DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Wonder?

Written by: on April 4, 2021

One theme that has popped up through my time in the LGP is that of imagination and dreaming. When I first began the program, I started with several questions:

  • Why does my church not feel like a community?
  • What is missing from my experience of church?
  • Why do I feel so alone in the midst of being in one of the most densely populated places on earth?

Wonder is the spark that ignites our imagination and dreams of a different world. Simon Walker writes, “Wonder begins with an awareness and could be said to be the basis of all leadership. Awareness is our ability to perceive ourselves and others and the world as we are.”[1]

Our journeys all begin with a variation of the thought, “I wonder…?” When we think of the Hero’s Journey, it begins with a longing, an innate pull that there’s something more outside of the hero’s bubble of existence. The hero dreams of what could be, initially not giving much thought to the trials that will stand in their way.

…but our world is not conducive to dreams. It bars our way, doing everything in its power to stop us from moving forward:

  • It isn’t practical.
  • It isn’t worth it.
  • Your dreams don’t pay the bills.
  • You’re not worthy of the journey.
  • It’s been done before.
  • You’ve tried before and you failed.

We’ve spoken many of times of the “imposter syndrome” – that feeling that we have no right or reason to pursue our dreams and goals. “Who am I that I should do this? I’m the wrong person for the job.” And just like that, our dreams are quashed and we find ourselves stuck in our mire of complacency.

…but the pull doesn’t go away. We can’t help but wonder, “What if…?”

What is leadership without imagination?

LIFELESS.

So in this world that isn’t conducive to wonder and imagination, what can we do?

  1. Read Fiction. The best place to recapture our imagination is to turn back to the stories that first captured our imagination. The canon of literature in our world is vast and stories have a way of rekindling that childish sense of wonder. When I graduated high school (all of ten years ago 😛 ), I felt my love of reading destroyed. It wasn’t until 2018 when I started to read for fun again and found my imagination reawakened.

 

  1. Write. Jotting down little thoughts and phrases throughout the day is a practice I’ve used, particularly when I go on my daily walks. A thought may occur and I’ll type it into the notes on my phone to come back to later. This helps me to make sure I don’t lose something that could be potentially important.

 

  1. Wonder with Others. Even if you aren’t a reader or a writer, conversation sparks imagination and wonder. It’s through conversation that our thoughts and dreams leave the canvas of our mind and manifest themselves in the world. Once they’re shared, they are not longer our own, but others as well. We wonder in humility, knowing there are angles we are missing and spaces that need to be filled. However, we must also be wise with whom we share, lest the cycle of dream smashing continue.

 

  1. Stay Curious. When I first began volunteering in Hong Kong, one of the best pieces of advice our trainers gave us was, “Stay curious.” Ask questions. Think and ponder. Things don’t, won’t, and may not make sense, but it never hurts to ask. We follow the Yellow Brick Road as far as it leads, but then we ask ourselves, “What’s next?”

 

 

[1] Simon Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership (Carlisle: Piquant Editions Ltd, 2007), 167.

About the Author

mm

Dylan Branson

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

13 responses to “I Wonder?”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Your love of reading fiction and the ways you incorporate that into your learning has been such an inspiration for me. I am incorporating that principle into my project this summer on death. We will focus on music, film, and books and how those mediums shape and transform our understanding of loss and grief. Thank you for modeling imaginative curiosity in our spaces of learning.

    How have these 4 life-giving practices informed your project development and implementation? What has been the participants’ response to your leading with these practices?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      When I first started my project ideas, I found the idea of diversity and community most prominent in fantasy. Typically, all of the main adventuring parties are made up of a variety of people from different backgrounds. You can see the tension as their stories come to fruition throughout their journey. Reading fiction and my writing in general has helped me to frame things within the context of journey and pilgrimage. My posts last semester were my own way of processing this DMin journey in a lot of ways.

      I think in the end, stories and questions stick in our minds more than anything. A story can put to words feelings we didn’t know we had and questions can spark curiosity or cause us to stop and think. In one of my prototypes, the different modules in it are framed as questions. The feedback people gave about that in particular were very positive as it cause them to stop and wonder immediately.

  2. mm John McLarty says:

    I wonder about when and how “wonder” became such a lost art. It seems in such short supply these days. Oftentimes when I’m working with someone, the most challenging thing is to get them to be curious or to suspend what they know for the sake of dreaming about what could be. We become our own prison guards as we put limits on what we allow ourselves to do. In your conversations with people, how do you invite them to wonder?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I touched on it a bit in my response to Darcy, about how story and questions are the great invitations to wonder. A common theme in literature is the protagonist standing at the precipice of their Hero’s Journey with a question or desire to see something beyond their immediate surroundings. The other night, I was watching The Croods and from the get go, the dad tells his family that everything new is scary and that they can’t journey far from their cave (lest they get killed). But when a newcomer shows up and starts sharing his new ideas with the family, it sparks a curiosity and wonder in everyone but the dad, who wants things to stay the way they are.

      So maybe it isn’t that wonder disappeared, so much as it’s been replaced by comfort and the desire to PREVENT the status quo from being changed. Maybe it’s fear that’s the antithesis to wonder.

      • mm John McLarty says:

        There’s also some power and control at work in the dynamic you mentioned. As long as the dad can keep the others convinced, he maintains his status. Once they venture out, he loses that. There’s probably fear of the unknown, but there’s also the reality of a shift in power. This plays out in a variety of ways. How many opportunities are missed simply because someone was too afraid or too controlling to risk?

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Dylan,
    I have often asked myself if a lack of imagination is really the problem with people. I think in many cases imagination and dreams are laid aside because the distance between our dreams and reality is filled with creative tension. Tension that takes effort to remove. Not all dreams are worth pursuing but those that are will cost the dreamer more than most are willing to pay. Dreamers are often misunderstood. What advice would you give a dreamer that has slowly lost the energy to pursue their dream?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I would say to see where the dreams lead and to learn from the dreams that never came to fruition. I agree that some dreams are not worth pursuing. Some that I pursued that fell flat left me in discouragement, but then something else came along that ended up being better than what I could have dreamed of.

      At the same time, I think we need to lean into that creative tension. There’s a cost to everything we do and that cost can be heavy. But we ask ourselves, “Is it worth it?” Is the dream of a better future or different future worth pursuing, or is it better to let it slide by? Or is it a matter of timing as well? Sometimes we need a change of perspective, which is where having others to dream with us comes into play.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    I was thinking something similar to John as I read your piece.

    “When do we lose wonder?”
    “When is wonder replaced with certainty?”

    Perhaps this is another facet of what Jesus was referring to as he called us to be like children. Unadulterated wonder seems to be the stuff of kingdom…or…as you put it, the spark that ignites our imagination of a world that is not yet but could be.

    Thanks for the ideas for growing wonder again.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I wonder if we can relearn to wonder within our certainty. If we can continue to contemplate, to see things from new angles, to find new discoveries in the midst of our certainty. Perhaps it’s the moment that we say, “I know this” and we turn off our mind to further exploration that we lose that spark.

  5. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Dylan, this post captures why it is easy to call you ‘friend.’ You’ve checked the boxes on a lot of things I’ve been considering: wonder, curiosity, imagination, to name a few. Your strongest point is wondering with others… perhaps one of the purposes of our cohort.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Definitely. I think that’s what made the discovery and design workshops so meaningful in a lot of ways. When we have people to share our vision and dreams with, it’s no longer just a thought in the back of our minds. That’s when it begins to break into reality.

  6. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Totally, imagination. There’s a playfulness to it. However, it is so important to keep the imagination light.

    The enemy sure can turn an enlightened imagination upside down, darken it.

    Practicing beautiful imagination is a sweet thing. Your first encouragement, reading for fun, has been missing in my life. I don’t think I have ever read for fun.

    If you can think of a good place for me to start with fiction and fun, let me know!

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Chris, you’re spot on about the dark side of imagination. Creativity can be an outlet for our imagination, but when it’s tinged with darkness and cynicism it can be warped into something we didn’t intend. It’s like when we begin to spiral after we start thinking of “worse case” scenarios. Just as our dreams can lead to a positive outlet, nightmares can lead to the opposite. After I wrote my first book and began the sequel, I read back and realized how dark it was. It was plagued with cynic observations about the way the world works and I found I had to put it away. In fact, the only time I found I could write on it was when I felt the angst and anger about the world. So while therapeutic, I had to ask myself if it would help other people or if it would be a detriment.

      There’s a lot of good places to start with for fiction 😉 Let me know your general interests and I can get you a starting point.

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