"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
During her second year in a three-year Master of Divinity degree, a divinity student from my church invited me to attend her "midcourse evaluation." I was to be there as her pastor, but also in attendance would be a couple of professors and the supervising pastor from her church internship.
Ok, I'll be honest. When I first got the invitation I wondered if she was in trouble. But she just wasn't the type. Still when I remembered my own school days, you only got called in for this sort of attention when you had really messed up. Imagine my surprise when I found out they did this midcourse evaluation for everyone.
There were a few papers to review in advance, but the highlight was meeting for a couple of hours, talking with her about where she was in her graduate school adventure and about her calling after that. What had she learned so far? What did she think she needed to learn more about before graduating? Were there courses she didn't want to leave without taking? We closed with a prayer.
Perhaps she could have thought about these things alone, or even over a cup of coffee with any one of us. But there was something amazing about having these four different people together, some of us meeting each other for the first time, but all of us bound together by an investment in this student.
They didn't have a midcourse evaluation, back when I was studying for the ministry. I wish they had done something like that for me, over twenty years ago (because I was, in fact, the only fourth grader admitted to the master's program that year.)
But what's to stop any of us from doing one now? When you think about it, we can all do our own midcourse evaluation, at the midcourse of anything. How's my parenting going at the midpoint of elementary school? My career? How is my volunteer project at the eighteenth month of my three-year term? How is it at the end of three years? Do I want another three-year term and for this to be the midpoint, or is this a midpoint where I consider something new?
There is something so powerful about gathering together wise people from different parts of your life, listening to them and then praying. It's also powerful to be in that circle for someone else. There's nothing magical about the timing. We can always stop to convene a few people to help us ask the basic questions. What have I learned? What do I still have to learn?
God, help me to encourage and advise others, and to ask for help myself, in the occasional midpoint evaluation. And in both cases, help me to listen to others and to you. Amen.
Lillian Daniel, author of When "Spiritual But Not Religious" is Not Enough, has a chapter in the new anthology, What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most. Follow her on twitter @lillianfdaniel.