Uniting mind and heart

(This post is a gamble for me. My alternative titles for it are, “False Humility” and “Internal Exclusion and Embrace: The Schizophrenic Within.”)

One of the funniest slams on me in the last few years came from a friend I’ve known since high school. We tease each other mercilessly. She and her husband were talking about me, and she was trying to come up with a compliment. Instead, she came up with a hilarious put down, when she said, “Gregg hides his intelligence really well.”

That’s given me plenty of good, internal chuckles. 🙂

Today, though, I saw into myself in a new way. I’m building a new friendship with a guy I really like. He’s articulate and bright and thoughtful, working on his dissertation to complete his Ph.D. As he was sharing his call in life, his interests and pursuits, I realized something about myself. Don’t you hate it when you believe something, you’ve told other people that same thing…and then you discover that you yourself are behaving contrary to what you believe and to what you have told others?

Inside myself, I’ve placed faith responses in the opposing corner to intellectual pursuits. I’ve separated mind and heart, and subjugated the mind to inferior status. I don’t believe that to be true. I’ve counseled others not to do it. But I’ve done it to myself.

I can see how it developed. We moved to Oregon from California, the truck filled with our furniture arriving at our new home just before I came home on the bus from my first day of a new school. I really struggled that year to find my identity. I talked different, I dressed different, I was plain old different from everybody else. Partly from my choosing, partly from how things evolved, the first attempt at finding identity was in academics. It was a failure that I rejected, because I didn’t like being called the brain, I didn’t like the separation people would place between them and me because I was smart. It took years, of course, to find anything close to an “identity” that I was comfortable with, but the rejection of intellectual pursuit had its foundation laid.

I began attending a fairly conservative evangelical church on my own as a sophomore in high school. The people in that youth group saved me, in just about every sense of that word. I had role models of people who didn’t put on masks or manufacture identities, but were comfortable enough in their own skin, their own skin loved and made by Jesus. I wanted what they had. I wanted the freedom that came from an identity as a loved, unique, created child of God. I’m very grateful that I found just that in community with them.

But a subtle anti-intellectualism crept in the backdoor. I was confident/arrogant enough to only apply to two colleges: George Fox College and Stanford University. My questions and discernings about college and the future of my life boiled down to a fundamental choice, framed, as I look back, mostly by the people I cared about and respected in that church community. Do I choose Stanford, academia, intellectualism, achievement, and performance…or do I choose George Fox, spirituality, calling, pastoral ministry, and service? Do I “think”, or do I “be”? Do I achieve, or do I faithfully respond?

I went to George Fox, and I don’t feel like I was wrong, like I misheard God, like it was a mistake. It was right. It has shaped and defined the course of my life in wonderful ways, bringing me to the community I worship with and serve, and most importantly to the woman I married. But it created a fissure, a divide, a separation within myself that I have held in uneasy tension ever since.

The part of who God has wired me to be, the part that analyzes and thinks and dreams and dissects, has become associated with pride and selfishness and a “me” focus. The quiet, unconscious murmur in the background of my soul is, “Instead of wealth and power and prestige and intellect, you chose to follow Jesus.” When I put that in black and white letters on the screen, I can see the small grain of truth it contains and the large faulty assumption that it rests upon. But when it just rolls around in there, without voice or words, its subtle effects go unseen. Talking with Clint today, it reared its ugly head and took shape, and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since.

I ought to be whole. I ought to be willing to accept who I am and who God has made me to be, just as I’ve said to countless other people. Yet again, something inside me is a either/or instead of a both/and.

In my attempts to hide and downplay my mind, not wanting to stand out, not wanting to appear prideful, not wanting to be perceived as sold out to prestige and selfish pursuits, I’ve done some damage. I’ve missed out. My friend is reaping the fruits now of embracing his mind and his heart as joint followers of Jesus, and I have in some sense let my mind atrophy by falsely raising heart above head.

I’d like to commit to following my friend’s example.

5 thoughts on “Uniting mind and heart

  1. I can point to the day in seventh grade when a girl, who was trying to be kind, said, “you know, people would like you better if you didn’t use such big words.” I took that deeply to heart.

    I can also clearly remember the day in the summer before senior year in high school when I went to a month long program for high school juniors at UC Santa Barbara, i.e. out of my small town, when I said something was blue and stumbled around it, and someone said, “you mean, like, azure? And I said “yes, that’s what I meant,” and he said, “well, why don’t you say what you mean?” It changed my life again, not completely or forever, but I stopped trying so hard not to sound smart.

    On the other hand, Stanford didn’t accept me.

    Here’s a piece of a comment that I hope you won’t take badly. When I was in high school, I had a friend who was very committed to his conservative evangelical church. He’s now a pastor, like his father. I liked him, he was funny, but I could never, never have gone to his church that would so clearly have devalued my (female!) intelligence and ambition. Mike and I had outright arguments about whether life in the U.S. had improved since women were allowed to vote, or hold outside employment. Was your church like that? I’m intrigued by your description of the loving the community and that you “wanted the freedom that came from an identity as a loved, unique, created child of God.” Did young women in your church have this freedom too? How did you move to a place of valuing women’s contributions? Or am I assuming too much about your acceptance of women being more than wives and mothers and altar flower arrangers? (I am really afraid of offending you here, either way. Please know that I didn’t mean to and I’m really continuing to expand my heretofore narrow-minded understanding of evangelical Friends.)


  2. Good for you, Robin. I’m glad you’ve been down this road I’m walking earlier, and that gives me hope. Stanford wait listed me, but I still claim that as a victory, because, after all, I missed the normal deadline. I applied late, and they still wait listed me. (See? Pride a little too close to the surface 😉 )

    And listen, you’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to offend me. Please. It’s a very good question. Such a double standard existed at the church I went to in high school. The strongest leaders in the youth group were women. Their wisdom and their knowledge of God were the ones who helped me work through the identity stuff. I’ll always be grateful to Lori Schock Jackson and Becky Drapela. But there was no place for their leadership, nor encouragement of it, nor acceptance of women in pastoral roles, in that church, then or now.

    My mom, Lori and Becky, Theresa Klosterman Deibele and Lisa Verch Fletcher, Jenny Gibb Huwe, Elaine, Katrina Baker McConaughey, Laura Schmidt Roberts, Carla Grover Barnhill, Tanya Baker, Kathy Watson, AJ Schwanz, and many more women have shaped my life; spiritually, intellectually, as a leader, as a person. I can’t imagine a worldview that doesn’t make a place for women’s contributions to every facet of life on an equal plane. I feel it’s part of my call to name, call out, and encourage leadership gifts in women. Not to mention the fact that I’m dad to three daughters that I pray will have the freedom to live for God without suffering the damage and baggage our society will try to put on them.

    I’m gonna post something on the main blog that I wrote awhile ago, to give you more of an idea of my thoughts on women’s contributions. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.


  3. You have funny friends. Does the world need another marginal pastor? If not, then by all means, use the brains God gave you to do what he called you to do! I’m glad you have both brains and heart and hope you’ll use them *both* to wisely, bravely and intelligently lead the charge into an uncertain future.

    Robin, I’ll let Gregg speak for himself in response to your questions about his growing up but I would like to assure you that from my perspective as former clerk of elders who had the privilege of working with Gregg, I don’t think you have assumed too much. Gregg is 1 of about 2 feminist men (in the best sense of the word) I know. Lucky for me, I married the other one. Fortunately, Gregg does not fit the typical (old) evangelical Friends pastor mold. I hope I live to see the day that that particular mold is broken forever.


  4. Gregg, thanks for taking the risk to share about your own personal journey and growth… so intimately.

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve had an “aha moment” that might help you live more into the self that God created Gregg Koskela to be. It reminds me of another moment you shared about experiencing an “aha” regarding the emotional side… when repetitive prayer songs that you’d previously dismissed, suddenly moved you to a deeper moment.

    I don’t sense any self-condemnation in your post… but if it IS lurking around the edges, remind yourself that you’ve been open to learning and growing for years, and God takes you to the next step in God’s timing. (Know too, that God is using your words to challenge my recent lack-of-openness.)



  5. Kathy-thanks. There’s more than two, I promise you. I’ll point out a few on Sunday.

    Bruce-thanks for affirming the vulnerability. I’d thought I’d gotten to the point where letting my insides out in the open was easy, but this post proved me wrong. I’m feeling raw and a little too “out there,” and have almost deleted it twice. Your words help me to leave it up, and I hope it will be helpful to others.


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