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New Rhythms of Grace

People are somewhat taken aback when I say I don’t want to be a menace to my family, employees, or friends. Parker Palmer got it right when he described a leader as “someone with the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there.” It is so easy in positions of leadership, whatever they may be, to harm another. We don’t set out to do that, of course, but our false self, aided by broken narratives, can lead us to create environments that aren’t just or good or even vaguely encouraging. Unwittingly, we hurt others and ourselves.

This is evident in all sectors of leadership and the fallout can be devastating. Our fractured country is one example of this and it’s painful to experience the deepening divisiveness and mistrust of our leaders and of one another.

While I had every good intention to lead with integrity and empathy, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. How could I show up as a patient, compassionate leader when things didn’t go well? How would I encourage my team to do their best under stressful situations? How would I stay grounded when I faced complex challenges?

When the brochure for the Soul of Leadership program came my way via a friend in 2018, I knew immediately that the program was what I was seeking. At the time, I was leading a well-funded clinical innovation technology lab with grand visions and potential. But I knew there was something I needed to aid me in showing up as a calm and kind person in that hard-charged world. Many of my spiritual habits from my youth had fallen away and I didn’t yet have new restorative spiritual rhythms. Although no stranger to contemplative practices and spiritual direction, I was a novice again.

I hoped to meet others I could join on the journey. I hoped I would leave prepared for what I thought was going to happen next. I hoped for sanctuary for my soul. Those hopes were realized though not quite in the way I imagined.

The program balanced intellectual, research-based reading materials with practical ways of entering into silence and feeding the soul. The cohort was an amazing group of both clergy and business leaders. The diversity helped to emphasize the need for contemplative practices in all walks of life and personal paths. The retreats were paced so you could get exactly what you needed from each one. During the 18 months of the course, with help from others in my group, I was able to put down the last of my old religious habits and begin to form new rhythms of grace.

Nothing happened the way I thought it would when I started the course. My father died, my work came to an end, the pandemic struck. Nevertheless, I learned to be more at ease in silence and uncertainty. I was better equipped to handle the sea change that did occur.

Every month I join a small group with at least one other person from my cohort. Along with another from my cohort, I started two spiritual direction groups based on what we learned at The Soul of Leadership program, inviting others to join us in this divine dance.

Now I work on being a life-giving, non-anxious presence in my world. Even this language, which keeps me centered on what’s important, is a gift from my experience at the Soul of Leadership. I hope others will hear the invitation as I did and respond with a “yes” to the opportunity for deeper transformation and joy.

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Terry Lawhead
Terry Lawhead
19 days ago

A vital statement and reflection on what is important, thank you for sharing. Be well.