Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tension and Solitude


How do you currently (or if need be in the past) attend to your soul in ways that invite you to lead from the depth of your person in Christ?

"These days there is real tension between what the human soul needs in order to be truly well and what life and leadership encourages and even requires. There is tension between being an doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things. There is the tension between the time it takes to love people and the need for expediency. There is the tension between the need for measurable goals and the difficulty of measuring that which is ultimately immeasurable by anyone but God himself. 
There's the tension between the need for organizational hierarchy… and the mutuality and interdependence of life and community. There is the tension between knowing how to work this system and entering into trustworthy relationships .… There is the tension between the need for an easy discipleship process and the patient, plodding and ultimately mysterious nature of spiritual transformation." (26)

I feel these tensions in my body each day and all day. The tension wrenches tighter when I am tired, overtaxed, self-consumed, or self-protective, and the last is my biggest fear and often the biggest problem. Barton comments on the need for soul care that calls us to withdraw into solitude, not as narcissistic navel gazing, but as differentiation in order to release the anxious fervor that conflates my work with my identity. Withdrawing into solitude is a call to myself to remember with whom my identity is joined, namely The Father who has sent the Son and Spirit, the one in whom I have life and breath and being.

I suck at solitude. But sometimes I get a glimpse at the peace which surpasses and i feel the tension erode from my body - the erosion is as Aslan to Eustace, and I long to be cut from this extra garment of protection that covers me.So those mornings when I hear God calling and respond by slowing down, I rejoice - not out of success - but out of love and desire because I can see again and feel again and be present to others again. This is joy.

I teach each Tuesday and Thursday at 8am, and my quiet time is more often filled with last minute details getting ready for class than solitude. I treasure the days, like this morning and yesterday morning, when I enter the office, press the “Help me Lord” button on the coffee machine, and settle in with Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours (I especially appreciated that February begins the springtime volume - what a hope!) The quiet, the borrowing of words, and the absence of a computer, phone, or agenda for those precious few minutes reminds me of the peace that lives between the tension points. I do not need to fight one point with the other but can rest in the complexity of the poles and tilt toward those nodes of relationship, mutuality, plodding, and trust even as expediency, spin, hierarchy, and systems remain. I can feel the tension releasing from my body even as I type these words. 

One day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own [office], and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. 
~Psalm 84:9

** I am teaching the annual Leading Christian Communities course at Western Theological Seminary. I ask them to read a chapter of Ruth Haley Barton's book, Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership, each week and respond to a prompt that integrates the book with their own lives in leading. This is the seventh time that I have taught this course with this book and now feel that I need to re-enter the content. I will be responding to my own prompts each week and posting them online, as I ask them to do.