Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"I'm still not sure if I understand ambiguity."

I'm steadily realizing what it is about leading a parish that is so challenging for me. I think I am too comfortable with ambiguity, especially when it comes to relationships and decision-making.

Several years ago, during an interview for CPE in seminary, my interviewer asked me what my Meyers-Briggs "letters" were. When I told her, she slowly nodded her head and said that pastors who score very high as a "P" (perceiving) often report having a difficult time governing in the parish. They tended to find it difficult to reach solid conclusions about ideas. At the time, I didn't know what she meant. Now I do.

I am not a huge fan of the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators, but I do think there is some truth in what it uncovers about a personality. When it comes to judgment-making, I have always struggled. I always want to consider every perspective. And then consider every perspective again. And then consult someone about the perspectives. And, in the end, I will still leave the door open to new possibilities. Flexibility can be my biggest weakness.

But then I got to thinking that this is also may be why I like Dostoyevsky so much. Dostoyevsky's novels are entrenched in ambiguity: why did Raskolnikov kill? Is he suffering enough? Has he paid his penalty yet? Who killed Karamazov? Let's consider all of these deep questions and more. My more "J" (judging) friends have read The Brothers K and been put off by it, claiming "nothing ever really happens." Au contraire! So much is happening! His novels are a veritable "P" playground.

The challenges in ministry come, however, when people need decisions made, and when they need "something to happen" and I feel much more comfortable in just letting things happen and seeing where that leads us. It can be a little detrimental to the notion of progress, and a good "P" needs to be intuitive enough to figure out how it's going to happen anyway and then adjust to respond accordingly. The challenge, then, is to hone that intuition and the ability to think on one's feet.