**This blog post has been greatly informed by time spent with two great thinkers and prophets of the scorched-earth kind, Tim U. and Joe. Q. Most of these ideas are theirs. I’m just passing them along.
In previous posts, I’ve wrestled with what it means to live from the inside out. This has typically, for me, meant living from one’s “soul” out, but I was recently challenged with a different (though compatible) idea in reference to living from the center of one’s physical (as well as spiritual) place.
This idea was recently explained to me in this way: though it is physically impossible to not be where you are geographically (sitting in this chair, I am not standing on the Brooklyn Bridge), most of us are not where we are at relationally, emotionally, and psychologically (what I will hereafter call “spiritually”). In other words, most of us are not present in our own presence. Most of us are consumed by the lives of people, things, work, and activities that are not in front of us spiritually. Indeed, being present (living from the inside out both spiritually and geographically) is very difficult in a culture that fosters relational bankruptcy.
To help you see what this looks like, take a look at the following diagram:
What you see is what my life looked like up until four weeks ago. As you look at this diagram, you will see several things: 1. the circles were drawn up to represent where I spend my time literally and geographically. If these circles were placed over a map of Oklahoma City, they represent the actual geography of my life (the arrows and circles represent the directions I travel from my home), 2. there are two big circles that represent where I spent most of my actual, clocked-in time (work and home), but it is possible that they do not represent my “spiritual” time (in other words, when I am home it is very probably I am reading for my PhD or thinking about the next day’s AP Lit conversation, rather than being present in my own presence), 3. though there are two circles where the lines also point inwards, the circles rarely overlapped, and 4. what I claimed as the center of my life, my home (oikos, or “household,” in Greek) was anything but.
Now, here is an explanation of what my life looked like, with the circles filled in:
Once I began to think through this, I realized that the bulk of my time was spent in activities that took me away from the things that I claimed mattered.
A life this fragmented cannot help but create stress and the feeling of natural drift from the things that matter most (and this from someone who doesn’t spend much time at places like bars or golf courses–nor does it plot time spent on such things as social media, tv, etc.). Unfortunately, this fragmentation is the very thing our culture praises: the busy life, the chasing of the “American Dream,” the pursuit of “happiness”; a life measured by the clock, the agenda, and the social hour. And yet, we see too clearly the results of a life where the household is devalued: high divorce rates, overpopulated prisons (both of the “jail” kind and the “addiction” kind), cultural worship of narcissistic hedonism, fatherlessness (both of dads in jail and dads gone closing deals), and the distrust and fear that comes from relational poverty.
The idea of the oikos as the healthy center of society is reflected in every major philosophy from the Jewish idea of Deuteronomy 6 and Proverbs 22 and the Christian idea of Ephesians 5, to Aristotle’s The Politics and The Analects of Confucius (for starters). In other words, the idea that a healthy society begins first in healthy homes is one that is found across the board. In fact, it was commonplace even in our society up until air conditioners and TVs took us off our front porches and inside our homes, making the living room the center of our non-work time. And modern statistics bear this out (see the following links: The Magic of the Family Meal, 10 Statistics Showing Importance of an Involved Father, The Impact of Family Involvement). In short, “Family involvement is one of the best long-term investments a family can make.”
So the question I have been wrestling with is this: what would happen if I really refocused my life so that I lived from the inside out not just spiritually, but geographically as well? What if my oikos really was the most important thing to me, not just emotionally but in where I spend my time and resources? What if I began to orient my life so that my circles overlapped?
This would mean some pruning, some purging, and, undoubtedly, some pain, but if the great thinkers are right, it might also mean the salvation of my family and the start of living out the things that matter most.
Now, after pruning a major branch from my life (my work), here is what my life looks like today:
The goal, as my friends articulate it, is to arrange one’s life so that the lines become blurred into overlapping circles with the oikos at the center, more like this:
One example I have been wrestling through is this: what if my children didn’t grow up thinking of “church” as a place we went to 2-3 times a week in a building on the other side of town, but when they thought of “church” they thought of our home? What if “church” was what we did and what we tried to become? What if worship, prayer, Scripture teaching, and living out the ethic of the Kingdom of God became a natural extension of what we did in our oikos to such a degree that, when people came over to visit, they sensed that something different, something sacred, something holy pervaded our home? That our visitors felt like they were at church?
That would be one example of living out of the center in ways that overlapped.
I get that this requires a complete shift in how one thinks of priorities and the ordering of one’s life, and that not all things are manageable in this way, but for me, seeing my life diagrammed both geographically and in terms of presence gave me a unique perspective on where, why and how I spend my life.