This Post by Emily Hunt who is in SFC
It’s been a few weeks after New Years, the point of tension whether New Year’s resolutions are either kept or broken. Deep down most people are really grateful for a chance at renewal, the promise that you are even allowed to give grace to yourself. It’s a season to perhaps to focus on the present and not the past, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
This holiday break I was, as I usually am, wading through lines at airport security, trying to catch up with family and friends, and finishing off some reading from the past year. One of my favorite authors is Parker Palmer. Not only because of his bent towards an educational vocation, but because of the holistic understanding he portrays in his writing, and assumedly his life as well. While specifically geared towards educators, his book “Let your life speak” is available to anyone who finds deep passion and commitment to their work, and seeks to incorporate a spirit of living by pushing a little bit of soul into the tasks of the day, even those deemed mundane or monotonous.
As a community at simple free we all finds ourselves at various walks of life and of work. We share in common a commitment to Loving God and neighbor, and redeeming moments that have been lost in great anticipation of what lies ahead, a new kingdom. Palmer defines leadership by saying “for better or for worse, I lead by word and deed simply because I am here doing what I do.” Regardless of position or title, each of us is called to set an example in speech, life, love, faith, and purity, just to name a few. Palmer boldly states that a leader (read, a human) is someone with the power to project either shadow or light upon some part of the world, and upon the lives of the people who dwell there. A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A good leader has high awareness of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good. I like this. Living in a community I tend to be hyper sensitive to others shade casting and they tend to be highly in tuned with mine.
As peculiar people (a term regularly used by Jamie Smith author of Devil Wears Derrida, see Andy’s previous post for another stellar author), we are called to lean into the light and push away the shadows, in ways both big and small. Here are a few practical things we could all implement in our daily lives specifically at our places of work or dwelling. Palmer quotes a variety of individuals including a favorite of mine, Annie Dillard, as he implores that we as people learn to let our lives speak, and to lead from within. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks…and the life lives…so does the worker works…you get the point.
Impending shadows that may come by default (if we don’t make a conscious choice to work these out) include:
· Insecurity about identity and worth. You can easily impose your own insecurities on others and thus cause chaos for them and yourself. Hit the pause button before you let this go further and choose to regard the dignity of that individual and consider them better than yourselves.
· The belief that the universe is a battleground. Everything is a competition and battle to be won. You are either on one side or the other. Instead, Palmer exhorts us to strive for collaboration and mutual growth and the sky will be the limit.
· Functional atheism. Palmer defines this as the belief that everything that happens is up to you, and if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. Supposedly this leads to burn out. I could see that.
· Fear of the natural chaos of life. We believe in the efficiency model; that everything must be in order, have its process and its place, and if we miss things, then it failed. I appreciate his comparison to a the failure of a scientific hypothesis- which is actually a success since it showed you what didn’t work! Sometimes, the most creative ideas come out of pure chaos. Don’t be afraid of it.
· The denial of death itself. We hold on to things that probably should have been let go awhile back for fear that when we they die, part of us dies as well. This relates back to the first point about identity and worth.
If we are serious about living in another kingdom, and living out freedom, then the way we go about evoking a new reality should be intentional. It comes down to the moments and not just the big decisions. May our lives speak of what is to come, and continue to lead by doing what we are here doing.
Mark 4: 18-19 “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.