“Do less. Go deep.”
Those were the words I read in an article a couple of weeks ago about organizations that successfully navigate cultural tsunamis. I tried to find the article again and just couldn’t locate it, but those words have been working on me for nearly two weeks. Every morning during my prayer journaling they show up.
I think I first noticed how deeply the words resonated with me on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of small tasks I felt I had to accomplish. It was nagging at me because at the same time, I feel this great weight (a calling perhaps) to make sure that we “get this right” when it comes to successfully emerging from this pandemic transformed and ready for God’s next new old thing.
I could feel the pressure coming from both sides—the tyranny of the urgent competing with an equally strong voice to make sure I keep the presbytery pointed toward spiritual north. Like a competitor at a Whack-a-Mole game, I sometimes feel like the sheer pace of whacking at the most urgent will eventually defeat me.
So, the words “Do less. Go deep,” not only feel true and wise. I also hear them as a relief. I have a very trusted friend who reminds me, “Brian, at this stage of your career I don’t think you are being paid for how much you can get done. You are being paid for your ability to set a direction.” I know that it is true and I know that fits into the best of who I am. Yet, some days when forty emails beg to be answered, I find myself falling into the trap of saying, “I will go deep as soon as I clear all the clutter out.” The urgent first, the important later.
The article I read (dang, I wish I could find it) reminded readers that organizations that think they can get through a paradigmatic shift by working harder and doing more are the ones who don’t make it. They tend to just exhaust themselves. It is the ones, writes the author, who go deep, who return to their core values, who focus again on their essential mission who often survive and thrive on the other side of a cultural tsunami. They actually slow down when things are the most critical.
I remember encouraging this approach to clients when I was a grief counselor twenty years ago. I often met with individuals who described that the way they were coping with their loss was to stay busy and distracted. Never insisting, but gently offering, I encouraged them to slowly trust the wisdom of their grief and the new life that their loss was inviting them into. Eventually, they did ease up on the distraction of busyness and just settled into the rich soil of their grieving soul.
“Do less. Go deep.”
It’s a mantra made for our time.
I do know this truth about getting through tough times. Yet, recently I had to be reminded of it again as I had convinced myself that the world would come crashing down if I didn’t get to every email in a timely fashion or tackle all the issues that come across my desk on a daily basis. I felt like I was just running a few paces ahead of a tidal wave of doom.
It reminds me of the brief scene in Luke 6: 15-16 where Jesus modeled this theme of “Do less. Go deep.” The text reads, “Now more than ever word about Jesus spread abroad and many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.”
There it is. The tyranny of the urgent showing up in crowds of people who wanted to hear a good word and to be cured of their ailments. There it is. Showing up in the very real needs of people. Shouting for help. Begging for grace. There it is. The clamor of life and a thousand different voices demanding our attention.
Yet, despite the temptation to do more, to meet every need placed at his feet, to answer every email, to address every issue, Jesus walked away, withdrew to a deserted place, and went deep (prayed).
Brave man, this Jesus!
I know this is something we all already know. But, I figure if I needed to be reminded of it recently then you probably did too.
We aren’t going to get through this by doing more and working harder. We are going to get through this by going deeper and remembering who we are and whose we are.
Remember, we don’t work for the crowd.
We work for God.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades