Friday, July 09, 2010
The Square : Defining The Priorities Of Life
‘Lifeshapes’ are a series of tools for discipleship – for helping us to follow Jesus, and to help others to follow Jesus. Recognising that we live in an iconic culture, where brand logos both carry and unlock significant volumes of experience for us – try it: how much information and experience does the Disney logo, or the Apple logo, or the M&S logo recall to your mind? Choose a logo and write a list – they make use of simple iconic shapes to carry and unlock biblical teaching to live by, with a focus on the life and ministry of Jesus. The beauty of iconic symbols is this: that, just as with every new Disney (etc.) release, the reservoir of knowledge their logo carries and unlocks expands; so with every new thing we learn about living as disciples, the reservoir of knowledge the Lifeshapes carries and unlocks for us also expands.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus lead those he calls to follow him from a place of unconscious incompetence, through conscious incompetence and conscious competence, to unconscious competence. These are the stages we go through whenever we step out from our known experience of life into something unknown.
Let me illustrate this by describing learning to drive. As a child, we know what it is like to be a passenger in a car, and we give little thought to the possibility of driving. As we approach the legal age, we might begin to pay attention, to ask questions. But when we are given power (insured on our parents’ car, or given professional lessons) and authority (a provisional driver’s licence) to drive, we have no idea what is actually involved. We over-steer round bends; we stall at lights. This is unconscious incompetence. We quickly move to conscious incompetence: very aware of our inability; our confidence that we will ever learn taking a massive hit. But with practice, with encouragement and instruction, we begin to learn the skills, grow in experience and confidence. At this stage, we still need to concentrate on what we are doing: this is conscious competence. Finally, we reach the stage where we can drive without having to think about driving: we automatically check our mirrors: this is unconscious competence.
At the stage of unconscious incompetence, we need to do what we are told: the instructor is very directional, does not burden us with massive amounts of information. At the stage of conscious incompetence, we need a great deal of encouragement, and to be reminded of the vision, the greater freedom that being able to drive will give us, in employment, in leisure, in the practicalities of day-to-day living in a car culture. At the stage of conscious competence, we need opportunity to drive, to put in the hours (as far as learning to drive is concerned, this stage only really happens once we have past our test: then we must drive: one of the reasons why I always lacked confidence in driving was that I did not have the opportunity to put in those hours when I passed my test). At the stage of unconscious competence, driving is ‘natural’ – though note that precisely because our competence is unconscious, we will find it hard to teach someone else to drive unless we retrace our own steps, recalling to mind the earlier stages we had to pass through, and in particular the stage of conscious competence.
These same principles – stages of learning; and corresponding phases of leading, requiring different approaches – apply to anything in life, including ‘spiritual’ things such as learning to lead others, or learning to exercise the power and authority Jesus gives us to heal the sick.
Jesus’ intention is not that his disciples remain unconsciously incompetent, consciously incompetent, or even consciously competent: but that we reach the place of unconscious competence (with regards to healing, Peter reached the place where his shadow falling across the sick healed them).
These stages define our priorities in any given point: are we leading as directive visionary, or encouraging coach; as delegating releaser, or removed-but-available consultant?