February 29, 2016—In 1990 I was asked to design a course for Trinity College in their adult education program (yes, I’m still tossing out files. I’m doing pretty good on this New Year’s Resolution no. 7. Not so much on the others). This was a degree completion course for adults in mid-career and mid-life. The project of designing that course turned into some on-going consultation work, and eventually led to the creation of a life-changing retreat.
The name of the course was “Life Assessment.” It was designed to help those adults experiencing mid-life and mid-career transition examine their stage in life, to explore their strengths, and to help them learn about setting and achieving new goals for themselves.
The course came at a providential time for me. I was starting to disengage from one vocation and considering taking on another. And as I like to remind people, “the best way to learn is to teach.” In the course of helping others deal with transition and ask questions about life goals, I found myself in the enviable position of having a laboratory in which to think through my own thoughts and examine my own inner life.
I discovered some powerful things in the process: (1) Most of us grow up with unchallenged misconceptions about life. This causes us to tend to live out of operational assumptions that may not be true or best for us, or, which we should have let go a long time ago; (2) If you give people the opportunity and the setting to engage in life assessment, some powerful things happen. The most gratifying of which is to see people come to the realization that they can discover and shape their purpose in life. One of the most powerful concepts each of those adults gained was, “I am the agent of my own life.”
During these anxious times I’ve observed that people of faith, who should of all people manifest hope and peace of mind, seem to be as anxious about the economic crisis, security, and their future as others. They go through their days worried and anxious about what “others” will do or decide about them. Rather than embrace providence, they hold tightly to myths about security. Rather than expand their horizons and seek adventure, they demand assurances and seek guarantees. It’s quite puzzling at best, at worst, it’s a manifestation of a lack of faith in what they profess. One would hope that if they cannot embrace being the agents of their own lives, they could at least turn faith into trust and allow that God is in their lives, working towards healing, purpose, and meaning.
If we are able to accept life as a gift, and see it as an open-ended journey with infinite possibilities, and to approach it in a promethean manner: life-affirming, creative, and courageously original, then I think, we move toward living out what God intends for us: Life, and life in its fullest.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H), and Theories of Learning for Christian Educators and Theological Faculty.