Recently I had the privilege of attending a continuing education event with a peculiar name: “Creative Maladjustment: Pastoral Leadership for Tumultuous Times.” The content was as provocative as the title, which is based on a quote from a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Western Michigan University in 1963.
“Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” Certainly, we all want to avoid the maladjusted life…But I say to you, my friends, as I move to my conclusion, there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good‐will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize…In other words, I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world ‐ men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
He believed there was value to being intentionally maladjusted, to being creatively at odds with the tides of unjust societal dynamics.
As we approach Ash Wednesday (though not before the pancake supper!), it occurs to me that Lent is a maladjusted season. Where our culture encourages us to tend to ourselves, Lent asks us to see the suffering of others. Where we would like to skim the surface, Lent invites us deeper. Where we leap after for distractions, Lent confronts us with the reality of our own and the world’s condition. Where we look for easy happiness, Lent offers us a more challenging but truer and more lasting joy.
Traditionally, Christians have often given up things for Lent, modeled after the fasting practices of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians. This maladjustment of depriving oneself of momentary pleasure or convenience has a long history of aiding in the journey of becoming more mindful of our dependence on God – and our lack of actual dependence on the things we assume we need. You might also take up a practice, allowing your spiritual life to be shaped by the addition of a discipline or a form of care for yourself or others. Over the next month, I encourage you to prayerfully consider shifting your routines – maladjusting – in some concrete way during the season of Lent, to see how it might expand your spiritual horizons.
Meanwhile, since a number of you have asked me to share more about this conference, I plan to give you plenty of opportunities to explore what it means to be creatively maladjusted. Each week in worship, we will consider a particular way in which Jesus was creatively maladjusted, and how we might be called to live in that example in our own place and time. In addition, on Wednesday evenings at 6pm, beginning on Ash Wednesday before the service, there will be a casual soup supper with guided discussion around the theme from that Sunday’s sermon. And because I just can’t get enough of Lent or being maladjusted, you’re also invited to bring your own lunch and join me on Tuesdays at 12:30pm in the conference room, where we will chat about the upcoming sermon topic, our Lenten disciplines, and how we maladjust together as a community of faith. All of this is very low-key and requires no preparation or commitment to come every week, so take a look at the schedule of themes below (and don’t get scared; it won’t be as depressing as it looks) and join in when you can.
Grace and peace,