Apps were involved. Spreadsheets, too. Scales. Blood work & physician check-ins. Workout charts. Diet plans. I was on it.

Dropped forty pounds in six months back in 2012.

High-fives and compliments all around.

What no one knew was that my goal was fifty pounds. Those last ten are still with me.

It isn’t like I forgot all the principles involved in losing weight that all ultimately boil down to “eat better and exercise more.” I just started shrugging my shoulders and enjoying consistent cheats.

Getting serious about losing those last ten doesn’t require new information or new apps or better scales or a new doctor/nutritionist. I just need to get serious about all that again. Recalibrate.

The dictionary describes recalibration “to calibrate again.” It defines calibrate this way: “correlate the readings of (an instrument) with those of a standard in order to check the instrument’s accuracy. adjust (experimental results) to take external factors into account or to allow comparison with other data.”

And on my spiritual pursuit of the last year, it isn’t like I learned a whole lot of new things about myself or God on my trip from professional pastor to full-time school teacher. It really was adjusting the experimental results and comparing the data to make sure the readings were accurate.

Since several of you have asked me to tell you what I learned about myself and God during this time, well, I wish I could say it was a time of new learning and mystical insights, but it is really just recalibration…but here they are nonetheless:

God is a God of the eleventh-hour. He doesn’t give me much more than a flashlight for the footpath. As much as I’d love floodlights and a GPS, God has me waking up, trusting Him and doing the next thing. After about a year of that and a raised eyebrow that any prayers would be answered, He’s all, “Here ya go. Now you have it.”

God moves me from theorist to practitioner. I spent years talking about living a life on mission, loving God, and loving neighbors…all the while having fits and starts that never really went anywhere. Now, well, it’s an hourly reality.

My vision was too small. Look. We all know the little “c” church in the U.S. is in (depending on the stats you accept) deep trouble or long-term malaise. I am a change agent. It’s deep in my bones. One of my professors calls it a “holy dissatisfaction with the status quo.” I’ve been barking about this and trying to affect change in congregations I worked for…when what I need to be doing is prepping students to fix it on a much larger scale. If you want large-scale change, the academy is where those discussions start and become implemented and change agents gather there. So, let’s dance and you folks better buckle up…my edge is back in spades.

The little “c” church better get it together. Diving into the job search again, and seeing about 30 churches up close as a graduate teaching assistant in the seminary residency class, let me see just how resistant they are to change. It was funny to see a job I applied for open again eight months later, and they posted the same job description and process that caused them to be looking to fill that role after only eight months. Don’t even get me started on the number of churches who can’t articulate their plan for discipleship or design systems to create them. The number of pastors who would leave their job if they could make the same pay doing something else would startle you. Now I have research and stats to back these things up. Youth ministries hold a mirror up to these things. Again, buckle up babies. My dissertation is shaping up to be a Molotov cocktail.

I had a narrow view of my gift. I had a very particular view of my teaching gift and how it should be used. What this means is that I’d seen it normally gravitate to pastoral roles in a little “c” church. A gift like that can be equally effective, if not moreso, in a high-school public classroom even (especially?) if it isn’t overt.

My spiritual life is better since I’m not in church leadership. I can’t explain this really, but it was a pleasant surprise. After 28 years of serving a church, it was pretty nice to hear a sermon rather than prepare three lessons a week. It was nice to enjoy a service instead of critique it for the Monday morning review. It was nice to participate in the Lord’s Supper without having to refill trays with tiny plastic cups and juice. I took a little break from larger gatherings, too, which was incredibly life-giving. My small group, my bible study group of expats, my seminary profs, and some new sermon podcasts kept me in check during the break. But I gotta say the rhythms of the rank and file are a good fit for me in this life station.

God speaks to me through His Word and His people. Still no audible voices or burning bushes or writing on the wall for me…and it wasn’t for lack of asking for them. I always feel like those would be faster and easier so I ask for them. Instead, my answers come from listening to others and their insights. This is why staying in community during my self-imposed exile is valuable. I spent more time over tables, adult beverages, and other conversations for the express purpose of wanting to hear from Him through His people. He didn’t disappoint, as insights and encouragement were steady in the process.

My wife is a great teammate. She puts up with a lot of nonsense being married to me, that’s for sure. But she gets it. Sell a house and move downtown? Okay. Have a small freak out over the lack of clarity? “I’m not worried. It’ll all come together.” Get bent out of shape because churches do and say dumb things in interview processes? “Maybe this isn’t the thing for you anymore.” Decide to take a break from large church gatherings? “Maybe this is what you need for now.” Start the last half of you life as a first-year high school teacher? “See? I told you it would all come together.” I gotta say that decision to ask her to marry me back in 1987 was a good one, and I’m really glad she said yes and stuck around. Lesser women would’ve been gone long ago.

 

So, that’s it, kids.

It isn’t rocket science. It isn’t new insight. Just a recalibration…but to get things working right sometimes that’s what’s gotta happen.

I’m glad it did…and I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

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