What does it mean to be a master in the art of living?
If you asked a hundred different people, you’d get a hundred different opinions. That’s understandable. It’s a vague question. But I read a James Michener quote recently about the art of living that I just can’t get out of my head.
I love his definition.
He says: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” - James Michener
I’m fascinated by this quote. I can’t help but think about how living congruently like this might transform the way we lead and love those around us. And at the same time, I can’t help but think very few of us actually live this way.
Living with great vision and intention isn’t easy, but it is so important.
What vision do you have for your life? Could you articulate it? And how does this fit with your vision as a pastor? How about your vision for your church?
For each of us, vision looks different, but one of the best things we can do for ourselves, and for our churches, is to figure out who we are, what our hearts beat for, what our vision of excellence looks like and to make sure our personal passion is congruent with the passion of our ministry.
Let me give you an example.
Have you ever met (or been) somebody who hates their job? Maybe they’re a creative person, a dreamer, an artist, who is working a job that never allows them out from behind their desk. They’re crunching numbers, or punching in data— something that doesn’t require any of the fuel that lights their souls on fire?
That person is often miserable—at the job only for the paycheck, with their level of engagement, joy, and fulfillment leveling out around zero.
We can easily agree this person isn’t living up to his or her God potential.
And yet, in our own way, I find we do this sometimes as pastors, as people, and as churches. We operate in wheelhouses we weren’t made for. We plug ourselves, and our people, into places where they don’t fit. We think we’re meeting a need.
But are we?
Like writing with our non-dominant hand, living outside of our strengths and gifts, outside of our passions and vision, feels frustrating and unnatural, completely counter to the way we were made and gifted.
And this is why it’s so important for us to know what our vision is.
When we can articulate our vision, what part of the body we are uniquely gifted for, what the focus of our church really is, or why we do what we do, we’re able to devote ourselves to that mission in a way we aren’t when we’re running towards an arbitrary vision, or one that just doesn’t fit.
When we take the time to articulate our vision of excellence, we’re able to live in a way where our passion, our body, our mind, our love, our religion, our information, our work, and our play are all one. We’re able to truly enjoy our lives, to be masters in the art of living, because we’re working and playing in our wheel house, in the place we were uniquely gifted to make a difference.
And that changes everything.
Here’s the hard part.
This is the part I think prevents many of us from having these conversations with ourselves, with our volunteers and with our staff. When we can know and articulate our vision, when we begin to live congruent, often times we realize for the first time things need to change.
Maybe we need to rearrange our priorities.
Perhaps we need to end one season and begin another.
Maybe we need to change the way responsibilities are distributed.
Either way, the idea of these changes can be scary and can sometimes it can keep us from listening to and articulating what it is we actually want.
That is my challenge for you today.
Figure out what you care about. Ask yourself questions like, “who am I here to help?” or “what am I actually passionate about?”
Figure out if, as a church, your heart beats for missions, or for the Holy Spirit, or for people who don’t know Jesus. And do that thing.
Give people permission to live congruent, to live in their gifts.
Because when you’re pursuing your vision of excellence is the time you’re able to make the greatest difference. And that place is worth finding.