Friday, November 13, 2009

Lessons Learned

The late Dan Fogelberg had an obscure song on his Netherlands album called Lessons Learned (FYI- this is my 80th day of blogging and my fourth Fogelberg reference.  I must be on pace to set some sort of record!). I always loved the album and the song, especially the chorus:

Lessons learned are like bridges burned,
 you only need to cross them but once
Is the knowledge gained worth the price of the pain?
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

Looking back, my nine months in New England were all about learning lessons.  I learned that theological labels can be be very misleading.  Working at New Garden Friends had made me somewhat of a liberal outcast in NC Yearly Meeting in the early '80's.  My faith in Jesus Christ made me a raging evangelical in New England.  Having been seen as part of both extremes, I saw how much damage could come from labeling, and I would try to avoid doing it to others.  I learned that I didn't know anywhere near as much as I thought I did.  My knowledge of youth ministry was superior to most, but I had so much to learn about the church and about Quakerism and about people.  Learning how much you have to learn is a valuable lesson indeed.  I learned that I was not as independent as I thought I was.  I needed friends and family around me.  At the same time, I learned that without friends to lean on, I could always depend on God.  My faith had deepened a good bit in a short amount of time.  Professionally, I now understood that working in the Yearly Meeting office- any Yearly Meeting office- was not for me!  I needed a church family and a group of students whose lives I could be involved in on a regular basis.  I had been called to ministry, not to administration, and I needed to return to a local church- and now I was.

The most important thing I learned, however, is that God uses us in failure as often as He does in success.  Leaving after only nine months without having made any major impact made me feel like I had failed God.  Hindsight enables me to see that I was there to be a John the Baptist type- God brought me to NEYM to prepare the way for Chris Jorgensen (in picture with Tim Harding, modeling the latest in Lady Liberty wear!).  Chris did indeed get the job after I left, and served for a number of years making a huge difference in the lives of youth all over New England.  So the answer to Fogelberg's question is yes.  The knowledge gained IS worth the price of the pain, especially when Jesus is doing the teaching!

I headed out of Massachusetts a week before my wedding, still not having resigned, but ready to take the position at Springfield Friends Meeting.  Marilyn and I had lots of decisions to make- but first, it was time for a wedding!

Because of Jesus,

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