Preparing for a conversation with other Presbyterians, I picked up Parker Palmer's A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. I'm only a few chapters in, but I highly recommend it.
He contends in this book that we learn to hide ourselves, beginning as children when we have our first unpleasant encounters with the world, and growing more hidden as adults when we discover that our vulnerable souls are not celebrated by the bulk of society around us. The more hidden our soul becomes, the more our role become hollow, missing the core of the person behind the mask.
This was easy for me to grasp. In high school, I discovered theatre, and realized that the shy, introverted, quiet person that everyone passed in the hallway could become anything under the makeup and lights. I actually used my time on stage to share the parts of my soul I was too cautious to live into in "real" life, showing my love of music, my fairly decent coordination in choreographed scenes, my confidence in myself, and the depths of emotion that it never felt safe to display.
God's call to ministry actually interrupted my dream to go to Broadway and continue to live on the stage, something that was highly unlikely to happen, but something I longed to pursue. Instead, the Spirit made it very clear that my path was going to take me to seminary and into pastoral ministry. A different kind of stage, in a way, but it took me a while to make that connection.
Reading this book opened my eyes to the gift that I have received in being called to a ministry where my soul fills my role, and my role is rooted in my soul.
That wasn't necessarily the case in the first congregation I served. Being newly ordained and a young woman in a highly Baptist area was a hard starting place. I had to portray a strong role, but my soul was unsure and shaky. When my role was challenged and my call to ministry was rejected as unbiblical, my soul looked for a safe place to hide. It took claiming my role as a proclaimer of Good News to begin to heal the divided life that I had created.
The second congregation I served almost demanded that my soul shine through my role. They were hungry for and appreciative of authenticity in their pastor's speech and actions, and met that honesty with their own offerings of trust. Slowly, the divisions I had created in order to protect my soul in the midst of a difficult role began to disappear.
It is such an amazing feeling when the faith that I cling to is the heart of my pastoral living. The gifts that God has given are able to flourish and grow, and my role is filled with the light of Christ that fills me.
Having experienced this blessing, I won't go back to a divided life easily. In many ways, I can't imagine responding to God's call in any way other than wholeheartedly and whole-soulfully, and that means the role that I'm called to now will have no other option than to grow out of my love for Christ and my hope for his people.
Where do you find yourself on this continuum? Is your soul filling out the edges of your role, or have you needed to find a safe place to harbor during a difficult time? Does your role grow out of your soul, your faith, your hope, your love, your adoption in Jesus? Or is your role something that you do, patterned after what others before you have done or what you have been taught?
Just imagine, if we could follow the Spirit's lead and help create communities of mutuality in the name of Christ, where our souls could truly inform who we are and how we live. I think that was partly what happened on Pentecost, as the newly Spirit-filled apostles' souls burst out in heavenly tongues glorifying God and proclaiming Good News. No division, no hesitation, soul and role, life and heart all entwined.
"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41 ESV) When God's people live undivided lives, soul and role in harmony, the world is changed.