Sue and I recently sat with some alumni and spent time talking about being successful after leaving Bethel. The reality is that this experience is not uncommon for many who have experienced a ministry school or even a college or university.
Of course this is a huge subject and there are many approaches but these are a few themes which we have experienced and wanted to share.
The first is that ‘leaving’ requires a degree of separation. The main separation being from any sense of dependency. I definitely experienced this and at times it felt almost disloyal, I wasn’t being disloyal, but the process of separation was necessary in order to establish a ‘new’ way of life.
What I then realised was that once the sense of dependency on a place, a way of life, a person had shifted that I had to make a conscious decision to check my heart to make sure that in every way it was connected to those things which had brought me life.
In our case this is Bethel. A place, and I don’t apologise for sounding cliche, because it happens to be true, which saved our lives, changed our lives and gave us a new life’s purpose and destiny.
So my first point is, disconnect anything dependent but don’t disconnect your heart. In fact made a deliberate decision to keep your heart connected to the things which brought you life.
Secondly Bethel and the team gave us a new normal and home. This is I believe what happens to BSSM students. The reality is that we will never find the complete experience in one place ever again, it is unique in so many ways. What I now see is that I am able to recognise elements of ‘home’ and normal’ wherever I go. It is not unlike what we were taught by Bill Johnson so clearly, to look at what God is doing, rather than what he isn’t. Looking for home and normal is like that and my belief is that if we have successfully embraced what we were taught and experienced, then we can find an experience of home and our new normal everywhere we find ourselves.
So look wherever you are for elements of life and focus on those and you will find that your experience of the most difficult season or environment is lit up by the faintest shaft of light. It can be tempting to look at what isn’t happening, but only what is, will bring you life.
Thirdly and finally something which I recently found words for through the teaching of Donald Miller, (Blue Like Jazz and Storybrand). This is the concept of the narrative void. Whenever we have a great experience which encompasses large parts of our lives we are in danger of a void when it ends. Even a great holiday will do this for us. This is certainly the case with 1, 3 or 15 years in a very special place.
What I see as particularly important is to keep our story connected. Don’t let the story end. Start a new chapter and connect the story line to your pre Bethel experience, your Bethel experience, your present and your future. After all, He Wastes Nothing & He Gets You Ready.