Finding Peace and Discovering Strengths | Week 3

By: Jesse Porch

Posted in Program Updates on September 14, 2015 | View all posts

Sitting here in the Old Library, gazing out over the open water as dark clouds gather overhead and announce their arrival with intermittent rumbles has an almost surreal quality to it. The scene itself is not particularly new to me: I grew up a few dozen miles from the spot I’m currently sitting, the waters of the Chesapeake and its kin an ever-present reminder of the beauty God has blessed us with. But to think that when I left the Eastern Shore nearly a decade ago that I’d be back here today to bask in the peace of the quiet rivers and creeks of the Eastern Shore again seems a little bit bizarre. Four years in Boston may have impacted me far more than I’d realized: the fact that I’ve spent the past thirty minutes (of my carefully scheduled writing time) watching the first few drops of rain fall to the ground and listening to their quiet murmur gradually increase in intensity feels strangely out of character for me.

Yet in so many ways I find it oddly comforting just to sit here. Listening, watching, letting the cursor blink in incessant futility. To be still. The arrhythmic beat of the raindrops (whose speed has increased substantially in the single space between these paragraphs) can’t help but remind me of the clock that sits above my desk. But while its meticulous precision measures out each second and signals one more moment consigned to history, this gentle rustle of leaves in the rain signifies a different conception of time: not a resource to measure and economize, but a precious gift to receive and enjoy. Every moment I sit here, silently observing the beauty around me, is not time lost and tasks unfinished, but an opportunity accept and understand the serenity that surrounds this place. Raindrops, rustling leaves, gentle waves on weathered pilings, all are messengers of grace and peace instead of worry and busyness.

A recurring theme this week was how great a blessing it is to be at peace amidst all the chaos that fills this world. Refugees fleeing unspeakable horrors, natural disasters, shootings, all set amidst a backdrop of remembering the pain and suffering of September 11. And in that understanding it is crucial for us to take heart with the knowledge that it will not always be so, that the world, while broken, will one day be made anew as it was always meant to be. I find myself encouraged and honored to be a part of this class of Fellows, surrounded by others with the same conviction who daily devote themselves to their vision of speaking redemption into some specific facet of this world. From Fellows contemplating the nature and role of justice in modern government to several examining how our understanding of storytelling shapes large swaths of life and society, each and every one of us has such a passion that I can’t wait to see how nine months serves to sharpen our callings and to equip us for living them out with boldness.

Academy Blog Archive 2009-2015

Thus it’s appropriate that we had the opportunity to spend much of this week with Beth Chapman benefiting from her insights on growing as leaders and young professionals. The first of many such visits throughout the year, this time we focused on coming to a better understanding ourselves by clarifying our strengths. Unsurprisingly, while several strengths showed up multiple times amongst the group, Beth’s testing reported a different core strength for each Fellow, a testament to the diversity of the group (and to the care with which the Fellows were selected). Discussing how we saw these different strengths at play within the group demonstrated how we are wired so differently and empowered to live out the same grand Call in our own unique way.

Complementing Beth’s talk was Osprey Point’s own Roger Valentine, bringing a timely address on the subject of Servant Leadership. In addition to providing many anecdotes from his own career, Roger echoed Beth’s talk of strengths and gifts with a compelling twist: instead of relying on surveys to guide the conversation he gave us the opportunity to share our own perceptions of our strengths (both current and aspirational). Just as powerfully, he had the other Fellows provide their own insights for strengths that we were already displaying, which was enlightening, even after only a few weeks of getting to know each other. This chance to encourage and to be encouraged as a community served as a vital stage of the process, allowing us to go beyond metrics and analysis to dwell on the heart of what it means to have a “gift” and how we as a community can build each other up and provide accountability in the pursuit of our goals.

Rounding out the week were the insights of Dan Claire, pastor at DC’s Church ofm the Resurrection. Serving as a much needed challenge, Dan urged us to take time amidst all the talk of strengths and personality to remember that there’s more to each of us than any test can measure or any words on a page can express. Likewise, our calling is not something rigid that meets a specific checklist, it’s a posture of our lives dedicated to faithfulness in all things, whether we feel specifically “gifted” in each and every action or not. He also spoke on the importance of the local church as a body to build up and prepare us for such service, as well as the crucial role that liturgy plays in giving us a sort of foundation to push beyond the bounds of comfort as we pursue lives of ultimate faithfulness.

And so, just as the sun slips below the horizon and another day draws to a close, I too must lay aside my “pen” and allow this “ink” a few moments to dry. Tomorrow, Lord willing, the sun will rise once more and we will awaken to another day of speakers, ideas, and challenges. But the mission will remain the same as always: to truly engage with the idea of a Calling that lies upon the whole of our lives and to learn how then we ought to live so as to properly honor our Caller. And in the midst of this learning and growth, I hope to continue to explore the clarity and comfort found only in peace, in taking time to do “nothing”, for in the silence I know that He is there with me.