One Step Out of "Stuckness"
By Jamie Coats, part of the Vestry Papers issue on Innovative Stewardship (September 2011)
Editor’s Note: Sometimes we get stuck in old ways of thinking and doing, finding it difficult to envision a different approach to an ongoing challenge. Earlier this year, Jamie Coats shared the story of the “Winged-Boot Fitter;” his imagery stuck with me. When we decided to devote an issue of Vestry Papers to new approaches to financial sustainability, it seemed fitting to include an exercise designed to help groups explore how to take one step out of stuckness.
In Lent 2004 I had a vision during a meditation and wrote down a story entitled “In Boots Behold God” that told of Jesus giving me a pair of winged-boots and instructing me to “go fit boots!” Since this story emerged I have come to see my vocation as being the winged-boot fitter, one who helps others to make spirited and rooted next steps in their lives and organizations. At least that is what I try to do. I now describe myself as “a communication messenger for the religious, drawing upon the story of Hermes, and the story of Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet.”
Helping others make spirited and rooted next steps often involves being intentional about not only where you want to go but also what is keeping you from getting started. When leading workshops on this topic, I often invite participants to join me in this exercise:
- Where do you want to go? What is your vision? Take a blank sheet of paper and put it under your foot. Draw an outline of your foot. This can be done anywhere easily, even in a restaurant with napkin. It doesn’t matter if your shoe is on or off.
- Where are you stuck? Take the foot outline and fill in everything that is stuck in your work or life. Next, take another blank sheet and draw around your other foot.
- What is one step out of stuckness? Reflect, mediate, pray, and then write down one step that will get you moving towards your vision.
What I have learned from using this exercise is that it takes people out their heads and makes them, in some way, think with their whole body. It allows people to surface major issues that stop their whole progress or their organization’s progress. I have also found that what people are desperate for is “one step out of stuckness.” They do not need comprehensive answers, brilliant ideas, and other people’s examples. They want their own one step out of stuckness. They want to be fitted with their own pair of winged boots, able to move freely, perhaps to soar, in search of their own path.
I believe that in washing the disciples’ feet Jesus called us to lead by equipping others to walk their own path in direct relation to God. Jesus offers us a different form of leadership, grounded in faith in our own ability to find our way, to become unstuck through reflection, meditation, and prayer. When I hear the word “leadership” I often fear what is being proposed is “headship” where one person says to another, “If you put my ideas in your head or let me take over your thinking it will solve your problems.” Instead I pray that that we can work to equip others to take their own “one step out of stuckness” and fit them with their own winged-boots.
Jamie Coats serves as the Director, Friends of SSJE - Society of Saint the Evangelist, (SSJE) an Episcopal religious order of Brothers (www.ssje.org) and as a trustee of the Trustees of Donations to the Protestant Episcopal Church (www.trusteesofdonations.org). He directed SSJE’s the Stone & Light Capital Campaign to renovate SSJE’s beautiful Monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is currently working to support the Brothers’ plans to enhance and conserve Emery House, SSJE’s rural retreat center in West Newbury, Massachusetts. This article is copyright Jamie Coats 2011 and was first published on Jamie’s blog site www.wingedboots.com
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