Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reflecting (On) What's Wrong

(Part Ten of an ongoing series. Started long ago, way down below)

Restructuring Life

I attended law school at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) as part of a part-time program. The part-time program was designed to allow working people to also go to law school. Instead of being a full-time law student for three years, attending a regular nine-month academic calendar, this program allowed me to stretch the experience over four years, going to school year-round, including summers. What nobody tells you beforehand is that law school is so demanding that it really should be stretched out over four full-time years anyway, because the three-year program turns people into crazy freaks for the first year, until the ones who survive find ways to take shortcuts and make the last two years tolerable. Before I registered for law school, I knew it was a difficult course in study. I knew that the Juris Doctorate degree was once of more difficult decrees to attain. But until I started on the course of study myself, I had no idea how rigorous the academic experience would really be.

Doing Too Many Things At Once

During those four years of law school, I continued to be a pastor, at least in some sense of the word. What I really did for a living is that I was the “pastor” of a network of house churches. I was paid part-time to do the “job” that used to be done by a full-time staff of five people – when we were centralized and program-driven church. I also was married, and had one kid when I started law school, and two kids when I finished.

During those four years of law school my life was hectic like never before. I was a pastor, a law student, a father, and a husband, all at once. Interestingly, I found that I could do all of it if I made one major change midway through my first year of law school. That major change had to do with my office location. My church office and my home had been located on the northwest side of Las Vegas. UNLV was on the near southeast side of Las Vegas. I found myself frustrated at the end of each day saying, “I could do all of this if I didn’t waste so much time in the car.” I was in a position where I literally could not waste two hours a day driving from one thing to the next. I dreamed of how much easier my life would be if I could regain those ten hours or so each week.

A Change That Allowed Me to "Be" More, Not Do More

This issue was such a major concern in my life that I devised a plan, shared it with my wife, and we decided to take decisive and dramatic action. Without much time for planning, we sold our house and moved to a neighborhood much closer to UNLV. And that was only the beginning. I also moved my office out of our strip mall office location in the northwest side of Las Vegas and moved my office, necessary equipment, books, files, and all, into my home. And the decision to move everything into one central location – my home -- radically changed everything in my life for the better.

Based on an absolute scheduling necessity, I rearranged my life to be completely home-based. My work office was now in my home. I spent hours each week studying the law out of my home. Obviously, my family life was centered right there in my home. But I did not stop there. I started hosting many of the church meetings that were required for my job right there in my home. Of course, I still had to go to classes four days a week on the campus of UNLV. But because we had moved closer to campus, this became easier to accomplish. During the months and years that followed I found ways to base more and more of what I was doing out of my home. I did this originally to re-capture the time I was losing by being in the car so much. But the unexpected and glorious byproduct of doing everything out of my home was that my life became dramatically less compartmentalized. I now could spend a little time being a father or a husband right in the middle of my work day. I could study and research from my work office. I could return work e-mails from my laptop in the middle of class, or in my home office late at night. I could go out on a date with my wife during lunch on a Friday. I could think through my sermon for an upcoming gathering while driving to campus. The overlap of tasks made it possible for me to function in every role that was expected of me and still keep my sanity, at least most of the time. Sure, there were a few drawbacks in working and studying from home, but by and large, the positives of this arrangement significantly outweighed the negatives.

What I Learned From Being Home Based

More than anything, I learned that life was meant to be lived in a holistic way, not in the compartmentalized way that the culture around me suggested.

To be honest, I am currently somewhat saddened that my life is no longer that way. Now, I go to my law firm’s office to work. Home is family time. Office is work time. Still, the lessons from the four years of living more holistically have stayed with me.

Likewise With Church

During this same period of time I learned that church is always. It is not a compartmentalized part of my life, to be separated into its own box. I have learned to be church instead of doing church or going to church. Being a husband, father, pastor, and law student all at once, based out of my home, taught me how to be instead of how to just do. Church is meant to be just like that I think.

These days when somebody asks me if my family and I go to church I sometimes quip, “No, we are the church.” I get some strange looks when I say that. But my comment, although intentionally curious and intriguing, is gravely serious. More than what we do and where we go, we are the church. In one sense, all however-many-million of us there are the church universal. In another sense, my wife, kids, friends and I are the church relational. At other times, in gatherings of several dozen, several hundred, or several thousand, we come together and become the church, though those expressions seem less and less like the point to me with each passing day. My family and I are the church, based right here in our home, and whenever and wherever we gather with others in His name. This is especially true at those times when we become aware of His presence in our midst.