What goes around comes around

In a world where we are accustomed to fixing or replacing things, it is not surprising that we find ourselves wanting the same thing in our spiritual lives.  We want our spiritual struggles ended now.

But typically, what goes around comes around.    All the biggest issues in our spiritual lives are usually defining for us.   They revolve around early, formative experiences and relationships or around life-shaping characteristics.  And for that reason, they can’t be fixed and forgotten.  Some examples:

  • A controlling, overbearing, or abusive parent will set a child on a lifelong quest to find love and battle his or her own anger.
  • A perfectionistic streak in us can be reinforced for a first child by birth order or a demanding mother or father, launching us on a lifelong quest for grace and a struggle with a tendency to be judgmental.
  • Struggles with feeling insecure or inferior can be reinforced by experiences at school or a sibling who seemingly achieves his or her goals with ease, setting the stage for a lifelong struggle with envy.
  • Our gifts can determine that what goes around comes around.  Your talent for caring, nurturing, teaching, problem-solving, making music, writing, speaking, working with your hands, or visualizing solutions will shape the world in which you live.  Each world has its gifts, but each one also presents peculiar challenges that often last a lifetime.
  • Sadly, in many arenas even our personalities, race, and gender can present a lifetime of spiritual challenges and as economies and societies shift, it’s not always obvious who will struggle.  There are many places where strong, capable women continue to struggle with a glass ceiling, in spite of advertised progress. But as our work worlds change, there are times when the ostensibly privileged white male will find it hard to live into his life’s vocation.

So, what are we to do?

First, set aside the unrealistic expectations:

Not all spiritual challenges are fixed forever.

Second, set aside the guilt.

Just because you continue to struggle with some issues does not mean that you are a spiritual failure, that God doesn’t love you, or that spiritual progress isn’t possible.

Third, embrace the truth.

What goes around comes around.  And what goes around is often the more important, formative issue in our lives.

Fourth, embrace the opportunity.

If it’s important, this is also where you will build true spiritual momentum in your life.

Fifth, live in hope.

Some issues may come around again and again.  But if you embrace the truth and name it, eventually even the frequent fliers in our lives will yield more easily to spiritual progress.  Those who struggle to feel loved will remember more readily that they are loved.  People who struggle with insecurity will learn that their gifts are nurtured in God’s presence, their value is not diminished by the gifts that others possess.

What goes around often comes around because it needs to come back around and on the other side lies freedom.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, including forty-four entries in Doubleday’s Anchor Bible Dictionary, as well as articles in Feminist Theology and The Scottish Journal of Theology. He is author of A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). His latest work, The Dave Test (Abingdon Press) will appear in the autumn of 2013. He is also the series editor for the new Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars Study Series.

From 2000-2012, he worked as Director of Spiritual Life and Formation and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas. As one of Perkins’ senior administrators, Dr. Schmidt was responsible for programs in formation, serving over 500 students. He developed the School's program in Spiritual Direction which has thus far served over 150 students from across the country; the program in Anglican and Episcopal studies; and the spiritual formation track in the Doctor of Ministry program. Prior to his arrival at SMU, he served as Canon Educator, Director of Programs in Spirituality and Religious Education, and Acting Program Area Manager at Washington National Cathedral. In this capacity Dr. Schmidt was responsible for the development of a program of religious education and spirituality that annually provided resources for broad-based audiences of over 5000 adults. He also designed and produced workshops and seminars for ecumenical and interfaith constituencies; hosted foreign dignitaries from the Middle East and the former Soviet Union on behalf of the Meridian Institute; and developed the programmatic work and daily operations of the Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Before going to the Cathedral, Dr. Schmidt served as special assistant to the President and Provost of La Salle University in Philadelphia and as a Fellow of the American Council on Education. From 1994 to 1995, he resided in Jerusalem, where he was Dean of St. George’s College and Residentiary Canon of the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr. He has also served in numerous parishes, including St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, All Saints Episcopal Church in Hershey, Pennsylvania and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas.

His work in higher education includes service as associate professor of New Testament Studies, as a lecturer in New Testament studies at Oxford University, and as a tutor at Keble College, Oxford. He has been a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas, Dallas.

Dr. Schmidt holds a bachelor’s degree from Asbury College, the Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University. His honors include a Fellowship in administrative leadership with the American Council on Education; a Senior Fellowship with the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research; the Young Scholars Fellowship presented by the Catholic Biblical Association; nomination to Class XI of the Clergy Leadership Project, sponsored by Trinity Church, Wall Street; the Angus Dun Fellowship (Episcopal Diocese of Washington); and an Ecumenical Service Award given by Christian Churches United (an ecumenical organization covering a tri-county area and based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). He is a recipient of the F. W. Dillstone Scholarship awarded by Oriel College, Oxford; the Hall Houghton Studentship awarded by the Theology Faculty of Oxford University; and an Overseas Research Student Award, presented by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom. Dr. Schmidt is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. From 1998 to 2000 he served as a member of the Institutional Review Board for Heart, Lung and Blood Research at the National Institutes of Health and he currently serves on two Data Safety Monitoring Boards for NIH. He is Secretary-Treasurer of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars and a member of the Board of Examining Chaplains for the Episcopal Church, USA.

In addition to his work in the academy and the church Dr. Schmidt currently serves as a patient safety and ethics consultant on Data Safety Monitoring Boards for the National Institutes of Health and Allergan, Inc.

He lives with his wife, Natalie (who is also an academic and an Episcopal priest), and Hilda of Whitby, their Gordon Setter.


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