Most of us have attended meetings, conferences or retreats where we’re asked to “Describe yourself in ten-words or less,” or “Pick five words that sum up your personality,” or “Write a one-paragraph summary of how you think others see you,” or “Imagine you are being eulogized at a memorial service, what are five things people would say about you?”
It’s a useful exercise, and thinking that way can get our attention in a hurry, especially if we perceive incongruence between what we’d like to be true about ourselves and what really is.
As a writer with an emerging public profile, it’s instructive to pay attention to how I am described by other people. Some places (church groups, conference organizers, retreat centers, web-sites) simply cut and paste a standard biography, a paragraph or two they found somewhere else. Others write up an introduction based on personal experience, having read me, met me, or heard me before. Then – and these are the best – I sometimes run across a review written after an event is over.
JOYFUL CHRISTIAN: Two such descriptions stand out in my mind. The first was on a church sign, and read, simply, “Come hear Derek Maul. Author, Storyteller.” I loved that one. Then, just this past month, a church newsletter review reported on a men’s retreat “Led by author, speaker, thinker, and joyful Christian Derek Maul.”
“Author, speaker, thinker, and Joyful Christian.”
To be described as a “Joyful Christian” is beyond encouraging. It means that – for those folk – I actually represented my foundational premise of “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of,” and “The life that is truly life.”
Then, the moniker “THINKER,” has given me pause. The designation brings to mind the medieval role of “A Contemplative,” meaning someone whose engagement with life is defined in terms of contemplation. I’d love to be experienced as someone who has a faith and a way of living that is thoughtful rather than reactive.
It’s good to be a ”Thinking Christian;” this world needs more people of faith who are committed to contemplation. But it would be a mistake to confuse thinking with a sense of need to either conjure up tidy answers or dismiss faith when reason appears to be on the ropes.
DR. OF THINKOLOGY: I am happy to be perceived as a “Thinker,” and I’m even happier that it came in the same sentence as “Joyful Christian.” But I don’t think I’m ready to be conferred the tittle (See Wizard of Oz) “Doctor of Thinkology.”
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to try to live the words of Paul: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” - DEREK