Working Out the Numbness
There are two things that I don’t like very much: numb-heads and numb-legs. We’ve all sat in that meeting/class/small group that felt like you needed to just get up and do something rather than talk anymore. By the end of it, your head is just numb.
Often those meetings have another side effect: numb-legs. If I sit for too long, my legs go to sleep and my lower back feels numb. The worst part is when you attempt to stand up and walk it out. You try to get up and walk, only to have that horrible tingly feeling all over as you wobble around until your legs are normal again.
This past week I’ve been completely immersed in my 1-week intensive course on the topic of reconciliation. For the past few days we’ve explored the journey of reconciliation from many angles. It’s a topic I’ve learned is deep, complicated, and powerful.
It’s also a topic can be difficult to put into action. We looked at reconciliation efforts in places like Rwanda and South Africa. As we did, we discussed and critiqued what has been done in different situations. Sometimes these discussions can be frustrating as we critique too much. If anything doesn’t meet the ideal, then it gets picked apart. After a week of this, you get numb-headed.
I can’t help but draw a conclusion between these two frustrations of numb-headedness and numb-legs. In class, we often critique the latest strategy or model. Maybe that’s a church model, maybe it’s a model of reconciliation, or maybe it’s a strategy for effective evangelism. The truth is, we can only sit around critiquing for so long. We have to stand up and get on our feet. I believe we’ll find out it was harder than we expected. Our legs will tingle. We’ll wobble around, and hopefully we’ll find a way that feels right and our legs are strong again.
I always feared coming to seminary because I’d rather be in the field of action than sitting in a classroom. As I’ve been here at Candler I’ve learned that critique is necessary because no model, system, or strategy is perfect. Critique helps us get closer to the ideal. Candler helps me engage in important critiquing. Admittedly, I’ve felt that numb-headedness come around a time or two, but this has also been a place where our legs are moved into action. Learning happens within the context of serving others through Contextual Education I and II. Candler has been a place where critique and action meet face to face.
In their book, Reconciling All Things, authors Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice write about leaders saying, “Leading is not about knowing where you are going. It is about starting somewhere then taking a next faithful step, then another and another.”
I find this to be true in almost any line of ministry. At times the critiquing can create fear of going out and being the church God is calling us to be. Yet we have to get up, work out those awkward first steps, and continue faithfully.
 Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling all things: a Christian vision for justice, peace and healing, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 129.
Mark is a second-year MDiv and student ambassador at Candler. From Springdale, Arkansas, he completed his undergraduate studies at The University of Arkansas.