(Note: this is the Categorie introduction for level 3 or the third stage in the Path of the Postmodern Cleric.)
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Once we’ve allowed the stream of good things coming from God to create growth and a single authentic life’s mission in us, we’re ready to let actions arise from them.
The tricky part of the branches phase is pruning. I often feel overwhelmed with open loops, unfinished obligations and things that feel important whether they are or not.
The truth is that I don’t need to do something with everything I could do something with. In fact, a lot of it is actually good, but there isn’t enough time to get to all the great things, much less the good things.
The reality is that like all men I default to action. This is the “Do” stage of things and we do need to cover action here, but this is a hustle economy lately. We’re driven to always be working toward our goals and our goals are often superficial because they weren’t based in an authentic self.
As I get overwhelmed trying to take advantage of all the possible options and trying to put out the fires of all the things I can imagine might go wrong, fear creeps into the mix. I forget the simple stoic truths of being an adult–that pain isn’t always bad, it’s okay if someone doesn’t like you, failure isn’t the end of the world, etc.
This puts us in fight/flight/freeze mode where fear makes our decisions for us. Perfect love casts out fear and we are loved perfectly. There’s a lot more to write on this topic because its a response to a situation I call the classic double bind. When we don’t want to take one action and other action will surely bring doom, we can sink into alcoholism or depression. Personally, I tend to imagine all the things that could go wrong and then just not start, or freeze, which is just as bad. The only proper response is to stand still and know that God loves you and has a purpose to your situation.
So the branches level of the path is about taking action on the flow of good things through us. It’s about deciding with Christ how to best steward (manage) your time, talents, and other resources. It’s about organizing your day to keep God in your focus and do something with the good things he’s giving you.
One of my mentors, Sam Williamson, covers this most brilliantly in his post about mission idolatry.
The Golden Thread
Each of my branches is present in my trunk, in fact one of the ways to discover more about your truck is to look at the intersection of your various passions and skills. I call it the Golden Thread and its a bit of an outside-in technique, but while we’re discovering more about how we uniquely walk this path with God we’re going to jump back and forth from one level to the next and back again. It’s not that nothing should ever go from a higher level back to a lower level, its that power and authority don’t come from the outside.
For example, you discover that journaling helps you externalize and process your thoughts. Great, something you do shined a light on who you already were and ultimately you change up you day so that you can do more journaling. That’s different from say, getting fired and losing your identity because being a fireman, or providing for your family was more than your role it defined you.
The Golden Thread is partly the overlap section of a Venn diagram, where all the passions intersect, but its also the unique approach you have to that overlap. How many times have you heard about an actor who used to stutter or an athlete who overcame a weight problem? Sometimes the challenges we face take us outside the box and provide a unique approach to how and what we’re going to do. The golden thread is an understanding of our uniqueness as a gift from God that shines a light on the intersection of our passions, skills, talents, etc.
The Number of Branches???
I’m not sure there’s a one size fits all number of branches. I can only say the branches I’ve settled on as example, but I can imagine someone having a different capacity for dealing with being pulled in a few directions.
My branches are: