CHAPTER 33, IN WHICH WE BEGIN TO EXPLORE THE CONCEPT OF WISDOM AND ELDERSHIP
This week, Vince and Lightning are joined by David Janzen, who is a long-time member of Reba Place Fellowship. The Fellowship is an intentional Christian community in a suburb of Chicago where people live together in households and share their lives and resources.
After reflecting on the current presidential race Lightning shared that none of the candidates have the intangible traits that he wants in a person who will be representing him to the rest of the world. He had a hard time describing these intangible traits, but it sounded like wisdom and peace-making and maturity. Lightning called this collection of traits eldership and this is why Lightning asked David Janzen to join us.
The guys are beginning a conversation today that they hope to pick up several more times over the coming weeks with different guests. The topic is difficult to squeeze into a single word, but we could call it eldership or wisdom or mentoring. This week David shared with us a brief history of Reba Place Fellowship, and some of his thoughts on Mentoring. One of the values of the Fellowship is giving and receiving council. This is a practice for every day and for the biggest decisions in life. When we learn to give and receive counsel, we learn to receive wisdom and share our wisdom. We learn to become open and generous toward others; giving and receiving counsel undercuts the authority of the ego.
David shared that a mentor is a model…not just a role model but a life model. An elder is someone that others want to be like and as a result elders attract people to themselves.
The second dimension of eldership is learning to listen deeply. But, one can’t listen deeply at the same time that one is trying to fix the other person. Elders know how to ask questions that open conversations and focus people’s thinking.
The third quality of a mentor is door-opening. People of wisdom are constantly giving away their roles and responsibilities and bringing people into situations that they couldn’t get into on their own. Elders open doors, but to be a door-opener you must have your personal identity and security fixed in something other than your own achievement.
David shared with us the four steps to gaining wisdom that he has noticed. The first level is knowledge. This is why kids are always asking questions. We begin by wanting to know things. The second level is applying that knowledge, which David called skill. If our knowledge (step 1) is put into practice (step 2), then we gain experience (step 3). Having a lot of life experiences is necessary to become wise. Learning to reflect on our experiences is the fourth step. This is the step that many people don’t take. Perhaps it is difficult because it requires that I slow down; perhaps it is difficult because in my reflection I might discover things about myself that I don’t like. Reflecting on our experiences is a crucial part of becoming people of wisdom.
To become an elder, practice listening deeply and take regular time for reflection. David suggested that we each could be mentoring someone, and also be in a relationship in which we are being mentored. He was quick to point out that mentoring happens in community and over long periods of time—years and decades, not minutes and hours.
David closed the conversation by sharing this paraphrase of Ghandi: Do the truth that you know, and it will guide you to more truth.