know: Where's the checkup? Where's the time when I sit down with a leader and figure out where I am, what I've been doing, what I'm good at, what my goals are, etc? I mean, you don't go through a degree program without some type of course or career counselling, you don't go for years without going to the dentist, and yet we seem to be missing the point spiritually, the same way that we don't get the memo on how to take care of ourselves by eating not to many calories, exercising regularly, and not smoking? I feel lost, like there's something I'm missing. This class is gonna end in May, and I'm going to have done a lot of service, have figured out a lot of things about myself, have completed the equivalent of spiritual basic training, and yet have no marching orders.
We want to plant a church. We don't know where, we don't know with whom. We know that it is likely going to happen when Shimmin finishes his PhD. I need skills before then. I need to learn SO MUCH. I need public speaking skills, skills teaching adults, not just 3 year olds, writing skills, reading skills. I need to learn things about Christian counselling, how to lead larger groups of adults than are just in our small group, how to build a leadership team, etc. I guess i'm just needy, because I could go on forever.
I'm so confused. Here's what I do know. There are people that I'm discipling that probably need this kind of guidance as much as I do, and I've already been where they are, so I know what their options are, and where they can get training, and how they can experiment and figure out how they're gifted to serve. I'm going to go to the insurance checkup on Thursday and pay very close attention to how Tom does it, and learn what goes into that kind of planning, how to stimulate thoughtful and insightful responses from the people you're dealing with, and figure it all out, and then figure out how to apply that stuff to the people that Shimmin and I are working with. Even if we can't get that kind of help, we have an obligation to lead the people we're already leading through it. Minus the method for selling life insurance, that is.