I just clicked submit for the last paper required to complete my studies. While I sit with my bittersweet feelings and uncertainty about where I go from here, I know more than before that it’s important for me to have a vision for the future. So while I wait for my final grades, I consider the places where my reclaimed time and energy can be best redirected, and perhaps those places will come as no surprise.
1. More Family Discipleship
My first responsibility and greatest privilege is not to crowds of thousands, or to a global audience via social media, or even to my dearly loved local church. The primary souls for whom I remain accountable to God for are my own congregation; my wife and boys. Sure, maybe God has equipped me at seminary to offer something of lasting value to the previous three categories of people, and I hope one day to invest in the discipleship of people from all walks of life on their journey towards a rich, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. However I must never lose sight of the family who looks to me for leadership, guidance, nurture, provision, and protection in my God-given responsibilities as husband and father. Praying for them daily is critical, but not enough. Talking to them about their day can lead to discipleship moments, but it’s not enough. I need to actively pray and plan regular, intentional moments where I deliberately invest in each member of my family; encouraging, correcting, teaching, and loving them into a deeper more mature relationship with their Lord and Saviour. There’s no denying I’ve got the tools, and now there’s no denying that I’ve got the time.
2. More Prayer
One thing that remained consistent across all classes and from all staff was the exhortation to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength – never simply with my mind. Although seminary provided countless opportunities for intelligent engagement with scripture, church history, tradition, various methods of biblical interpretation etc etc, the caring reminder to read scripture in order to encounter the living God and know him more was always there. Never was a class carried out without a word of prayer, a song of worship, or an encouragement to hear the voice of God the Holy Spirit at work in the learning. The more I’ve learned, the more fuel has been thrown on the fire of my worship, and the greater my desire to spend more time with God in the midst of daily living. More than that, I’ve come to realise that it’s when I seek first God and his kingdom, that my desires begin to conform to his desires, and my prayers are shaped by a divine will which is more knowing, more loving, and more wise than I will ever be. So I’m actively seeking more ways to reclaim times in my day for private prayer, community prayer, prayer that is undistracted, unselfish, and (in a way) unending.
3. More Running
Let’s be honest. All those text books, critiques, essays, reviews, and reflections don’t allow a whole lot of time for exercise. Especially once you throw a full-time job and a young family into the mix. We’re all well aware of the importance and value of physical activity and the benefits that a balanced lifestyle brings to self and family. Even so, it’s often (for me at least) one of the first things to be set aside when it’s crunch-time (no exercise pun intended) and the pressure mounts to meet more pressing deadlines. With one significant category of deadlines done, this is the final area I would love to see receive some time back as I take it down from the sadly neglected shelf it’s been left on for too many months. Running (and probably exercise in general) doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve seen a glimmer of the results in the past, and I’m ready to lace up the shoes and work on a few PBs again.
Without a doubt there are other areas of life that could be added to this list. There will always be something that could easily distract me (I can be easily distracted!) from these core goals. By God’s grace – and the accountability that comes with blogging my thoughts for you to read – this new journey will not stall, nor be a holding pattern until the next ‘more exciting’ thing. I ask you to pray with me (and for me) that I can take hold of these three priorities and invest in them; never losing heart, but growing myself and my family more into maturity and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour until he comes again, for our good and for his glory.