In my professional life I learned to sling the jargon of strategic planning. I know the difference between goals and objectives. And I know how to write reports and proposals that make it sound like the life of an organization or a person can be arranged in a logical hierarchy: the overarching mission, then the goal, then the objectives that serve as milestones toward the goal.
Generally, however, I don’t believe it. I think life is much more organic, less predictable, and both more difficult and fun than that. Life is not logical. Life happens in the unpredicted cracks in the sidewalk of your consciousness. This is true for organizations as well as people.
But recently my life has surprised me by sorting itself into goals and objectives. True, it has done this in an upside-down way. The objectives have come first and the goal has emerged more slowly, but now that the goal has emerged the objectives make sense, they hang together. They clearly lead to the goal and are necessary if I am to accomplish it.
The goal is to write a book about Congo through the lens of the joy of worship music–écrire un livre sur Congo à travers le prisme de la joie de la musique d’adoration (I am running everything through a mental or Google translator these days).
I was not able to articulate this goal until very recently, although versions of it popped up now and then over the past year. I have only sensed the need for a Next Big Thing, a major writing project, without being able to define it.
Instead, certain objectives presented themselves one by one. I have been acting on these objectives without knowing the goal, in fact, because I didn’t know the goal. I didn’t know what the Next Big Thing was but I could do each of these smaller things that presented themselves and captured my attention. (I have blogged about all of these but won’t pepper this post with links.)
1. Learn. I edited a book about the Congo Mennonite Church in late 2011 to early 2012 and in the process learned the church’s fascinating history, something I hadn’t learned in my three years in Congo back in the seventies.
2. Go. But my involvement with Congo Cloth Connection predated that, and I went to Congo last May with that project. I had a great time and my love of Congo Cloth expanded to include Congolese church music.
3. Network. Following up on both of these things, I decided to go to Congo again for the centennial celebration in July. Thus in the space of a few months I was drawn into a network of warm relationships with Congolese Mennonites.
4. Deepen. Last fall I began working with a spiritual director and established a meditation practice.
5. Publish. I decided I couldn’t move on to a Next Big Thing until I decided what to do with a manuscript that had been languishing for several years in the “what am I going to do with this” pile. In the course of a few months I revised and published it as The Dream Matrix.
6. Energize. The July Congo trip had worn me out. I decided I needed to lose weight and adopt a diet and fitness regime for maximum energy. I have done this over the course of the past eight months: Weight Watchers, gluten-free, mostly vegan, 3 miles a day. Two-tenths of a pound to go as of today to reach my goal (objective!) weight.
7. Flow. My daughter-in-law gave me a Christmas gift prompt that led me to adopt the word “flow” as my theme this year, to keep all these streams flowing and moving in the same direction. It worked when I needed it most, in the first quarter of this year.
8. Dream. Publishing The Dream Matrix prompted me to lead a dream class in church and pay attention once again to my own dreams. Some of this sequence has emerged through those dreams.
9. Partner. The Congo relationships have continued to blossom as I work on a partnership between my church and a congregation in Kinshasa, host visitors, and address cross-cultural challenges.
10. Write. Writing this blog has catalyzed each of these developments because I write my life—I write about it and I write my life into being if that makes sense. But in addition, just as I was beginning to dare to articulate my goal, an opportunity came up to write—to travel to Congo in September and October of this year to report on the ordination of the first women in the last branch of the Congo Mennonite Church that had been holding out on ordaining women. Choirs will be there. I know some of these women. My husband and I are beginning to plan our trip.
All of these objectives just happen to lead toward this newly articulated goal. This, my friends, is how I experience God. God is in the gift of the goal, God is in the timing of each of these so-called objectives. Maybe God is the great Strategic Planner.