The more conversations I have about the book Sacred Strides and dig into the themes in the stories, the more I find myself going back to some of my own source material, which is not to say the stories I wrote about my own life, but the words and the reflections and the teachings of the people who informed that life again, it’s not experience that we learn from it is a reflection upon experience. And some of the people I’ve read over the course of the last 15-20 years had been very, very helpful in clarifying and helping me to learn from my experience, maybe none more, quite as profoundly as Parker Palmer, when it comes to vocation, you may or may not have read the book, let your life speak is really a book about vocation. It’s about how we do what we do and who we are in it. In that book, he writes about self-care. And it’s linked to service, which is a conversation I end up having, specifically with pastors, but with pastors and artists in my coaching context, but also, again, in the conversations I’m having on the other side of releasing the book sacred strides in a chapter called selfhood, society, and service, he writes this self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer. Anytime we can listen to the true self and give it the care it requires. We do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we will touch. There are at least two ways to understand the link between selfhood and service. One is offered by the poet Rumi in this piercing observation. If you are here faithfully with us, you’re causing terrible damage. And then what Palmer does is he writes his own rendition of that same line, and I like this better. He says if we are unfaithful to our true selves, we will extract a price from others. Friends, I don’t make massive sweeping cultural analyses all that often. But I’m somewhat comfortable saying that some of what we’re seeing in the disarray of religious life, organized, institutionalized religious life, is not because organized religion is bad. It’s not because institutionalizing things that matter; that’s not negative in and of itself. Some of what we’re seeing in the disarray of organized, institutionalized religious practice in America has to do with the number of false self-actors who are organizing and leading religious spaces, spaces that promise a pathway to the true self. So folks like you and I are showing up in institutionalized, organized religious spaces, hoping, dreaming, and wanting a pathway to wholeness and to belovedness. And those spaces, far too many of them, are being led by persons who are not living out of or even truly pursuing their own wholeness. They have given themselves over to this utilitarian mindset that basically convinces folks like myself when I was living in the pastorate that I can’t bring my whole self to the table because it’s not what these people want. These people do not want a person who is still in process; they want me to have answers. They want me to have strength all the time. They don’t want me to have limits; they want me to be available all the time. That the requirements of the job, the demands of the job, the expectations that people come to that job with and for actually invite me into something more like a divided life. I cannot give you my whole self. I don’t really want to, and I don’t think you want me to either, but I will give you the best of my false self. Meanwhile, that’s going to cost everybody in the long run. And that’s part of what we’re noticing now is we’re going to witness and are witnessing the dissolving of the disintegration of persons and religious leadership. These are not on the whole persons that showed up with corrupted mindsets with ulterior motives. These are oftentimes women and men who showed up to serve in ministry positions. As pastors and caretakers of a place of love. They wanted to do the work itself, and then the demands of the culture and sometimes the demands of the person showing up in the seats in front of them or in the boardroom. asked of them something very different than homeless they asked for a mechanism. They asked for utility. They demanded that their limitations be cast aside. They demanded, in fact, that they not be full people but just be as useful as they can be in the quote, “role of pastor or minister” One of the reasons I wrote the book sacred strides is, well, it’s one of the reasons I push my pastor friends, my minister clients towards a regular practice of rest, not because the work itself is corruptive, but because in order to do it well, I have to remember why I showed up. And that comes with time. And that comes with practice. Because the noise of doing things right, the noise of doing things effectively, will drown out the desire and the passion in me to do things well and wisely. And from a place of love. It actually means doing things more slowly so that I can enjoy what I’m doing. And here’s the real trick. When I mention false self-actors, running and organizing institutionalized religious spaces, I’m not talking about people who showed up to act; I’m talking about people who no longer believe that it’s valuable for them to enjoy their own work. One of the ways we move out of a posture of utility and acting and performance is that we look into our own souls, we pay attention to what’s going on in our guts, and we decide it is not just okay, it is, in fact, necessary, that I am fully present to this job. And the surest metric of full presence is joy. What if Joy was a primary metric for success? In order to get there, I have to know what brings me joy. So I have to take regular stops along the way in my work to look back over the last week, last month, last year and say, Where was I most fully alive? Where am I least fully alive? And how do I build my Ellenville vocational practices in the direction of life, not just so I can enjoy this thing, but because I know if I’m experiencing joy, then I am more present? And if I am more present, I’m giving the best of the gift I have, which is my whole self, including my limitations.
Links For Justin:
NEW Single – Let Go
NEW Music – Sliver of Hope
NEW Music – The Dood and The Bird