What Does It Mean To Be A People of Emergence?

Our April 2018 theme is Emergence

Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for an unknown God.

– Henri-Frederic Ariel

Make a bit of room. Leave a little space. Keep a lookout for the unexpected. These directions may not sound like anything radical or revolutionary. But it turns out that these are often Life’s favorite ways to help us emerge into something new.

Henri-Frederic Ariel’s reminder about leaving room and letting some things be is especially important as we move into the season of spring. During this time of year, it’s not just farmers but us all who turn to the work of “tilling and turning up our whole soil.” All around us, the culture shouts its heroic talk about striving and perfecting. Struggle is the dominant metaphor of the day. We talk of “fighting” to become all we can be. Images of sprouts breaking through concrete start showing up everywhere. Yet, we need to be careful because, more often than not, emergence and transformation is a much subtler art. It’s about stillness, listening and waiting to be led, not conquering, struggle and taking charge.


In other words, when it comes to emerging into something new, the message of spirituality is “Be careful with what you’ve been taught and told because much of it takes us in exactly the wrong direction.” As a people of emergence, we are called to take a different tack. We’ve been entrusted with the wisdom that emergence is most often about breathing rather than becoming better, patience not perfection, depth not dominance; acceptance not striving, attention not constant improvement.

That part about attention instead of improvement is especially important. It’s so easy to get transformation mixed up with fixing. And fixing is emergence’s biggest foe. Trying to perfect or prove ourselves is the surest way to stay stuck. The pursuit of constant improvement and perfection focuses us on our inadequacy and inferiority, causing us to overlook those unexpected guests that Henri-Frederic speaks of.

And, friends, we don’t want to miss those unexpected guests! Those seeds brought by the wind and those passing birds are the partners that make emergence possible. They help us notice new paths. They invite us to walk with a new step. They awaken in us new songs. They remind us that new life is not something we do alone. They assure us that transformation doesn’t have to be a long and lonely struggle but instead can be more like learning a new dance with a new friend. All we have to do is trust, take the hand of that “unknown God” and follow its lead.

So, this month, leave some room on that dance floor of yours. Keep your eyes peeled. And when that unexpected guest reaches out its hand, make sure you’re ready to take hold.

Excerpt from Soul Matters curriculum.