Sprinting to the End

We bought our tickets yesterday.

While Meg has been ramping up emotionally for a while, I am postponing a lot of those feelings for nearer to our departure. But setting an official leave date was a significant moment. We will arrive in the US on January 12th, 2015. In just under five months, our family will leave home to return home.

I have a lot to work through—feelings that are at odds with what I think I’m supposed to think. Stuff related to my motives for coming to Peru in the first place, including my relationship with God, dreams, ambitions, and various factors of rather uneven spiritual value. Disappointments and lessons learned. Joys and sorrows. Just life, I guess, but it was life here. Anyway, my plan is to blog through these, hopefully regularly until our departure.

Right now, my primary thought is, “Sprint to the end.” I want to finish well. But it’s hard to know what that means. On one hand, it is remaining faithful in the everyday work despite feeling like mine is a contribution with an expiration date. My input becomes increasingly less relevant to long-term decisions. The window for unmet goals shrinks to a matter of months and feels impossible. The hope of correcting past failures withers. “Sprint to the end” in this sense is not the thought of the accomplished athlete finishing with discipline but of the guy who is still running the race after everyone else has already crossed the finish line, wondering what would be the point of the extra effort. On the other hand, it is doing well the things that this new phase requires. It’s time to do transition work again. So we’re starting on our RAFT, a device many expatriates have used to make a good exit and return. It entails:

Reconciliation (in borken relationships and unresolved conflicts)
Affirmation (of the people in our lives)
Farewells (in timely and intentional ways)
Thinking Destination (being realistic about life upon return)

This is a big part of our work now, and just coming to terms with that fact is really hard. But it’s time.

Sprinting to the End

Terminal Fit

I’m in the process of applying to PhD programs. Postgraduate programs. Terminal degree programs. I like that last one. It sounds definitive, if ominous.

It’s tricky business. Aside form all the usual hoops, there is this big hairy thing called “fit.” Do I fit with the faculty’s interests? Do my interests fit with the program’s design? Will I fit anywhere? Trying to find the right programs to apply to makes me feel like the proverbial square peg.

I’m making it hard on myself, but my research interests are what they are, and I can’t see spending the crowning years of my academic training on something else for so irksome a notion as fit. I’m interested in interdisciplinary study, you see, which means I’m rejecting the academy’s venerable tradition of specialization. I want to make hermeneutics and biblical theology and missiology talk to one another. Alas, but missiology is a rather underrepresented field in postgraduate studies, and hermeneutics isn’t really at home in any of the theological disciplines as they are usually formulated. What to do?

I’ve applied to Fuller Theological Seminary, but it’s a long wait to hear back. In the mean time, I need to explore other options. I wonder if I will find a fit or become a fit.

Terminal Fit

Ecological Ethics

I’ve been working through a course on ethics with theology students in AQP, including a section on ecological ethics. Simultaneously working on the next issue of Missio Dei on “watershed discipleship”—a bioregional Christian response to our current ecological situation. I’m a newcomer to the ecological conversation, but my initial response, in the context of a broader view of Christian ethics, is that it looks like it will be analogous in my generation to the American civil rights movement. Except that it’s a global conversation. As I write these words, I know that to some they will seem like the most obvious statement possible and to others they will reek of dramatic overstatement. But that is part of the analogy. The profound change of lifestyle and reordering of relationships that ecological ethics entail will be led (only in part but critically) by some Christians who have the moral imagination necessary to follow Jesus into a reconciled relationship with creation. A great deal of Christianity, however, will spend the next generation little by little making public apologies for moral failure and delayed response. The former is what interests me—not the unlikely attempt to avoid the latter. How do we recognize those with eyes to see a different future? Because what matters ultimately is that the prophetic word be spoken into the present, even by a fragile few. I say this as the farthest thing from an activist. As far as I can tell, repentance is going to be inconvenient, painful, costly, uncertain, dangerous, and discouraging all at the same time. On a personal level, I’m rather repelled by it. But I’m trying to listen to those who are already further along the way. Trying to hear. I confess, it’s disconcerting.

Ecological Ethics