A TIME TO LISTEN
At least every couple of years, and in times of extreme stress more often, you should deliberately pause to reflect on the nature of your call that has led you to this position as a staff in the judicatories of the church.
The first step in doing that is to choose at least a couple of hours that you can set aside and go to a quiet place. It may be a chapel in a church, a hiking trail in a park, a spot at the top of a mountain, etc. Especially if it is outside, hopefully you will have chosen a pretty day that allows you to be nurtured by the beauty of nature.
Once you have arrived at the spot, enter in to a brief prayer that can calm your spirit and set aside some of the stresses of your position. It would probably be helpful to do some breathing exercises to relax you as well.
Then let your mind wander back to those early intimations that began to form your original sense of call. Whether you knew it at the time or not, now as you reflect on these experiences, deliberately consider God’s hand guiding you. Then slowly move forward in your life and consider how different experiences shaped your understanding of your call. If it led to seminary and ordination, again consider how God worked in both the positive and not so positive parts of those experiences.
GOD’S INVISIBLE HAND
Keep moving forward through your additional positions in service to the church. For some it has come out of secular employment, for others it was a call to a church, or maybe you went directly from seminary into serving the larger church. However it took shape, watch it as if it were a movie playing before your eyes and note how God has worked with you in both the exciting and challenging times.
Reflect on what happened to move you to your current position. How had your previous experiences prepared you for this call. What was it about the call that fed your spirit? What were the challenges that you saw and how have you responded to that which you sensed God calling you.
Take some time to reflect on how that sense of call provides you with some of the gifts you need to creatively respond to the present challenges of your position.
HEARING ANOTHER PERSON HEAR YOU
The musings of our minds are important but they become more powerful when they result in some public testimony. Find a colleague, preferably not one to whom you are accountable or who is accountable to you, and invite them to hear your story.
This would be an excellent opportunity to take advantage of Skype to share with someone from another area. There could be value in building a relationship with someone in a similar position in another denomination. Regardless of your choice, whether in person or through technology, you need to build a relationship before you are going to feel comfortable sharing with any depth.
Once you are ready, ask your colleague to hear your story in the explicit form of God’s involvement in your life. What I mean is, regardless of whether you are used to talking in this manner or not, this time as you tell your story, in the manner that Scripture does, anthropomorphize your story of God’s involvement in the evolution of your call. Risk verbalizing that God gave you this gift or worked with you in this experience with this result that led to God’s calling you to this position. Of course there is value in the more abstract and sophisticated form of describing your call, but I am inviting you to experiment with the concreteness of a child in telling your story. I think you will find it a powerful experience.
If your friend is willing, there would be double value in inviting him or her to have thought about God’s call in their own life as well.
THE SPIRIT OF SPONTANEITY
Now ask your colleague if s/he would be willing to listen as you spontaneously talk about where you think God may be leading you over the next five years. Speak from your heart and allow yourself to hear what is coming out of your mouth. Ask your friend to reflect with you what s/he has heard. Allow yourself to ramble a little and even correct yourself as you talk. This is not a final product but a work in progress.
Especially if both of you invest in this process, it may take more than one or two sessions to speak and listen to each other and to reflect on what you hear. Both as you talk and listen, allow your third ear to listen to what God is saying to each of you.