Where Loyalty Leads

Loyalty gets you places. Good places. It doesn’t always feel that way or look that way.

In fact, it often seems the opposite is true, that being loyal is out of touch. The politically saavy move and the shrewd choice is about agreeing to what you need to for the moment.

That’s loyal to the moment but not to the deeper, more meaningful thing that is you. It’s disloyal to you.

Being loyal to you–which emerges from that first loyalty of being loyal to God–leads to shimmering beauty. No matter how circuitous the path, loyalty ends in the neighborhood of strength.

Friends vs. Strangers

Photo Thanks to Kevin Curtis

Photo Thanks to Kevin Curtis

In a day I spend time working with three people: participants in mission at church; patients in a hospital setting, usually in medically intensive situations; and students preparing for continued ministry. All of those people are experiencing some thing in life that is calling out to them, emerging within them.

In the church, we are hearing and speaking to one another around an old and almost common event, reflecting upon the life of Jesus and what that life means now. In the hospital we are generally responding to the crisis of the medical moment and the myriad of ways hospitalization matters to people. In the learning environment (and I’m in three of them in one way or another), we are inspecting the materials available to us for preparation, refinement, and formation.

All those settings are identity shaping settings. In each place, we question—and I do this as a leader or caregiver or teacher—what’s happening and how those happenings turn us into the people we are. Jaco Hamman said, “Many of us live most of the time as strangers to ourselves” (From Becoming a Pastor: Forming Self and Soul for Ministry, p. 10).

When I read Hamman’s words, they struck me because they were a reminder that most of the time, we can be distant from our selves, strangers to ourselves. We can be strangers to the things that shape us and to who we are as shaped, identified people.

How do we get to know who we are? Where are the places in life that reveal, construct, critique, reform, affirm, and embolden identity? I’m paying attention to how my working worlds are more than places I go; there are places I’m made. The same is true for home and circles of friendship. Those are the contexts where identity happens. When we sit in those places with open eyes, we get closer to ourselves. We become friends to ourselves.


I’ve seen you and thought of you sense we last sat down together, but talking about you with a friend brought all that history back in front of my face.

We were talking about what we’d do differently, whether we’d cut something here, change something there.  It was good to come away from that conversation realizing that what we did together last time in the course of prayer we’d do again closely this time.

We’ll use most of the same methods.  The students will be different, of course, but we’re returning to you as a topic, returning the lessons you brought us all.  We’ll think together about theology and gender and embodiment and spiritual practices.

We’ll talk and talk and we’ll listen.  We’ll read mystics and theologians and biblical scholars.  We’ll train our eyes and ears to attend to our fellow learners.

And hopefully we’ll learn how to pray.  May God teach us to pray.