Clumsy Stewards of Our Own Lives

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When the Lord brought back to Zion captives from the exile land; We were like those who were dreaming, Those restored to health again.

Richard Rohr uses the term, “clumsy stewards” to describe how many people manage and tend to their inner selves. I know he is right about me. I most certainly am a clumsy steward of my own self. But the other side of that confession is the radiant idea that I AM the steward of myself! Clumsy or not, being a participant in my own formation is a gift and a grace I seldom remember to feel grateful for.

We are active participants in our own formation, but we are not alone in this endeavor. Scientific investigations into brain function have made enormous strides in recent years. To put it simply, it has been proven that human brains need other human brains to develop and mature. A baby’s brain cannot develop properly without a nurturer’s brain, expressed through eyes and face and mimicked motions regularly in attendance. All through life we continue to be formed by other persons and how we interact with them and our environment. We are formed by interaction and participation.

A person is not a machine, programmed toward a limited scope of life options. Nor is a person simply an animal. Animals function mainly on instinct. Human persons are formed. We are formed by others interactions with us and formed through our own participation with those interactions. And all of us are clumsy in this process. We hurt each other. Disappoint each other. We miss cues of love and invitation. We walk past opportunities for friendship, sleep through meaningful moments and step on beauty because we don’t see it. And yet, we are dependent on these interactive moments of formation for our very life force.

Christians make much of affirming that matter was created, in the beginning. Creation implies a creator, which is the crux of the debate, of course. But think about this in terms of formation. A creator means that there is a “Person” involved in the idea of human persons. When designing human persons could it be that this Person intended to be an integral part of the formation of human persons through interaction – acting upon and receiving bubbling, honest, sometimes joyful and sometimes troubling responses?

A formational understanding of the human person says something about what we call prayer. Prayer is interaction and formation. Prayer is meant to be a real and sometimes rollicking act of giving and receiving. And prayer is meant to be honest to what we are. Prayer must be planted in reality, and our own self is the closest reality we know. Prayer is not ‘out there’ – it is ‘in here!’

We are clumsy stewards of our lives, and clumsy makers of prayer. We interact thoughtlessly with others and with God. Maybe the first steps toward being better stewards of ourselves is to welcome God and others into honest interaction with us, interaction that is not self protective or controlling.

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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