Next week, as part of my First Call Theological Education (a program for pastors in their first three years of ordained ministry), I will begin A Journey of Renewal. It’s a yearlong program that begins with a retreat and continues with monthly “telephonic coaching sessions” (their term, not mine).
I got a fancy little binder about it in the mail, and it describes itself like so:
A Journey of Renewal will challenge and empower you to further discern who God has created you to be so that you live a healthier life for the sake of ministry.
If this description has you rolling your eyes, trust me, I hear you. (Or, you know, see you. Through the Internet. Whatever.) There is something about this kind of group introspection that makes me roll my eyes a little, too.
But be honest: doesn’t the idea of a journey of renewal sound pretty good? Wouldn’t you like to be your most authentic self in a way that renews your life, your relationships, and your vocation? Cheesy or not, I know I could use a little renewal in my life right now.
As part of the preparation for our opening retreat, we got a special access code to do the Strengths Finder 2.0 strengths assessment. So, I answered a bunch of questions online, feeling pressured by the twenty-second-per-question time limit and the knowledge that some algorithm was judging me over the Internet.
Half an hour later, I got my top five strengths: woo, empathy, positivity, input, and communication. I hastily read the descriptions of each strength, waiting for the part that says, “the negative side of ‘woo’ is that you are too concerned about how others view you.” Or, “being so positive means you are sometimes oblivious to the reality of suffering.” You know: the downside. The negative. The minus.
But guess what? It never came! The Strengths Finder really is, as its name suggests, about finding your strengths! It’s about uncovering your talents and applying your strengths every day, in ways big and small. (Okay, I’m kind of guessing at that last part, since I haven’t actually read the book yet.)
I don’t know why I was so surprised. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to seeing both the law and the gospel, the sinner and the saint. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to being asked not only, “What are your strengths?” but also, “What are your weaknesses?” Whatever the reason, this assessment that truly accentuates the positive was an unexpected gift.
Thanks, Journey of Renewal, for making that happen. I will try not to roll my eyes too much next week.
Although: whenever someone says “telephonic coaching session”, all bets are off.
What are your greatest strengths? How do you use them?