In the 1991 movie City Slickers, a group of buddies from New York facing various mid-life crises goes on a quest to find direction and meaning for their lives by signing on to a Texas cattle drive. In one key scene, Mitch (played by Billy Crystal) has a conversation with Curly (played by Jack Palance), the seasoned trail boss who embodies the kind of confident manhood to which Mitch and his buddies aspired. Curly offers Mitch some important advice:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly [smiles]: That's what you have to find out.
"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing," wrote Stephen Covey in the best-selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. First published in 1989, the book has become an iconic text on principled leadership. The "main thing," of course, is your personal mission informed by your core principles. A dozen years later, Jim Collins translated the habits of personal success into principles of organizational success in his own best-selling Good to Great. Collins studied major corporations that had continued success over decades to determine what made them successful. Collins called one key factor "the Hedgehog principle." It says that successful organizations operate out of their core mission, lying at the conjunction of three overlapping circles representing the questions: What lights your fire? What could you be best in the world at? And what makes you money? In other words, where is your passion? What are your gifts? What sustains your work?
It was put even more simply by the award-winning novelist and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner, who wrote, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
We have a theological word for that place: vocation. It means "calling." As Presbyterians, we believe that God calls us not only to salvation but to service. We are not just hearers of the Word, but doers of it as well. Unlike the secular meaning of the word, our spiritual vocation is not just our work; it is the source of our joy as we discover and fulfill God's will for our lives. It is our "one thing," our "main thing."
The Presbytery of Lake Huron is at a mid-life crisis of sorts. We are looking for a renewed sense of purpose and vocation. We are doing this by engaging in holy conversations at our presbytery meetings, focused on successive themes of presbytery identity, presbytery mission, and presbytery partners.
As we look toward our next meeting in mid-September, we are considering our mission. What is the "one thing" we are called to do as a presbytery and as congregations? How do orient our churches and presbytery to undertake that faithfully? Where is our passion? What are our gifts? What sustains us in our work? Answering these questions is more than just an exercise in organizational management; it is key to our sense of joy and fulfillment in our koinonia, our shared life in Christ.
Summer provides us with time for reflection on the path of our lives and ministry. This summer, let us consider what the "one thing" in our individual lives might be, as well as the "main thing" in our spiritual calling as congregations and as a presbytery.