The bigger they are, the harder they fall
One of the hard parts about closure is the “price” you pay for doing something. The price is spent time, spent resources, investments in people, education, business, etc.
The greater the price, the greater the success (or the greater the failure). The smaller the price, the smaller the success (and the smaller the failure).
Closure is easier when the price is smaller. We love a movie where the hero risks everything and wins in the end – success is all the sweeter for the whiff of death.
But when we returned from Asia and I found myself going over and over the time we had spent there, and thinking about what we had accomplished (and what we had not), of the good things and the bad, weighing things in the balance, wondering about what we should learn from it, what we should do next – I didn’t find closure very easy at all.
Being able to navigate from ending to beginning is necessary, so making “closure” easier at an individual level is important. This is one of the reasons why “little bets” – small experiments, individual segments in a career – can be key, especially with an uncertain future.
At ActBeyond, we have a kind of theoretical segmentation of a person’s missionary path: the potential recruit, the applicant, the invitation to candidate conference, the acceptance-as-candidate, deputation-and-training, ready-to-go, field arrival, first year or two (language & culture learning, internship), second year or two, etc.
We have found it usually takes anywhere from 4 to 10 years for a missionary to become really effective at church planting and movement-starting on the field. You can’t just assume every candidate will make it the full 4 to 10 years. You shouldn’t necessarily count them a failure as individuals even if they fail to make 10 and beyond. Helping them navigate the phases between these stages is an important part to longevity. One stage may have gone poorly for them, but if they have ‘closure’ (learning, integrating, leaving baggage behind, pressing toward the mark) they have a better chance of entering and doing better (succeeding?) at the next stage.
Looking for and finding the markers between stages, reducing the time and cost of each individual stage, and learning to do the “time between times” just as well as you do “the times” themselves, can be a key part of whether we ultimately succeed or fail. As a simple example: how do you get closure for today? how do you start fresh tomorrow, having learned from today? I have found even a simple journal can help with this.
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