Word of the Week

The Journey

Saturday morning in deacon's meeting, we shared a moment of lectio divina with the Mary Oliver poem, "The Journey." I was shocked that this poem was a new find for most in the room-- for it has been one of my favorites for a while now. It's a poem that has always spoken to me about the need to stay true to myself and to listen to my own intuition.

And, of course I begin thinking about the ministerial life.  . . .

Especially in a people centered profession where everyone seems to have an opinion about something around the church, it is easy for ministry types to be swept away quicker than we know it. For example, often people want to tell me what to wear, how to speak, what to say, what not to say, and how to lead. It is not that wise advice from time to time isn't and can't be helpful. But the temptation is to be consumed in what others think and to make decisions based on these judgments, not what is best for the group as a whole that I've been asked to lead. It is easy to live our lives as pastors in such a way that all we are doing is pleasing everyone and have no idea what makes us happy anymore or doing a good job of serving anyone either.

For me, this poem claims the fact that there are times when as a leader you simply know what to do and you must do it no matter what. One of the most powerful tools God has given all of us, I believe is our own voice. I see so many around me struggling to recognize their own voice and to see its power, but it is there nonetheless. We all have a voice. And I believe we rob the world of some its greatest gifts when we live out our journey led by the voices of others, not our own. Creativity has a voice and must be heard, otherwise it dies. What's your journey in recognizing your own? How have you come to understand like Oliver talks about that the only life you can ultimately save is your own?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.