Friday, January 01, 2010

Looking back, looking forward

2009 has come and gone, and I've seen lots of folks do different kinds of retrospectives (Top/Bottom 10 lists, etc.) on the year. Since my year was consumed by two defining moments, the birth of my daughter and the loss of our church building, I'm not sure I can really wrap my mind around the year just yet.

I'll probably do a retrospective on my first year as a father later this month when Kate officially turns 1. And the recovery and rebuilding work we've done over the last six months will bear fruit over the course of this year, so I'll revisit it at some point. So the jury is still out on Matt's 2009.

Another thing I've seen folks doing is retrospectives on the past decade. Yes, I know the calendar purists argue that there's another year left in the decade, but the years 200_ have ended. Plus, this has been the first decade of actual adulthood for me (although that's also debatable!), so I'm looking back to where I was when the 2000s began.

Note- this is the only picture I could find of myself from 2000. This is me at a laundromat somewhere in Grundy County, TN, doing laundry with my Mountain TOP staff. For some reason we thought it would be funny to "ride" the dryer.

On January 1, 2000, I was nineteen years old and a freshman at Butler University. I was majoring in political science and considering adding religion as a second major. Of course, my second major would quickly become my priority and I would end up dedicating my life to studying religion, specifically Christian theology and how it is practiced in the world.

Some of my friends claimed that this was an odd combination of majors, since one is not supposed to talk religion or politics in polite company. But less than two years later, on September 11, 2001, we all realized how intertwined these two subjects really are.

Ten years ago I was a few months into my first youth ministry job at Speedway UMC in Indianapolis. What this church was doing hiring someone as young as me to work with teenagers, I still have no clue. I was very aware of how in over my head I was, so I probably called my mentor, Will Penner, a couple times a week for advice.

Local church ministry, whether as a youth pastor, associate, and now senior pastor, has taught me many things about myself, about the nature of humanity and how we relate to one another, and even a thing or two about God. But perhaps that first impression, that I'm in over my head and have no idea what I'm doing, has been the greatest lesson ministry has taught me. When I realize how little I know and little control I have, I become more dependent on God to guide me, which is probably the idea in the first place.

I've given up thinking that I'll ever "arrive" and be completely comfortable in my role as a pastor. I have, however, become more at peace with that discomfort, and I hope I will continue to grow in this way.

Ten years ago I was also involved in campus ministry with Campus Crusade. If you asked me about my goals ten years ago, I probably would have said that one of them would be to be the leader of Crusade's praise band, which I eventually got to do. My spiritual life at the time was very much fed by praise and worship music.

Perhaps it's partially the result of some negative experiences with Crusade and evangelicalism generally, or just my own growth and change in preferences, but I got really burned out on praise and worship music, and I've never really regained my taste for it. In a world that's full of noise and clutter, I find rock band praise music to be just more noise. There are those, my wife included, for whom it's very beneficial, and that's great. But I increasingly find myself more drawn to contemplative disciplines that force me to slow down and block out the many distractions around me. I find it much easier to listen for God's still, small voice when there is less noise around me.

I enjoyed writing ten years ago, but I didn't know how big a part o my life it would become. In the past decade I've been very fortunate to get to write for a number of different online and print publications. Hopefully this will continue to be part of my personal and professional life.

If, on January 1, 2000, you asked me where I'd be in ten years, I'm not sure what I would have said. I probably would have said I'd be married by then. I probably wouldn't have said I'd have a child by then, because my parents were both in their 30s when they had me, and I figured I'd follow suit. I certainly would have said I wanted to only have boys! What I got was way better than what I ever could have imagined.

In the past ten years I've collected a pair of degrees, met and married the love of my life, gotten to travel to a number of interesting places, met a lot of interesting (mostly wonderful) people, and become a father. All things considered, not a bad way to spend my twenties.

1 comment:

Will said...

Outstanding retrospective, and I agree wholeheartedly: not a bad way to spend your twenties at all. By the way, your hat tip to me is completely undeserved, bro. I appreciate your friendship very much, bro, and I'm incredibly proud to be a part of your life.