From the General Presbyter
Author Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr defines the Toltec word “mitote” as “the chaos of 1,000 voices all trying to talk at once in the mind.” Many of these voices are famous for their negative back chat. “You’ll never grow the church,” or “You’re a poor excuse for a (fill in the blank), or one straight out of the protestant playbook: “You’re not working hard enough.” The dictionary defines mitote as an Aztec Dance. Makes perfect sense, as these thoughts go around and around.
Recent articles on clergy burnout and clergy exits give voice to some of these states clergy find themselves in. Along with external factors of deteriorating relationships with church members, many pastors find it difficult to shut down those critical voices pushing, judging, criticizing, blaming ourselves and others. And yet these relentless assertions dig us deeper into anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and frustration as we navigate these post crisis COVID times.
Time to give up that negative chorus of mitote for Lent! Our sanity and ministries depend on it.
I imagine many of us feel guilty when we are not banging our heads against the wall in service of others. So, I offer these words from scripture, inviting us to continue to look after the needs of others but take one more step.
“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of humans…” Philippians 2:5-7.
The key words: “emptied himself.” I was taught this text means Jesus emptied himself of all entitlement. Or in modern language, the God complex. Believe it or not, we do not have the control we mistakenly believe we have over people, the church, society, and the world. We are not called to solve every problem or please everyone all the time. That is a prescription for burnout.
My challenge to you and myself, let go of that burden and allow this season of Lent to quiet your mind, fill you with the Spirit of God which is also comforting, using thought only when necessary. And listen to the mitote that say, “you are loved, whole and wonderful, just as God made you to be.”
“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”– Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of recently freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a PhD in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage Black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that Black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900’s.