Becoming a Master in the Art of Living
A recent Sunday morning started out with a bang: two mile run, one hundred hydro-burpees, seventy-five sandbag squats, fifty sandbag cleans, and twenty-five sandbag get ups as quickly as possible. The only thing that made this experience somewhat enjoyable was the gathering of six other guys with whom I stood shoulder to shoulder at the end, high fives and chest bumps for accomplishing almost forty-five minutes of non-stop physical exertion.
After sharing about this morning workout, a good friend posed an interesting question regarding what role I took in the planning of this event. She asked, “Which hat was this? Fitness Dusty or Campus Minister Dusty?”
Such a good question and one often encountered by anyone in a full time ministry role. What hat are we wearing at various times in our roles? In a youth or campus ministry context, when is something work and when is it play?
Yet I think the question betrays our bias towards dualism. The question presupposes that it is possible to separate “fitness Dusty” from “Campus Minister Dusty.” I’ll skip the history lesson on dualism (you can read my wife’s Master’s thesis which explores this in depth), but one form of dualism is the separation of the mind and the body, the sacred and secular. Dualism can be seen in the idea that some people are paid to be ministers and others work secular jobs, thus suggesting (even subconsciously) that one who is not a paid minister does not carry the role of being a minister. It’s also found in the concept that we workout for our physical health, but read our Bibles and pray for our spiritual health, as if one can disconnect one’s physical well-being from spiritual well-being. Martin Luther identified this dissonance in his 1520 work Three Treatises:
“It is pure invention that pope, bishop, priests and monks are to be called the ‘spiritual estate’ while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers the ‘temporal estate.’ This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the ‘spiritual estate,’ and there is no difference among them except that of office.”
This concept is particularly challenging for paid ministers in defining what categorizes as “work” versus play. Take a look at my Sunday this past week and help me think through which moments I was doing my paid job and which moments I was not working:
Sunday, November 19 My day began with a 6:00am alarm going off in our tent (we set a goal to sleep in a tent for fifty days this year and we’ve fallen behind, so we’re sleeping in a tent in our backyard for the rest of the year). I was out the door by 6:15am, headed to the beach to begin filling sandbags. From 7-8:30am, I organized a brutal workout with an inter-generational group of guys (detailed at the beginning of this blog post). From 8:30-9 we sat at Starbucks and compared stories of our mutual suffering in the workout and talked about the mental techniques we used to endure and how those same skills can be utilized in our day to day existence. From 9-10am I sat among a group of teenagers and walked them through an overview of 1 Samuel, wrestling with the good and bad that comes with being a nation led by a king. At 10:15am, I gathered with a community of over two hundred others in celebration, prayer, and partaking of a weekly meal of remembrance we call communion in a misnamed act called “going to church.” At 12:30pm I ventured down to Crab Rock, wetsuit in tow, for an hour of spear fishing with a youth group member and our graduate apprentices who lead our ministries. From 2-4pm I was wowed by the creativity and talent of our youth group members who were performing in the Malibu High School musical rendition of James and the Giant Peach. I finished my day from 5pm to 7pm as I sat among men, women, and children to share a meal and talk about the way we utilize symbols in our faith to draw us back into pivotal moments in our spiritual journey.
Was this work? Was this play? Was my time spear fishing sacred or secular? Was sitting in an auditorium enjoying an incredible high school musical a service to my church family or the same thing as catching a Sunday afternoon movie? Was participating in a house group of our church just a shared meal with friends or did I metaphorically punch the time clock as I sat among church members and students?
I’m not arrogant enough to call myself a master in the art of living, but I love what this quote from L.P. Jacks suggests:
“A master in the art of living draws no distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” – L.P. Jacks
I’m thankful for the opportunity to work a job that allows me to always feel like I’m doing both. I haven’t mastered the art of living, but I’m in pursuit.