In her memoir Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood has this moment of self-awareness:
I consider myself on an anthropological mission, much like Margaret Mead. I have discovered that this makes almost anything bearable – it would have been such a salvation in my childhood to think I had been sent on a mission to notice.
A “mission to notice.” What an apt picture of what a preacher needs to do the other 167 hours a week when he or she is not preaching. Noticing things like …
- The threads of continuity between the testaments of Scripture — for example, in the book of Esther, the elevated wooden structure that was designed to destroy Mordecai instead delivers the Jews. In the same way, the cross — an elevated wooden structure — that was designed to torture Jesus instead becomes the method of transformation for Jesus’ people.
- The vibrant conversation within books of Scripture. Does a life of obedience lead to blessing? “Yes!” says Proverbs. “Not so fast!” says Ecclesiastes.
- The multiple and subtle ways in which the subjects people bring to you are not really the ones they are dealing with.
- The self-destructive patterns that many people don’t even realize they are in.
- The new person who wanders into church and no one remembers to welcome her.
- Those times that the people who have entrusted you with their soul care really do want you to tell them the hard truths. With that in mind, learn how to tell hard truths in a soft way.
- The ways in which bitterness and jealousy can rot your own soul from the inside out.
- The warnings signs your body give you that lets you know it’s time to slow down — or, conversely, that it’s time to work harder.
- The habits of discipline and structure that, paradoxically, elevate joy and enable spontaneity.
- The places in popular culture — whether art, music, film, or advertising — that reveal the deepest longings of the human heart.
- The predictable ways we respond to those longings with that which cannot heal and will not satisfy.
- All the ways that the Gospel still defines your life and the lives of those in your congregation: you’ve been bought, you’re being resurrected, and one day we’ll all be rescued.