Friday, October 17, 2014

If not StrengthsFinders, then what?

My dad was a high school math teacher, mainly geometry and calculus.  As such, our house was usually inundated with some random math phraseology.  Words like equilateral or parallel or perpendicular or variables, or angles with varying degrees were not that uncommon.  One phrase sticks out though, both because it's geometrically correct and because it just makes sense.

"The quickest path between two points is a straight line."

Great.  Geometry lesson over.  But how does that work with human beings and their growth?

I had tried to lay out a tentative suggestion as a starting point yesterday, but it occurs to me, from talking with a few people, that perhaps my conclusion to my take on the StrengthsFinders test was not communicated as clearly as I had hoped.  Consider this my second attempt.

A good friend of ours, Alex, sent this link to me last night regarding the post yesterday (Click here for yesterdays post or just scroll down).  It has some thoughts from Dan Allender in an interview with And Sons Magazine.  The article can be read fully here and I would definitely recommend you check it out.

She saw a connection between some of the stuff Allender was saying and what I was trying to communicate yesterday; and I think she is right.

Allender is asked: As we try to bring clarity to the narrative of our lives, what are the key things we should be looking for?

DA: Linger longer than you’d prefer in those moments where you felt shame. Shame is one of evil’s most effective weapons to silence us and shut us down. It is where Satan divides our heart most effectively from God, others, and even from our self. Especially look at your sexual history even as a younger child and how the dark prince was thieving, killing, and destroying your integrity and joy as a man or woman. Look as well at what you know in your heart you don’t really want to remember. It is often as simple as this: What is easy to dismiss or pass over or rewrite in your story? Take pen and paper or computer and write out the story as if it were fiction. This allows us to see in black and white the reality of our life that we are apt to skirt over as if the past had no impact. 

The interview continues: Can you give us some hope? How can story bring healing to our stories?

DA: Healing comes when I am willing to face the truth—deep and specific truth about myself. It is when my deepest desires are seen in light of what I can’t do for myself that I turn, again and again, to the One who loves my ache and knows my sin better than anyone in the universe. Healing comes when our story is raw, bone-deep and full of hunger for what only Jesus can offer.

I love what Allender has to say here.  How do we grow?  How do we experience healing?  How do we find clarity in our own lives (or stories)?  He says, linger in your shame, know your brokenness and be willing and courageous enough to face it.

We find our true strengths, not via a test, but rather when we are most broken because that is when Jesus becomes most alive in us -- assuming we allow his healing grace and mercy to do business with our brokenness and pain.  Allender says it like this, "healing comes when our story is raw, bone-deep, and full of hunger for what only Jesus can offer."

One reason I wrote the post is because I do not believe that many people have actually done that business of lingering and dwelling on their shame and brokenness, and then allowed Jesus to speak to them there -- to tell them their god-given strengths that only he can give broken people.  It's why I value counselors so highly, and why I like Allender.  Without doing business with our fallen selves, I feel like maybe finding our "strengths" is an exercise destined to miss the mark.

That's not to say, for sure, that I think the test is valueless or anything.  It can have tons of value.  But I tend to agree with Allender that the path to real healing should begin with a very deep and prolonged gaze at our own broken stories.

How do we grow?  Find your strengths at some point, yes absolutely.  But I say the quickest point here is not a straight line.  We must travel backwards in our stories before we may be in a place to reach our destination.  It's wiser to first do patient, prolonged, tearful, and difficult lingering about our own brokenness.

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