That statement is often followed by, “I’ll let you get back to work.”
Today I told someone that I never want to hear her say that.
Even as I am learning this new position, figuring out what it means and what it is about, I am very conscious that the point of this position is people. My responsibility is helping people grow. My work IS about people, about relationship, about hearing hearts and helping them heal and grow. As a result, conversations count as work.
(And, of course, sometimes conversation ARE work, because of how hard I have to work to understand, to hear, to sort through what is being said. However, most of the time, conversation energizes rather than drains.)
It is true that there are times when I have to turn from the conversation with an individual and understand how to help lots of individuals. There is a place for reflection and planning and writing and all that. However, I’m desiring to focus on the individual lives that are brought into the seat or hallway in front of me.
And here, my friends, is a significant challenge.
There are two parts of my role. One part is administrative, the other is spiritual formation. Administrative–things like schedules and finances and facilities–has a tendency to have deadlines and to intrude in the physical realm. A leaky roof, a payroll, a malfunctioning computer, a bill…these all can command attention with great urgency. Formation–things like conversations and small groups and classes–they can have much less urgency. We can put them off with a “I’m working on developing that curriculum idea” and people will accept that (for awhile). However, though the urgency is less, the importance is greater. After all, a leaky roof can be patched quickly. A leaky life, a leaky heart, a crumbling family, a slowly decaying relationship, an empty series of conversations with God…these happen imperceptibly. And repairs in these areas often happen glacially.
Of the two, however, roofs and lives, only one can be warrantied for more than 30 years. Only one can increase in impact. Only one has an ROI of infinite value.
Somehow, the challenge for me and for those who are responsible for shaping what I’m doing, is to keep our focus on roofs as little as necessary and on lives as much as possible. As a result, we will be working and talking and praying much about how to help all of us understand how much of our work looks a lot like conversation. Even when we are working.
PS. Even as I was finalizing this post, I got an email from Nancy:
“Thirty minutes on the phone with ___ (I called her). Good conversation and we can talk more when we walk tonight.”
We are learning together about the value of conversation, with others and each other.
For more reflections on starting a new position:
Learning about learning the culture of a new place
Starting about the first day on the job
Left turn about the heading to the new place after eleven years
Dragging people along about position change in a 2.0 world
Experience about walking away from the old office
What I learned from waiting backstage about taking the position
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