Today was my second day in my new job. It has felt like a bit of a whirlwind these last two days. I have spent most of my time just trying to keep up with what is happening around me, trying to figure out who does what, and get on top of the tasks and meetings that are increasing as each day passes.
Expectation is a powerful emotion.
These last two days I have felt the pressure of the expectations of others ? having a title (choose any of my titles, Reverend or Doctor) seems to create some expectation of what I am able to do. These expectations are flattering, and in fact they are quite helpful since they open many doors and create some wonderful opportunities. However, in reality titles mean nothing! I may have a doctorate, and be an ordained Methodist minister, but in this environment I probably know less than the lady who brings tea into the many meetings! I have a lot to learn, and I have to learn quickly.
Then there are my own expectations. I have longed to hold my current post for some years now! Today I sat with Dawie Spangeberg to get an overview of all of the ministries that I will have involvement in, it was awesome to see how much is being done, and what good it is achieving for God's Kingdom by bringing change, renewal, healing, and hope to people across the globe! I knew that I would be doing some exciting things, and I know that many of them will require me to be more creative than I have ever been, to work harder and longer that I have ever worked, and to excersize more courage than I have ever had to employ. My expectation upon myself is also high! I don't want to let anyone down, and certainly want to do my very best with all of the wonderful training, experience and growth that I have gained thus far in life. In some ways I feel that I shall have to be a bit like an athlete, stretching and pushing myself beyond what is comfortable, in order to 'take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me' (Phil 3:12).
There is a rich vitality to those three verses (12-14) in Phil 3 ? they are filled with energy, exertion, and purpose. In order to grasp the intense exhortation that Paul is making one needs to understand that this section is framed by a particular Greek word, teleios. The easiet way to explain the meaning of this word is to relate it to the English word with which it shares a common root ? telescope. The Greek word, teleios refers to an end, much like a telescope looks towards some far off and distant place. However, the end, in this case, is very particular in nature. It refers to a 'perfect end'. What is equally important in this context is that one recognises that Paul is not speaking of some abstract perfection. No, the use of an illustration of physical exercise to reach a specific, perfect, goal (the prize), helps us to understand that the kind of perfection that is required here is a functional perfection! It is about doing the best (practically) that we can with what we have.
He gives the following advice to achieve this perfect, functional, goal ? first he says in verse 13 that we should forget what is behind. He uses a very particular Greek word, epilanthanomenos from the root epilanthomai, which literelly means to 'become comfortable' with your memory of the past. In essence he is saying, leave behind what must stay in the past, and comfortably integrate what you need to take into the future. Why? Well quite simply if you get stuck in the past (if you cannot let it go) you will never have the freedom to reach for the perfect prize. So, I have had to let go of many things that I thought I knew and have the courage to learn, and unlearn, certain things in order to move ahead.
Second, he says that in order to go into the future one will have to 'strain towards what lies ahead' (verse 13). The Greek word used here is epekteinomenos which comes from the sports arena, it means to stretch, to strain, to exert oneself in a manner that is not 'comfortable' or 'normal'. The best way in which I can describe the complex meaning of this word is to liken it to the feeling that you get in your hamstring (that muscle at the back of your leg) when you reach to touch your ties while keeping your knee locked. The stretch in the hamstring is an epekteinomenos, it is uncomfortable, but when it is done carefully and intentionally it increases your strength, endurance and performance.
I feel a little like this, needing to 'comfortably forget' my past life while 'uncomfortably stretching' for the future that my new life holds.
In the next week I shall participate in an International Transformation Network conference here in Somerset West, I shall attend a public broadcasters convention and give input on new media and the emergent Christian conversation, I shall have lunch in parliament, fly to Johannesburg for meetings, fly to Pietermaritzburg for the 'Mighty Men of God' conference, go to Kenya, and prepare for a trip to Israel in two weeks. By the end of this year I will have been in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Kenya, Ghana, and England.
There are great expectations, but there are also great rewards! What an incredible privelage to be part of this great ministry!
You know what the best part of all of this is? I am in an organisation that takes my family seriously! Megan, Courtney, and Liam are invited out, catered for, and cared for. They are always welcome at meetings, conferences and events. Megie has even been offered the opportunity to come on two of the overseas trips with me with expenses paid!