By Deb Conklin
As I start this New Year, like many, I’ve considered some resolutions. I have only really committed to one: being less driven and more brawn.
Last fall, I attended a gathering of United Methodist clergy from all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho. During clergy gatherings, there are typically invitations to share stories about our ministry and about our own wellbeing. In my small group, one of my colleagues talked about his efforts to become ‘less driven and more drawn’. (For him this related to his ministry and his faith. But it could relate as well to any work.) As he talked about deadlines and deliverables, many of us were nodding in understanding. How is it that clergy (those whose primary calling is surely to pastor the community) become bureaucrats with time lines and deadlines, benchmarks and spreadsheets?
The phrase ‘less driven and more drawn’ has struck a chord with me. My life these days is all about ministry. I pastor two tiny congregations asking end of life – congregational life – questions. And I am working to create a new faith community called The Oak Tree, with beginning of life questions. This work consumes every moment that I am willing to give it… and more. Sometimes, I feel very much driven.
And so I find I am asking myself, what would it look like, for me, to be less driven and more drawn?
The first step, and the one that I will work at daily and likely never master, is to acknowledge that it is not my responsibility to be perfect, to ‘succeed’ at ministry — to be driven. It is my job to give it my best — to plant the seeds. It is up to the Divine Spirit to produce the ‘success’. [For readers who are not theistic, I know that these terms do not resonate. I believe the process is applicable across faith (and no faith) platforms – it just needs different language. I invite you to find the language necessary for your platform/worldview.]
Most of us want to be successful. We may measure it differently — personally, financially, politically, spiritually — but most of the time success is still about me and what I personally, individually can accomplish. But we are not isolated individuals, we are part of a bigger whole. We are members of a local community. And so letting go of the perfection model involves, at least, seeing ourselves as partners in this community, rather than lone rangers.
Here is one example of what being less driven and more drawn might look like. We live within a fragile ecosystem that demands our collective attention. Many insist that we have already passed the tipping point in the environmental crisis. While that may be true, I believe there are things that each of us can (and should) be doing. Everything I do affects those around me… and eventually affects the cosmos. It is easy to feel driven to solve the environmental crisis.
But what if we shift our lens and invite ourselves to be drawn to care for our ecosystem (what I call creation)? What if we step back and take the time to fall in love with nature … again? Instead of YELLING at ourselves and at others for not doing enough, we might invite ourselves/them into an adventure, perhaps even a love affair with earth/nature/creation. Joseph Chilton Pearce wrote a series of books back in the 1970’s about human development. (The Magical Child, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Exploring the Crack in the Cosmic Egg.)
These books had a profound affect on my views of life and development. Pearce argues that one of the problems of our culture is that we do not bond with the earth; that we do not make the connection that lets the earth become the foundation on which we stand, that supports our development. I have experienced the truth of this in my life. And I know that when I forget to renew my connection to the earth/nature/creation, I get emotionally and spiritually untethered and lost. Perhaps if all of us restored this nurturing connection to the earth, we might find ourselves in love with it, and drawn to care for it!
This is only one of many areas in which I can switch from being driven to solve a problem to being drawn to experiencing nurturing.
I also frequently find myself driven to participate in community events. I know that community is critical. And I am deeply committed to building healthy community at all levels. And yet, I often isolate myself. I am someone who cannot be constantly around large numbers of people. I need my alone time to restore my energy. So it is way too easy for me to hide out in my office or my home, alone, away from other human beings. Rather than seeing community participation as a task, a chore, an obligation that I am driven to meet, how do I reframe it? How do I let myself be drawn to community?
The reality is that when I let myself become isolated from community, I become depressed. So I know that I need community. And I need to find ways to remember that community as a blessing. Perhaps if I am gentle with myself, and gift myself with deeply nurturing introvert time guilt-free, I will look forward more to community time. If I focus on doing well the part that comes naturally, then I will look forward to, and deeply appreciate, the times for being in community.
I know none of this will solve the challenges to become less driven and more drawn. But these are my reflections on some first steps… I’d love to hear how others are finding ways to be drawn rather than driven!