A New Management Style!
I was at a retreat over the weekend, focussing on spirituality or if you like, spiritual formation. It’s a religious term for trying to find and somehow commune with God, however you understand that term, and to learn how to help other people do the same. It can lead to becoming a spiritual director, but that seems a long and slightly weird path for me, but who knows!
The retreats, there are 4 a year, over 4 years ( I know, a long commitment) involves looking at those who have gone before, mystics, and sages, priests and ordinary people, who have found the something extra, something more in life. It also entails looking in the arts, or in ourselves for this presence. On this weekend just gone we examined the desert fathers and mothers, who instead of joining the crazy society of their day, around the 4thcentury CE, went out into the desert to find and hear the word of God.
The desert for them was a place they could drop their egos, their selfish ways, and their ambitions and find the source of life and love, and to recognise they were human beings, made in the image of the divine. They were often hermits, or were hermits in a community, and for long periods of time found silence the main way of achieving this connection.
The problem for many of us today is that we have little time or inclination to go off into the desert.
I don’t think we really have to, although finding a place where the worries and distractions of the day can drop away and we are left with just the spirit and the essence of ourselves seems a pretty good idea. Sometimes our world is just too noisy.
But, as well, going off into the desert to find God is not necessary because God is right here. Unless your God is planted in a place away from you, separated from you, then you carry the spirt of God with you wherever you go. You cannot be separated from the ground of all being because it is within you.
As many, including the wonderful Frederick Buechner would say, “God is found in the muck and misery and marvel of the world”. In the ordinary and every day. Or another quote from him, “listen to your life”, because that is where the spirt of life can be found, nibbling at your toes, nudging us forward towards the light of love, and compassion and forgiveness. To see and commune with the spirit, is to see this act as an essential part of being human, much like breathing. And we can do that anywhere!
So instead of going off to the desert, we have to listen for the divine voice in the everyday world we live in. God is not found external to us, in some far away place, intervening now and again when we beseech him/her by prayer. No, God is closer to us than our breath, deep in our hearts, a presence unseen but oh so real for those who have the willingness to listen.
So with that in mind I was totally taken by the people doing the course. They were people who were in the world, as chaplains, ministers, switch board operators, managers, teachers, and researchers. They were in the world, but with a sense that they also belonged to the eternal spirit that brings life. And in their day to day encounters with others, they try to bring this capacity for caring and compassion to the fore.
I laughed when one person, described her management style. She is in charge of a large number of people in a big government agency, and she has in big letters on the board a summary of how she wants to work with everyone.
Kindness, fairness and humility.
What she is saying, is that she wants to be kind, fair and humble in the way she interact with each of her staff, and she wants them all to do the same.
That’s her management style.
When she first introduced this statement many in the office went away wondering where it had come from. Was it a new method, was it an old one they hadn’t heard about?
Of course they were shocked to hear that it comes from the bible – from the prophet Micah in the Old Testament –
Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require, to love kindness, to do justice and to walk humbly with your God”.
I laughed and laughed when I heard that. She was totally unapologetic that she operates out of a faith position, that the mystery she calls God influences how she works, how she treats people and how she treats herself.
I loved the weekend, the other people attending, but I already know that when I listen for the divine presence I am not waiting for a voice calling me to attention, or yelling in my ear. I feel the presence when I perform little acts of love, when I am kind, or help seek a little more justice for someone. In my quiet moments I sense the mystery that lies beneath what we can touch and measure, that we all contain this great life giving force, and when we connect with one another in life giving ways, that force feels real.
Could I explain that to someone else, maybe, although the many people I have talked to have thought either that I was crazy and deluded, or a wacko. Yet for those who are seeking, there is a light that shines forth, that can be seen in the world and in each one of us.
But we have to look, with our eyes firmly open, to the wonders of our existence and the beauty of the earth and the incredible sacrifices so many make for complete strangers.
For it is here that I think that Spirit can so readily be seen.