I have a business mentor, Sarah J. Bray, who helps me think through the work I do at Still Forming, and one of the reasons she's a great fit for me is because she so often challenges my way of thinking.
Whereas I am a pretty linear left-brained thinker, she is an uber-creative right-brained thinker. Whereas I can get caught up in the one way I might be supposed to do something, she's trying on tricorn hats and revolutionary garb, speaking in metaphors about nations and flags in the ground.
It's the metaphor lingo that makes us a great fit, though. It fits well with the way my prayer life so often works, where images show up and I'm invited to pay attention to what I see and what the image has to teach me and how God might be inviting me to respond in prayer and in life because of it.
So, nations. She teaches me about nations. And if you remember last week's letter, my therapist, Debbie, recently got me thinking about territories and queendoms, too.
The nation metaphor is everywhere for me these days!
This past Thursday, I received Sarah's most recent email missive about nation-building, and it asked a question that felt perfectly timed, given the image of my nation I've been holding since Debbie invited me to think of myself as its queen.
Sarah asked: "What characteristics do you want your nation to be known for?"
When I read that question, I pictured that territory I described to you last week — the lush green land surrounded by water on three sides, the people living there in different pockets of its geography, the capital city on its southern tip.
I pictured the territory and considered the question: What characteristics do I want those who live here to be known for? When someone new moves into this land, what will they discover in their experience of their new neighbors? When the residents who live here see each other on the road or at the market, how do they greet one another? When one of them's in trouble, how do the others respond? What kind of culture is being nurtured here?
In my mind's eye, I watched people moving around inside the territory, interacting with each other, and what I saw helped me to compose this list:
If you live in this Still Forming nation or are considering it, these are (some of) the qualities you'll discover mark this land. It is a place where you are welcomed. It's a place where people are brave in the telling of their stories and their honest truths. It's a place where we hold those stories and honest truths with tenderness. It's a place of being kind to each other. It's a place where we are open to receive what others have to say and a place we are open to God. It's a place of reflecting, of choosing to live thoughtful and examined lives.
It's likely more qualities will get added to the list, especially if you'd like to share your own experience of being here. But I found myself wondering: What it is about these qualities that make them a part of this land?
I think, for me, it has to do with God. The person presiding over this territory is, at her core, made for inviting people into true and deep and real encounters with God. Inviting someone into that kind of experience requires trust. It begs gentleness. It requires hospitality. It respects courage.
I hope you experience these things here.
Are there any other aspects of your experience here that you would add to the list?