Paul’s words speak wildly about life and the movements of life. Smack dab in the midst of a congregation embroiled in white-heat controversy, he reflects on his journey: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13.11, NIV)
One of my hopes throughout the journey of ministry and the various roles I have played is that I have experienced some progression in some areas. I pray I have not merely repeated the “sins of my youth.” My reasons for pursuing the call of God in pastoral ministry were twofold. First, the burning desire to study His Word. I absolutely love the quiet, engaging, prayerful study of the Word and how it speaks to the deepest of both my human experience and my human longings. Second, to share with others those beauties and the power that stands behind and beyond the Word.
However, idealism struck against the iceberg of reality. What I came to discover was that more often than not, people were not as interested in my spending time in the Word as much as they were worried about how much time I spent with them. I found the two reasons I had pursued the call were not nearly as high on the hearts and minds of the members I served. Thus, I had to quickly rediscover a renewed purpose and passion for “The Call.”
As I moved through this time of transition, I gradually realized that learning had become a way of life for me, a way of approach a variety of situations. While I was not good at it, I stumbled, shivered, and shimmied through it. More often that I care to admit, I still do it today.
I have also discovered that at times I was easily tempted to take the easy road much more traveled—the road of making other’s success mine by seeking to copy their solutions. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that their solutions had emerged out of a set of variables and circumstances nuanced very differently than mine. For example, seeking to build small groups in the context of a highly, individualistic Adventist congregation just wasn’t going to be as “transforming” as the books and seminars suggested. There existed other variables to make small groups truly transformative (a whole other subject).
Learning as a way of being involved much more than external, outer-world artifacts. Learning as a way of being had to slowly evolve into a way of seeing my world, my experiences, my roles, my worldview through all that I faced. Learning as a way of being still challenges me today to never settle, never to believe the hype or the headlines. Learning as a way of being requires an inner work that only comes from a deepening, maturing relationship with the Supreme Teacher. God help me! God help us all!
John Grys is vice president for pastoral ministries in the Illinois Conference