It is hard to write a first sentence of a new blog. Starting a long term writing project like a blog, I naturally hope that my writing will prove to be of value to readers and have an apparent literary quality. But that sure puts a lot of pressure on a first sentence- or a first paragraph. One is liable to never get started at all.
While enrolled in my Doctor of Ministry program I took a class exploring the relationship between work and self identity. One required text was a remarkable book by the poet David Whyte named Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. It has been easily three years since I read the book and two insights from it still play a significant role in how I think about questions of work and identity. The first insight I translated into my career identity is that the solution to burnout in your career path can be most counter intuitive solution imaginable: put more effort into your work. If you embrace your chosen field of work without resistance, caution or fear you may find a renewed sense of purpose in your work that connects back to the inner passion that first attracted you to the work in the beginning. When you grow weary of your purposeless job responsibilities, give it everything you have until you find purpose in your work.
I believe this wisdom applies quite well to any career that you have invested a lot of time and energy into. It was certainly valuable to me in going through the homestretch this past Fall of writing a thesis, completing counseling hours for graduation, serving as a vacancy pastor of a mid size large congregation, and most important of all, being an important part of my wife and son’s life. Committing to writing this blog will be another opportunity of mine to try out Whyte’s wisdom.
In beginning to contemplate writing a blog about theology and counseling I have experienced mixed emotions of excitement at the possibilities of this new venture, as well as a certain level of tiredness at the prospect of working at an ongoing project. Since I have recently completed a challenging four year Doctor of Ministry degree program, my first impulse about this blog has been to give in to the tired feeling and simply post old material from my collection of sermons, papers and my dissertation. Good news, as I sit here and write it turns out there is plenty of energy and desire to put faith into action through writing.
The second insight I gleaned from reading Whyte’s book was how formidable and difficult is the task of getting started with a truly purposeful vocational venture. In writing my thesis: “The Spiritual and Psychological Effects of Online Social Media Use on the Marital Relationship”
I dealt with varying levels of procrastination for four years. Easily 75% of the work I did was completed in the final three months of my program. Getting started with something that is substantially meaningful to your vocational identity is so difficult because it requires you to believe in yourself. It is a prolonged process of writing that first sentence and then erasing it because you feel you have not quite achieved the impact and literary weight your imagination really contains somewhere inside there.
Getting started is a difficult task because it takes that leap of faith that you are in fact capable of carrying out what you are starting. Also there is that nagging question about whether what you have to give in the world has purpose, value or meaning. Getting started this evening I am taking the leap of faith that writing about the place of theology in counseling is of significant worth to my vocational identity and will also prove equally valuable to readers who want to understand where faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world fits in with the questions of purpose and identity that are inevitably a part of all experiences in the healing space and setting of counseling.
–The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD-Proverbs 16:1