Sitting on the beach going through some edits with a colleague last week:
‘I don’t feel like this is work, it feels more like a holiday.’
‘hmmm, it is work, we are working right now.’
‘yes but we are on the beach!’
Nice work if you can get it!
So last week the European leaders of our movement, and some team members, gathered in Leptokoria on the east coast of Greece for 3 days and 4 nights. This meant shared meals, times of worship and devotion, long afternoons lazing on the beach or in cafes, late night meetings and intense conversations. The things I shared in last week’s blog were front and centre in much of what we did together; there were things to discuss that people felt passionately about and we needed to discern God’s voice in it all.
When we gather for business and to work out God’s way forward for us, its important that we hear from everyone. This is based on the assumption that God will speak to and through each person, so if we want to hear all that he is saying, we need to hear from everyone. But what does it mean to hear from someone? Its too easy to let them speak, make all the right noises, and all the while simply be thinking through what you want to say rather than hearing them. To hear someone requires my full attention.
Last week we had Greeks, Albanians, Brits, Ukrainians, Australians and one American in the mix. So there are cultural considerations when it comes to hearing each other, in many cases there were basic language barriers with individuals needing to have someone interpret for them. It turns out that I may hear the words you are saying but your meaning might be entirely different to what I understand. That takes time and patience on all sides; both those listening and the one sharing must grow in their understanding of each other’s framework of meaning so that communication is clear.
We had a male nurse amongst us and someone asked him if he ever got called ‘Sister’ in his work. In the UK and Australia Sister is a title given to a senior nurse, traditionally female; that’s where the question came from. I’m pretty sure from the nurse’s response that he thought he was being asked about being referred to as a girl because of his career choice!
Amongst us we also had many personalities, from varied backgrounds with different passions. I think the biggest lesson I took away from the week was that for this process to work there needs to be a commitment from everyone to the process and the goal we are trying to achieve – that is, discerning God’s voice together. We all come into these processes with our own bag of personality, prejudice and passion, making a point, convincing others of our perspective and even pointing the finger can be where we all start. But if we don’t move from there to a place where we appreciate and value every other person’s view point and contribution, we waste time and can even derail the process.
When this happens, leadership is required to remind each other of our goal, and to call us back to the values that enable us to achieve that goal. As we each do the work to see through every other person’s eyes we get to see a picture far bigger and richer than our own individual perspective. Together we have the mind of Christ but its as we each do the work to separate and set aside the ‘worthless’ of our own personal, broken, agendas that spring from our pain, from the ‘precious’ part of us that truly does seek after God, that we get to speak the heart and mind of Christ to one another and into the situation.
I am happy to say that I think we got there last week, but I sure learnt a lot in the process!