There are days when my head makes me think I’m 19. The rest of me acts as a brake on that thought.
I turned 60 yesterday. It seems like it should be some important milestone. I suppose it is. But I can’t think of it that way. There’s still too much to learn, too much to see and to be.
A friend of mine who retired from where I work told me a few years ago that she thought of me as a poster child for continuous learning. There’s a reason for that. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to reinvent myself many times. Newspaper copy editor, corporate magazine editor, corporate writer, corporate speechwriter, PR guy, issues manager, supervisor, philanthropic outreach 9I got to give money away), community relations manager, environmental issues manager, email newsletter editor, speechwriter to one of Fortune Magazine’s “seven toughest bosses,” web site manager (back when it was original and hardly no one knew how to do it, including me), change communications leader, independent consultant, community facilitator, spokesman for an urban school district (and a district in crisis), speaker, bankruptcy communications manager, supervisor again, social media team leader, blogger, writer, storyteller, poet.
I suspect that a lot of people have had careers like this, especially if you entered the work world in the 1970s – constant career reinvention. We were the generation for whom American business broke the famous employee-employer contract, and career re-invention became mandatory.
Re-invention just hasn’t been at the office. Then there’s faith.
If I could draw, and if I had to draw a picture of my faith, you would not see an orderly progression of growth toward spiritual maturity. The growth of my faith did not happen – is still not happening – in a linear, orderly away fashion. My picture is messy, with lots of smudges and scratch-outs and overlays and implants. Some of it is in color, and some of it is back-and-white. Parts have been erased and drawn over. There’s nothing chronological about it.
One of the smartest things I did for my faith was to take several college extension courses offered through the church we attended in Houston in the mid-1970s. I didn’t have a strong understanding of the Bible, and I needed to understand basics. The pastors taught several courses, and over two to three years I took classes in Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey and Bible Study Methods. These courses provided the basics of understanding that Id id not have.
In the 1980s, as part of a master’s program at Washington University in St. Louis, I took seminars in Athens and Jerusalem, History of the Early Christian Church, and Science, Creation Science and Pseudo-Science. Despite studying at a university rather famous for practical atheism, I found my faith challenged and stimulated.
In the 1990s, I taught Children’s Church for half a year and children’s Sunday School for four years. I taught an adult Sunday School class on the subject of being salt and light. Teaching, and especially the teaching of children, had the effect of deepening faith. In 2002, I went on a short term missions trip to Eastern Europe, and experienced faith as I never had before in a small church in Erfurt, Germany, in a building that had been a former communist social hall.
This may sound linear, but it hasn’t been. There were gaps and setbacks and occasional reversals. There were dry periods, empty times when faith seemed artificial. Some of these would happen in the middle of the growth times. That experience in Erfurt happened in the middle of a “winter” period, when it seemed the church I has been a member of for almost 15 years was collapsing around me.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is asking the question, what season of faith are you walking through? It is fall, with its letting go, or winter, with its loss and waiting? Is it spring, the time of new starts? Or summer, with its time to embrace and celebrate?
The answer for me is, it is all of these. It has always been so. At times some elements have been stronger than others, but all four have been present continuously throughout this journey, more a pilgrimage, I’ve been on for almost 40 years of faith.
For me, it’s been all the seasons, all the time.
To see more posts on the seasons of faith, please visit Faith Barista.
Photograph: Dark Street by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.