Naming reality and then reframing it.
I’ve done a lot of that again this week. In conversation after unplanned conversation. And as I’ve done so, I’ve heard that whisper which might be God’s. A tendril of thought, drawing my attention to what it is that I do and to how others respond.
In the midst of all this living, naming and reframing, I’ve also been reading. I’ve been reading about the symbolic frame of leadership, one of four identified by Bolman and Deal. They say this in Reframing Organizations:
In a world of uncertainty and ambiguity, a key function of symbolic leadership is to offer plausible and hopeful interpretations of experience.
In a collision of my narratives, I’ve been riffing lately in Romans 4. It’s been the foundation of so many of my reframing conversations lately in a context dear to me. Abraham, the text says, faced facts. He faced facts and saw that his body was as good as dead. His wife was barren. The promises of God looked set to fail. And in the context so dear to me, I’ve metaphorically looked at death face to face.
In Bolman and Deal’s words, I have experienced uncertainty and ambiguity.
In the words of a great apostle of the faith, I have faced facts.
And then, against hope, in hope I have believed. These the words of that apostle about the father of faith. I have chosen to go beyond merely naming the reality. I have reframed it. I have chosen to articulate plausible and hopeful interpretations, to speak life and not death. In fact this week alone, I have entered into the smog of others’ grief and fear, I have breathed that same air of death, and yet I have declared the old, old story where death must always give way to resurrection.
In the speaking and the praying, the almost-aggressive reframing, people have told me they felt his peace come upon them. They tell me that my words have brought life. And I smile because his words, of course, ARE life.
I smile too because of that whisper, the one that might be God’s. As I’ve lived and as I’ve read this week, he’s been answering the question I began asking four years ago. He’s been showing me what kind of leader I am, what it means to lead as prophet. I’ve understood more fully how my life’s strands interweave – rigorous scholarship of Word and tradition, invitation to carry his presence as icon of Jesus, call as a prophet to his people, even legal training in interpretation and argument construction.
He’s shown me that all of these disparate parts make sense together as a leadership which Bolman and Deal call symbolic and which I think Scripture calls prophetic. And now, more than ever, I see that prophet-leaders don’t only dream dreams and see visions (though I’ve known dramatic increase in those over eighteen months). Prophet-leaders don’t only declare Spirit-inspired words as those may come in the moment. They also do the hard work, the painstaking toil of dividing the Word, of exegeting this uncertain and ambiguous world. They face facts and then they make meaning of those facts so that…
…against hope, in hope together we might believe.