After many years of teaching at the college level, I earned a doctorate in teaching and learning, then took early retirement and started a second career. I coach doctoral scholars as they design their research, then serve as their teacher and editor while they write the dissertation. Completing years of doctoral course work makes scholars experts in their fields, but it doesn’t guarantee skill in writing a dissertation. Some clients realize that and take full advantage of all the expertise I can give them. Others hire me, then argue with me, doubt my recommendations, question my corrections, ignore my instructions, and essentially go through the whole process kicking and screaming, figuratively speaking, resisting me all the way.
I try to be gracious, and I’m probably close to paranoid about being honest. I work diligently every minute of every hour I bill. I don’t spend work time writing flowery praise, or gently hinting about what is wrong and needs to be fixed. I tell new clients they should expect concise, targeted advice. I ask for mutual trust, the assumption that whatever we type to the other was written in kindness, and a promise to reveal hurt feelings if they happen anyway, so I can apologize and ask forgiveness.
Sometimes communication still breaks down. I asked a client to send me a list of the interview questions he used, and waited, and he sent me the answers he got. So I asked again, and waited, and got another set of answers instead of questions. So I asked a third time, and waited, and got a summary of the first answers. I got exasperated, and typed, “Please send me exactly the questions you asked your participants and no answers.”
Jesus had the same problem. He gave the apostles a clear, blunt, seven-point list of what was about to happen in Jerusalem, “but they understood none of these things” (Luke 18:34 ESV). He kept them going toward Jerusalem anyway. His own brothers didn’t believe He was the Christ, and mocked Him (Luke 7:3-5), but He stayed there in Galilee where they lived, anyway (v. 9). When his disciples didn’t have enough faith to heal a boy, he got exasperated: “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” Then He did the work others should have been able to do, but couldn’t, anyway (Mark 9:19).
I get paid to help scholars achieve their goals, but my ultimate job is to become more like Christ. No matter how much He was misunderstood or disbelieved, or how frustrated He became about that in any given moment, He pressed on and got the job done in a way that demonstrated love for those who had misunderstood and disbelieved. That needs to be my job description, too.
How about you? What are YOUR job descriptions?