Week 7: Pursuing Piety
Song for February. Listen => Footsteps (on finding Holy Spirit in nature)
I began my first letter to you, back on December 31, by saying: “You are the most important person in the world right now.” The world needs you, rising leader, to lead us out of the mess we have made of our planet, our geopolitical situation, our democracy, our race relations, our communities, our houses of worship and even our approach to piety itself. The duty falls to you to show us the path to renewal.
In this mission, your leadership skills will be put to the test. Those skills are important, but they pale in comparison to your goodness
When you carry goodness in your heart, you will marshal resources, muster the power of science, strategize and organize to do good. Good leaders do good things. Where does your goodness come from? It flows from a centered soul. And that’s where the problem lies.
Today’s world doesn’t create much time or space for soul cultivation. We spin around like perpetual motion machines, rarely slowed by a reflective thought. From first awake moment to first drift into sleep, we dogpaddle down an endless river of digital distractions: texts, Facebook messages, TikTok posts, tweets, breaking news. Our crowded calendars cause us to fly in a fluster from pillar to post. At work, efficiency, productivity and pragmatism reign. If ever surprised by a brief moment of downtime, cheap experiences lure. No church on Sundays — too many distractions. No morning prayer — our phones beckon with new nuggets of nothingness. And so we drift aimlessly along — floating away from the quiet, away from the sacred, away from soul work, away from our true selves, away from Spirit God.
I myself have spent long periods caught up in that river. With ego distracted, my soul is left untended and unexplored. It grows covered in weeds and thorn bushes. Pathways through the tangles become ever more impassable. I become preoccupied, self-centered, caught up in obsessions, less capable of serving others.
My return to sacred shores begins when I sense a light tug of holy longing on my heart. A spark of honest reflection flickers, I become conscious of an emptiness, and I pay attention to that tug. And so it will be with you. No external lifesaver will be thrown your way. Weekly church, daily prayer, solitary meditation? No community norms exist anymore to encourage these. Only as you discover your longing for the sacred within will you begin to fight the current, will you struggle towards the shore where Spirit God awaits. Don’t worry– He will see your thrashings; He will take it from there:
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” — Romans 8:26
With just the slightest free will movement on our part towards God, He will reach past all the distractions to touch our hearts.
Time and again, the Holy Spirit has come to me in the symbol of wind. He came in a storm when I was twenty years old, as lightning struck me to the ground unconscious– a dramatic prompt to a big life reassessment. He appeared to me in a whisper on a faith retreat, softly saying, “I forgive you.” He came to me as my father neared death, saying, “Do not worry. He is with Me.” And he comes to me now in this moment as I write to you, in gentle breath, as my grateful lungs fill with the mystery of His love. Storm, whisper, breath– all are manifestations of the Spirit in wind.
Rising leader, can you open yourself to the Holy Spirit, coming to you in a storm, a whisper, a breath? This can only happen if you create time for God. This is the first step in a life of piety. If you open yourself up, Spirit wind will blow into your life. With a gust, some weeds and thorn bushes will uproot and fly away, clearing your view. You will see your path as it twists and turns into the distance. With new eyes, you’ll discover that it leads right back home, back to where you started, back to your original goodness, back to God.
Our time with God is important for our souls, but it’s also a vital aspect of leadership formation. If we are to stay on the goodness path and not fall back into the river of distraction, we must welcome each new day as sacred. We must be reminded of our connectedness to all things and all people. In time spent together with God, alone and in a church community, we live the discipline of piety– and by doing so, we sanctify our day. We become open to metaphor. Soul and Spirit in communion, we feel the roar, hear the whispers, and sense the breath of everlasting Life within us. We become grateful. We begin to think of ourselves less, without thinking less of ourselves. In piety, day by day, blessing by blessing, we become ever more ready to lead in service of others.
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” — Job 33:4
Next week, let’s dive into healing waters. In encouragement,
P.S.: In my poem for you this week, I introduce you to the unreflective leader, who in the end is struck by the wonder of a brief reflective thought.
ME, MYSELF AND
Said Dickinson: the soul should stand ajar,
and so give portal for God Spirit wind.
“Soul! Muddy, contradicted, searching far —
knock, knock. Will you let Me, Spirit, in?”
But sure no fruit sprouts from this holy drear.
What waste to sit still, pray, contemplate —
To rattle around in space betwixt my ears —
Whilst strategy and plans urgent await.
I see clear the problem — its power to destroy!
I envision solution that cuts to the root!
I’ll design, architect, build and deploy!
My people, my tech, my thoughts so astute!
But sometimes I wonder if — my oh my —
Could more be inspired if not so much “I”?
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