Thursday, January 24, 2008

To plan or not to plan

Last week I posted about expectations. I have continued to think about what is (and is not) expected of me and about goal setting, both professionally and personally. Chai wrote up a list of 108 goals for 2008 that blows my mind. I jotted down a list of my own that is nothing compared to hers, but, you know, some of us just have to take baby steps.

Here's my 13 for 2008:
1) Clean out my closet
2) Sort and get rid of excess knick knacks
3) Make a habit of fasting at least once a month
4) Go vegetarian for a month
5) Slow down while eating and don't double task during meals (read: no internet, no TV, no phone calls)
6) Learn to roller blade
7) Finish quilt for my bedroom
8) Take a dance class (on-going)
9) Finish Jerusalem wall-hangings
10) Make 4 baby blankets for friends
11) Exercise more regularly, including strength training and cardio development
12) Write and publish at least one prayer weekly
13) Write a monthly devotional

I spent a couple of days this weekend with my parents and my dad and I talked a lot about this expectation business and goal setting. I sort of feel like I am at the next stage of growing up (and let me tell you I seem to be fighting tooth and nail). I seem to be moving from external expectations and accountability to the need for internal expectations and accountability. I think part of the difficulty is that I was always in the world of education/academia. I spent 21 years in school where there is structure, a known order of development and achievement, degrees and diplomas to be earned and an obvious "next step" which follows. Sure, I had short term and long term goals--up my SAT score, get good grades, participate in X, Y, and Z, graduate high school, go to college, get a career. But none of those were terribly original or even self-generated. For me not going to college was not an option. In my family you go to college. Pure and simple. Not that that was a problem, it just was what it was and that was true for grad school too. The question was not "Will I go to grad school?" The question was "Which grad school will I attend?" There was always an outside voice to give at least general direction and clear ways to achieve a goal.

And now, I seem to be in grown up land where no one wants to tell you anything about expectations (unless you count the rather overbearing and unachievable ones of doing 20 visits a week, preparing the most fabulous sermons you've ever heard, bringing in 500 new people to the church, and fixing the issues of poverty, mental illness, and abuse in the valley while I'm at it). I told my dad that I feel like I stepped into a vacuum. "Do what you want/can" seems to be the motto, which for someone who has spent life in school living up to the expectations of others seems to be a most overwhelming task. Couple my general lack of experience at self-imposed expectations and accountability with my minimal experience in my field and I have no idea what is realistic or where to start. Acknowledging my desire for a truly diverse church that is committed to issues of justice and the reality of our homogeneous and often inactive churches, is it realistic to set a goal of a complete turn-around in 3-5 years? Is it feasible to truly diversify a church in 5 years? To change our habits and customs such that we truly make a difference in our community in such a short time? And if it is, is it then practical to simply say, "Yeah, I wanna do that 5 times over in my lifetime? Or are the goals supposed to be more varied than that? Not disregarding quality, am I supposed to do as many things as possible? (I started making this list too and already have a number of things I could mark off).

Pastor a church
Be a camp counselor
Be a camp dean
Lead a youth retreat
Lead a local church retreat
Lead a young adult retreat
Lead a district event
Lead a conference event
Do international mission
Do international study
Pastor cross culturally

Is it really supposed to be about achievement? Is my focus supposed to be on goals? Or on doing as many things as possible? Or growing into the image of what/who I think I should be? Or?

Or am I simply supposed to live as faithfully as possible, try to embody those things which I value, care with compassion, listen with understanding, lead by example, challenge those I lead with integrity and honesty, and simply "do my best" each day and pray that God will use those actions to lead me to where God wants me to be? Do I need to set goals and expectations and enforce some level of accountability or do I simply need to live the gospel and my call as fully as possible and trust that I will then get where I need to be? That sounds like the more faithful answer, but I do have to wonder if it's a cop-out so that I don't have to set any goals. I suppose the larger questions are who/what I want to achiever? (that's one of my gifts on some gift assessment...) a day by dayer? a tried-her-bester?

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