DMINLGP

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

The Seeker

Written by: on September 14, 2020

I move toward the window and draw back the curtain, shielding my eyes from the sunlight that pours through the window.  As my eyes adjust, I can see people wre flooding the streets and making their way to the various ivory towers scattered throughout town.  Each tower marks the residence of another Expert – those gifted in philosophy, theology, mathematics, literature, and economics among others.  I catch a glimpse of the visitors, each wearing travel worn robes.  I blink in surprise.  Seekers?  It’s been so long. 

The Seekers are those who come to the Experts seeking to understand and glean something from our wisdom.  They approach us with humility, never questioning what we have to say.  My heart stops beating and my discontent is satiated as I quickly make arrangements for any who would come seeking my knowledge.  This was the one time I willingly invite and allow others to enter my tower.  They come to Seek, not to Challenge.

I move to the dais on the bottom floor and take my seat in the gilded high backed chair.  I stroke the armrest that is inlaid with jewels and gems.  I’ve earned this.  I’ve earned my seat of power.  Surrounded by my endless tomes, I revel in the power that knowledge has granted me.

Time passes slowly as I wait.  The sunlight that was streaming through the window begins to darken as the sun passes its zenith.  The candles burn low and frustration begins to stir my heart.  Does no one care what I know?  Surely there must be someone.

A knock at the door rouses my attention and I sit up straight, my heart hammering.  Clearing my throat, I call out, “You may enter.”

The heavy mahogany doors creak as they open.  I need to get those hinges oiled.  A Seeker hesitantly enters the tower, their eyes wide in wonder and awe as they fall on me in my great seat.  Pride wells inside.  Yes, this is more like it.

The young Seeker approaches the dais and bows, paying proper respect.  “Oh great Expert, I come to Seek what you know.”

“And I aim to provide you with answers,” I say grandly.  “Tell me, do you know of the phenomenological process of Brishnish?”

The Seeker looks at me in confusion.  “I’m sorry?”

“The phenomenology of Brishnish is that our every day experience of the Brish can call us to mish mash the brashness of schlandery and vish.  You see…”

I proceed through my lecture, pouring my heart and soul into the great Retelling of Knowledge.  Although I love to collect knowledge, there is a certain joy in being able to pass it on to the next.  I’m confident that my oratory and rhetorical skills will lead me to clearly articulate all that I know so that this Seeker may take my knowledge out of the tower.  As I conclude, I gaze down at the Seeker in pride.  “Do you have any questions?

The Seeker stares at me blankly.  “I…didn’t understand a word you said.”

I blink in surprise.  “What?”

The Seeker scratches their head.  “Pardon my ignorance, but I’m unfamiliar with…everything you said.  Can you simplify it for me?”

My jaw drops.  “I…um…well you see, the phenomenology of Brishnish is that our every day experience of the Brish can call us–”

“You’re simply repeating what you just said.  I heard you, but I don’t understand.  Can you try again?”

Flustered, I push on.  “…the Brish can call us to mish mash the brashness…”

The Seeker shakes their head.  “Do you not know how to communicate your knowledge with me?  How can you expect for a Seeker to carry your knowledge and wisdom when we cannot understand?”  The Seeker rubs their eyes in frustration.  “We have been to every tower in this place today, and not one of you ‘Experts’ has actually taught us anything.  You spout off in these ‘great and mighty’ terms and expect us to understand.  You sit in your high chairs and look down on us from on high.”

I stare at the Seeker in astonishment, at a loss for words.

“What good is it to be an Expert if you cannot make accessible to the Seeker what you know?”

I don’t respond.

“What good are your fancy words when they have no real meaning?”

I can’t respond.

The Seeker turns toward the door and stops as they prepare to exit.  Turning around, they leave me with these words: “Heed my words, ‘Expert’: Until others can grasp what you say, your knowledge is useless.  Knowledge may be power, but if it is not properly wielded it is simply useless strokes on a page.”

ArtStation - Throne Room Study, Shira Yaari

Image taken from: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/1nDD08

About the Author

mm

Dylan Branson

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

13 responses to “The Seeker”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Dylan,
    I’m so glad you are continuing this narrative in this space!!! Thank you for sharing your creative vision with us!

    “What good are your fancy words when they have no real meaning?”

    Part of our identity is comprised of language, which is a reflection of our knowledge. As Christians, we have a way of speaking- some call it Christian-ese. It is most obvious how communal it is when surrounded by non-Christians. Over the years, as I visited different churches, I found I can discern when a pastor is a George Fox or Portland Seminary grad. They have a specific lingo and reference particular authors. It is clear they gained their knowledge from a specific “tower.” Seminary, in general, has its own language. It took me a few years to pick up on it, but now it is part of my vernacular. My husband notes when my words end in lots of -isms or -ologies, that I’m speaking Seminary. The struggle to communicate effectively once new language/knowledge is embodied is real.

    As leaders, our words matter, because their meaning matters. Thank you for highlighting that importance. In what ways do you invite people into learning new concepts and seeing new perspectives, especially when you know that you know way more than those in the audience?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Darcy, I think this is where the power of story comes into effect. When a concept is translated into a story or narrative, it gives more freedom for an idea to bloom. It loses the dust that academia leaves on it and breathes new life into it. When I was going through my identity crisis post-church fallout a few years ago, I kept asking myself, “What does it mean to be? What does it mean to find an identity? What is the Self?” One of my mentors passed on several books that I’ve mentioned before (Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was critical in this, along with Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha). They took the concepts of rage and bitterness and how that affected the Self and what that journey actually looks like.

      In a way, this exercise of the narrative is a way of boiling down the concepts and their effects in a way that allows for interpretation (I’ve sent this post to several people and it’s been interesting to see their own takes on it). A good friend of mine once told me hated fiction with a passion because it seemed pointless. This was one of the areas I took a hard stance of disagreement because of how powerful narratives can be. It requires more work at times to interpret as the meaning and theme isn’t just handed to you. But when you learn to open your eyes and your heart to the message an author/storyteller wants to convey, it can be revolutionary. Since then, he’s given fiction more of a chance and has finally come around to the light side 😉

      I also see this in how Jesus presented His parables throughout the Gospels. He’s able to take these complex ideas of the Kingdom of God and righteousness and relay them in the form of story. While He doesn’t always give a straightforward answer, the symbols that He uses makes sense to the audience.

  2. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Dylan, thank you! Drawn into the story once again and finding connection with the characters. Sweet teaching and method that some books, filled with the ‘mish mash’, could benefit from.

    How is this scenario being played out today? Is the Seeker the one to come to? The Seeker as the prophetic voice?

    Again, I’m left wondering about ‘knowledge’. Sweet help for the journey right here! Peace, bro.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I think the Seeker is one who can awaken us to the pride we have in our knowledge. When we think of the way the church presents ideas and theology, we speak our “Christian-ese” that serves as a barrier. We expect others to understand what we mean even though they don’t have the context of it.

      How many people have been driven away from seeking Christ by the church’s arrogance? Seekers come to understand – even at a basic level – what we may know to try and find an answer. But when we can’t communicate the basics because we’re so entrenched in our vocabulary and knowledge, are we actually hurting them and hindering the journey?

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Dylan,
    Fantastic narrative! The profound truth of the need to relate at the seekers level is often lost. We are so often tempted to show off what we know that we miss the opportunity to touch a life. The challenge is always taking what we know and boiling it down to the simplest of concepts. I love the saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” Knowledge without compassion often alienates those who are seeking.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Exactly, Greg. 1 Corinthians 8 echoes your words: “We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know” (v 1-2).

      When our knowledge isn’t tempered by love, compassion, and humility, it is more of a poison to ourselves and to those around us as it builds up the pride in our hearts.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Nice.

    Seems the that Seeker is the true expert as s/he is the one taking the journey, seeking to learn, and daring to challenge the holder of knowledge to do so with more wisdom.

    Makes me wonder if “expertise” is a bit of a mirage. A psuedo-arrival that dupes learners into a position of arrogant power-holding & wielding.

    May we ever reflect the posture and presence of the Seeker.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I think “expertise” is but one stop along the path. When we feel we’ve reached the pinnacle of our knowledge and expertise, maybe it’s at that point where we need to begin the process of deconstructing what we know. Knowledge shouldn’t be static, but ever expanding. Like you said, reaching “expertise” is a mirage that fools us into thinking we’re someone we’re not.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    Fantastic! Be honest- though you write in the first person from the perspective of the Expert, is this a retelling of an experience when you were the Seeker?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I definitely had these moments when I first started my Master’s at Asbury. I felt like my professors and classmates were speaking at a level FAR above what I understood. They would throw around big theological terms that either we didn’t cover in my undergrad or I glossed over and never fully grasped during that time. For me, I WANTED to know and understand what they were talking about and pressed on.

      But then I think about people in my undergrad who after two or three semesters in our religious studies program dropped out or switched majors because they felt it was beyond their understanding. We can alienate without ever realizing it.

      • mm John McLarty says:

        I’ve never been away from the church- even attended while in college. Church language is such a part of my DNA that I have to work very hard to remember that most things I think are a given are completely foreign to most people. Fortunately, I’ve also always been a somewhat average student, so I’m able to stay grounded by thinking about the academic language from classmates and professors that went over my head!

  6. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Taking these posts to the next level! I, too, was challenged by the language of experts and the jargon. I’ve found myself taking a fresh look at the jargon used in innovation theory. What is the jargon associated with your topic? Which words do you find counterproductive or have lost meaning as a result?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      I think one of the phrases that comes out most is “life together.” At it’s core, Bonhoeffer was very clear in laying out what it is, but at this point everyone has a different idea of what it means. Even the use of “space” or “safe spaces” has come to have different meanings to people (both positively and negatively).

      I think in one sense, it’s natural to begin using the jargon associated with a topic when you’ve come to understand it. We’ve put in the work to know and understand, so we feel we have earned the right to use it. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing (if we walk alongside those who are seeking to help them understand), but when we leverage it for our own pride and honor and are speaking above the heads of people just to show off, that’s where the destructive spirit lies.

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