Several years ago, when I was beginning what would be my Seminary career, I had just left a position in the behavioral health field, a field in which I had worked for several years. I was meeting with a professor in the Seminary that I would attend, and as he searched for this and that while I waited in the chair across from his desk, I scanned the books on his shelf. I felt an odd sense of comfort when I saw a DSM-IV TR.
I would go on in the behavioral health field, the field in which I am still making the rent with the opportunity to impact lives. At the time, however, I was growing, and was in the midst of a brief venture in pastoral employment. As I was in a painful stage of maturing, I was dangerously compartmentalized. I had difficulty understanding that one could exist in what I perceived as two worlds: working in the realm of psychology (a field to which I quickly returned), while studying theology. To add to my confusion, I was writing op-ed pieces for a newspaper at the time, and was dabbling, as I consistently have, in theatre when finding the opportunity. I remember the first summer in my two-year Seminary program, hungrily longing for fiction to break up the weighty philosophy and theology that was my reading diet while working on my master’s degree. I remember wrestling strongly with what world to belong in at what time, as I wrote cultural commentary, taught Scripture, and debated with other pastors appropriate interventions for students wrestling with serious psychological issues; pastors who were convinced that the science of psychology was mutually exclusive to their faith. I wasn’t employed by that community of faith for long, and haven’t been employed by one since.
Late in my Seminary career, long after I had started unobtrusive lucidity, I began researching the intersection of theology and art, beginning with Tillich, Schaeffer, and von Balthasar. Freshly inspired by that course of study, I took a course in the integration of psychology and theology. More recently, I began researching theatre as a theological event. As I’ve read and studied and worked in the different disciplines of my professional and academic life, I’ve discovered something critical.
What I’ve discovered is that everything…and I mean everything…connects.
Compartmentalization is one of the worst things we could ever attempt to do to ourselves. I spent a great deal of time in my maturation process attempting to decipher what my focus should be, what discipline I should pursue, when the entire time I should have been pursuing them all, because all of them inform each other, and are complimentary to my contribution to life.
Kenneth Burke, considered the father of modern communication studies, progressed the concept that I’m speaking of; essentially, that anything can serve as a lens through which we can understand anything else. I view faith through the lens of theatre, for example. I approach my clients at work clinically, but my clinical insight is informed from my undergraduate background in communication theory. All of it finds its outlet in writing, and all of it comprises me. Not me in different phases, or me wearing different hats depending on what time of day it is. All of it is me, holistically, and I could not function without any part of these various backgrounds.
I have many friends who are gifted musicians, painters, and actors. They earn their livings as professors, scientists, engineers, and math teachers. We are all gifted differently, and we all carry many talents. Should we succumb to our culture’s desire to label us and box us in by attributing us to only one area of life, then we do ourselves a great disservice, and we do an even greater injustice to those whose lives we cross every day.
It is, after all, ultimately about people.
As people, we cannot be reduced to mere numbers and formulae, diagnoses or stigma. As people, we are all enormously multifaceted, and we cannot neglect any of those facets of ourselves, at least not for long, because all of it interweaves. As it interweaves, it creates something stronger, and we will not only benefit ourselves by this, but we will certainly benefit those around us.