Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Knowing’s Edge

Written by: on October 19, 2020

The inside of Knowing’s Edge is unlike anything I have ever seen. Thick, overstuffed armchairs dot the room and eclectic artwork lines the walls. Long wooden tables with dinner’s remains await to be cleaned, but no one actively makes their way to do so. The room itself is dimly lit with a thin haze of smoke filling the air. A strange tension hangs in the room, one that seems poised on the edge of something great about to happen but is simultaneously tinged with a sense of anxiety and dread. I shrug out of my traveler’s cloak and hang it on a peg by the door. A chill runs through my body as I move toward the Innkeeper, a portly man with a long mustache and twinkling eyes.Fantasy tavern by fmikeart on DeviantArt

“Haven’t see you before,” he says.

“I’ve just started my journey,” I say, taking a seat at the bar.

He nods. “I can see that. You don’t have the wear and tear of one who has been on the road for long like some of these others.”

He gestures to the rest of the room where five others are scattered about.

“Do you get much business?” I ask.

The Innkeeper chuckles. He fills a mug with fragrant spiced wine and passes it to me. “There’s a steady stream of people. Most pass on to the next stage of their journey soon after arriving while others” – he shoots a glance toward the five – “like to stay for a bit. These five are regulars, you see.”

I look at the five regulars, taking a sip of my wine as I do. “Maybe you can help me,” I ask. “Has a Pilgrim passed by here?”

“Haven’t seen the Pilgrim in a long time,” the Innkeeper says. “They eventually pass this way though, if you’d like to wait a while.  Take a load off and I’ll grab you some of my famous stew.”

I nod and the Innkeeper hustles toward the kitchen. By now, the five regulars are staring at me from their respective tables. Feeling uncomfortable, I grab my mug and take a seat across from the nearest one, who has a sketchpad laying before them.

“It’s quite chilly outside,” I remark.

“I wouldn’t know,” they say airily. Paint smudges their cheek and charcoal lines their fingers.

I sit there awkwardly in silence for a time. “T-The Innkeeper says that you and you friends are regulars here.”

“Of course we are. We are the ones who inhabit the immediate space between Knowledge and the Unknown. We refer to ourselves as the ‘Edgelings’ if you will.”

“Edgelings?” I ask.

They nod. “We are the ones poised to seek the unknown at a moment’s notice. It isn’t a matter of ‘if’ so much as ‘when’ for us. My compatriots are the Explorer, the Psychotherapist, the Scientist, and the Entrepreneur. And I, my friend, am the Artist.”

“I am the Expert,” I say with a slight bow.

The Artist laughs. “An Expert? Is there truly such a thing?”

I’m taken aback. “I’m sorry?”

The Artist chuckles. “My friend, if there is one thing we have all learned from staying at Knowing’s Edge and the Unknown, it’s that those who claim to be ‘Experts’ are simply those who grew tired of the Journey and created a Tower for themselves.”

“I, well, yes. But I did not get tired of the Journey. I simply found the end of it.”

The Artist laughs. “Ah, you truly are an ‘Expert’ then.” They raise their glass mockingly. “Tell me, why are you at Knowing’s Edge, then?”

Tavern by anotherwanderer on deviantART | Fantasy inn, Medieval music,  Fantasy

“I…was discontent.”

The others perk up at this. “Discontent?” the Scientist asks.

I nod.

“With what, exactly?” the Entrepreneur asks, taking a seat next to me.

“I…I’m not sure exactly.”

“You’re at the right place then,” the Explorer laughs.

I look at them curiously.

“Hopefully you’ll will stay a while. I would like to look deeper into this,” the Psychotherapist says, studying me closely.

The attention is growing more and more uncomfortable. The Artist looks me up and down. “You’re looking for the next stage of your Journey. But you’re not sure where to go yet, yes?”

I nod slowly.

“We’ve found that the best way to figure out where to go is to simply not go anywhere,” the Explorer says jubilantly.

I look at the Explorer in shock. “But…you’re an Explorer. Isn’t ‘going somewhere’ part of your identity?”

They nod. “Of course. But how do I know if I’m going somewhere new if I haven’t taken the time to ferment on the edge? You see, we all have an idea of where we should go, but that doesn’t mean it’s the place we will go or if it’s even the best choice.”

“So you…do nothing?”

“For the moment at least. I follow my intuition. The time will come when I leave, but it won’t be a moment before. That’s the thing with exploration: It can take you anywhere you want to go, but only if you’re patient and have support. There’s always some kind of risk involved.”

“It’s the same for all of us,” the Entrepreneur says. “In our professions, there is always some risk involved. For the Artist, they must learn to inhabit that creative space. For the Scientist, they must be comfortable with deviating from what has already been established. I mean, how many scientific discoveries came from playing it safe? For the Psychotherapist, working with people is always a risk. You never know what you’re going to get in there. They always have to check their assumptions at the door and unknow what they think they know. For myself, I have to give myself the space to fail. I can’t tell you how many of my ideas tanked.” They all laugh at that.

The Artist nods. “We don’t know your story, Expert. But we commend you for taking the step out of the Tower. That in and of itself is a huge risk. We don’t know where you’ll be going next, but as long as you’re here at Knowing’s Edge, we’ll let you process whatever it is you need.”

I’m humbled by their kind words. Bowing my head in thanks, I lift my mug in a toast.


Images taken from:



About the Author

Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

16 responses to “Knowing’s Edge”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    So are you doing the artwork for this story, as well? I always sense a note of Gandalf the Gray in your words. Such wisdom and grace. Have you spent time at Knowing’s Edge? How did you resist the temptation to move along before it was time? I have found waiting is tough in a world that expects action.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I wish I was talented enough to produce this art hahaha. DeviantArt is a treasure trove for fantasy art.

      To paraphrase the Hulk, “That’s my secret, Darcy. I’m always at Knowing’s Edge” 😉

      Nah, but in all seriousness, I do find myself there a lot. Especially in the last year, I’ve found myself teetering on the edge of trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go / what I’m supposed to do. I’ve taken bites and nibbles at the hook, but the hook never fully caught. I was dragged along certain paths, but the hook soon fell out and I found myself at new crossroads. Sometimes I feel myself dipping my toe into the river only to find the current isn’t strong enough or it’s too strong, so I camp out on the bank waiting…and waiting…and waiting. But you’re right: It gets discouraging after a while. We want to know what’s next, but it’s not something that’s actually owed to us. It’s that moment or posture of trust.

  2. Greg Reich says:

    Love the next chapter in your saga. Part of having the heart of an explorer is knowing when to take the journey and knowing when to pass on the journey and prepare for the next possibility. As you note not every journey is worth taking. I wonder if leaders need to spend more time learning discernment?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Greg, I was reminded of you as I was writing this. Hearing your stories of taking the different risks you have throughout your life and into this program has served as an encouragement of what it means to both bide your time and to make a decision. It’s like you’ve said before in regards to joining this program even. You were pulled in different directions and there’s many things you WANT to do, but the feeling that there’s only enough time to do one thing well. Your “last hurrah” as you’ve said. That discernment of knowing which journey to take, of being able to pause and seek the path we’re called to journey on, is of paramount importance.

      • Greg Reich says:

        I am flattered! I think a good understanding of self as depicted in A Failure of Nerve is key to knowing which adventures to pursue and which ones to let pass by. There are no lack of directions an individual can go. It is easy to live off the excitement of someone else’s calling (adventure), but the true test comes when faced with ones own calling. I alone am accountable for the stewardship of pursuing my calling (adventure). It is with this in mind that I focus my energy.

  3. John McLarty says:

    Are these new companions for the journey? Or is there a temptation here to set up shop with the regulars and merely contemplate the journey ahead? It seems like the edge comes with some temptation- as it offers both an element of excitement, but also security. How long do you plan to stay? How was the wine?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      This is part of the tension of the communal part of the Journey. Depending on who we surround ourselves with, they will either push us to journey with them, or they may tempt us to stay put. There’s safety and security in that. I remember reading Francis Chan’s Letters to the Church and he was explaining how with his house church models, they are only meant to be together for a year at a time before they divide. This was the design so that they could build community, but also so that they would not become stuck in it and build their own “Towers” so to speak.

      Knowing’s Edge can be a great place, but it can also become a Tower in and of itself. Sometimes when we’re standing on the edge, we need it to crumble ever so slightly to give us that push into the unknown. But the haze of the wine and comfort still softly call…

      • John McLarty says:

        You described perfectly the tension I often experienced during my church planting years. From the very start, there were pioneers (at least a few) who craved the adventure of climbing the next hill, but there were lots of settlers, who would look for a good spot to establish something that felt somewhat permanent. I think it’s human nature to seek the comfortable and familiar, but I grieve what we miss when we settle.

        • Dylan Branson says:

          You’re sparking some further thoughts in the old noggin.

          What if we were to see the establishment of churches / organization as waypoints along the journey? Where the settlers stay for a time, establish the “settlement”, raise up leaders to come after them, and when it was time, they move on to the next adventure? The idea would be to continue this cycle.

          Continuing the metaphor a bit, what if our churches acted as “shrines” or resting points for people along the journey that gave them a space to rest, but also charged them with the mission to continue along the path?

          What if we no longer saw our churches as permanent “homes” for people but rather as an inn for the weary traveler?

          We’d have to learn to fight the complacency that comes with familiarity, but it’s also a charge to lean into the unknown and stop ourselves and others from becoming fixated.

          • John McLarty says:

            I’d love for the church to think of itself as a sort of resource for those on a journey. That would involve a lot of breaking down and building back up. Far too often, people get locked into the “lower room” aspects of the place, programs, people, and personalities and get fixated on the preservation of these things, even to the point of sacrificing the mission and purpose. The problem is of our own making- we’ve elevated structure (and structures) that depend on commitment and investment, and a sense of ownership. It’s a big ask to get people to undo all of that. Yet at the same time, church shopping continues to trend at an all-time high, so it seems like some people are already doing exactly what you’re talking about, just from a consumer standpoint instead of a journey of discovery.

  4. Shawn Cramer says:

    Interesting how all of our devotional readings and analytical readings deal with risk – beyond the threshold, into “new world” horizons, in the face of fragility. I like your archetypes in this piece, and you nail the Entrepreneur.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Moving beyond our fragility has definitely been a theme woven throughout the whole program I think. Learning what it means it means to have that “skin in the game” and yet also being okay with pausing and reflecting before making our move.

  5. Jer Swigart says:

    Initially, I didn’t prefer the idea of lingering long at Knowings Edge. By the end of the piece, I longed to be there and to process with this group of travelers. To sit and process and explore and think and imagine with pilgrims with different perspectives and insights often unlocks new discoveries that will serve us well as we continue the journey.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Jer, I was reflecting more on that wayside inn and who all would be there and had this image of our cohort there. How each of us are at Knowing’s Edge waiting to see what the path ahead is; The Peacemaker, the Innovator, the Pilgrim, the Mystic, the Entrepreneur, the Pastor…especially as we prepare for the next phase of our research, we sit at Knowing’s Edge, not knowing exactly where the path leads.

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    Hi Dylan, thanks.
    Counting 6 of us?


    • Chris Pollock says:

      I’m sorry to be so late responding to your post. It again inspires the imagination, your story.


      It’s a risky place on the edge of things. Love the label ‘Edgelings’; I think I referred to ‘them’ in my post however, in a different way.

      The ‘Edgelings’, as I perceived them, aren’t necessarily the ones who choose their state and journey but, they are the ones whose state/plight has been determined for them (here). What do you think about the possibility of ‘the least of these’, the ones who’ve been marginalised, outcast and excluded as being the ones closest to the Kingdom and ‘knowing’?

      I don’t know. Thoughts on the Big Story inspiring.

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