Here we go! Welcome to week one of our spring 2017 semester. I have been so excited. I prepared all last week to get back into our DMIN rhythm of researching, reading, blogging, and Zooming. I even fell asleep Sunday night looking forward to our Zoom at 7am PST Monday morning. However, it has been difficult for me to reenter this week though. On the surface and on the outside everything was in it’s right place. I was conscious and aware of what needed to happen. But what sabotaged my week were enemies unseen. These wicked warriors of doom scouting around my subconscious fought hard to keep me from success. In the end though, it’s Thursday and if you’re reading this, my blog is posted.
The issues of what lies beneath the surface and success are two big topics David Brooks describes in The Social Animal. Creating a story taking place in the perpetual present, Brooks uses his characters Harold and Erica to synthesize recent studies regarding non-cognitive skills and success. His premises is that real life, real successful life is lived out from so many unmeasurable things that are located below the surface. These two topics of unseen forces and definition of success are helpful in my life as a pastor, teacher, and DMin student researching bivocational pastors.
My pastoring over the past couple of years has shifted since I’ve been reading and following Pete Scazzero. One of his Emotionally Healthy Spirituality concepts is that people are like icebergs. We show just a small part of who we really are. Like an iceberg where up to 75% of its formation is unseen, below the surface of the water, humans are complex and consist of mostly unseen, or what Brooks calls “non-cognitive” skills. Consequently, a person can be a Christian and still be a huge jerk; super spiritual, but emotionally a baby. Some people are very mature and emotionally astute, but lack any recognition of the spirit.
Brooks’ fictional characters, Harold and Erica not only show Brooks’ diverse knowledge of pop culture, but also his synthesis of much of current sociological thought in that on the outside people crave status, money, and applause, but on the inside we really desire harmony, connection, cause, and ultimately love. I liken Brooks’ subconscious to Scazzero’s description of the iceberg. Outside and inside become above and below surface. Harold and Erica, like all of us, demonstrate behaviors that are visible and can be judged as good or bad or in the case of Erica’s adultery, immoral. What Brooks and Scazzero are both saying, is that humans act out from a tremendous amount of things that seem invisible, but are so powerful.
By nature, definitions of success are based on cognitive skills and attributes because measurability is inherent within the concept of success. How do we know something or someone is successful unless we can quantify it? Brooks says that because of this, most people base success on IQ, wealth, prestige and accomplishments. The problem here is that non-cognitive skills are almost always hidden qualities that are not so easily measured but they are the building blocks of a happy and fulfilled life. It’s tricky!
Success and immeasurable qualities, like Brooks’ emphasis on our character, is especially tricky in churches. My research last term uncovered a huge problem in my tribe. Most bivocational pastors think of themselves as unsucessful and consequently pastor with a good amount of guilt and shame. Also, the exact number of bivocational pastors is unknown, but could be up to 50%. This means that up to half of Vineyard USA pastors are feeling bad about themselves. This is not good. One way to combat this is to culturally change the definition of success.
As a teacher I want to be like Harold’s English teacher, “Ms. Taylor’s goal was to turn her students into autodidacts. She hoped to give her students a taste of the emotional and sensual pleasure discovery brings – the jolt of pleasure you get when you work hard, suffer a bit, and then something clicks. She hoped her students would become addicted to this process. They would become, thanks to her, self teachers of the rest of their days” (82). To do this, I need to make room for more than just facts and figures. Brooks gives me permission as a teacher to focus on not just more educational hoops for my students to jump through, but on what really matters in life. Who my students are becoming and who they marry are two huge aspects of what I want to teach. Character does indeed count.
It has been raining off and on in Los Angeles all week. The cold weather combined with going back to work to both of my professions has created a significant lack of energy for me. It feels like I’ve been walking barefoot uphill in the snow both ways all week. Autoimmune disease aside, the enemy called “Low Energy” has been subdued for now though and I look forward to all that God has for us this term.