The surprising gift of multiplicity

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Rev. Walter Klockers

Cynthia G. Lindner is part of the faculty of the University of Chicago Divinity School. Rev. Lindner is also a pastoral psychotherapist at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy. In addition, she has written a book entitled “Varieties of Gifts: Multiplicity and the Well-Lived Pastoral Life.”

I recently had the opportunity to hear Rev. Lindner speak and thought her views were important enough to share with you here.

Her message was primarily intended for pastors but can easily be translated for all.

The key theme of her message is based upon something called multiplicity. One definition of multiplicity is “a state of being made up of multiple diverse elements.” Another way of saying this is “being made up of a lot of different stuff.”

I have learned that it is a healthy thing to view ourselves as creatures of multiplicity. You can begin this process by simply listing as many things as you can about yourself. Fill in the blank by repeatedly saying: “I am ____.” Keep track of your responses.

For Christians, this notion should be familiar to us. In Scripture, Jesus used metaphorical “I am” statements, such as: “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the good shepherd,”

For me, I can begin with: “I am a human being,” “I am male,” “I am a husband,” “I am a father,” “I am a Christian,” “I am Lutheran,” “I am a pastor,” “I am a photographer,” “I am a writer,” “I am a fisherman,” “I am a veteran,” “I am an American,” I am a person who enjoys nature,” et cetera. I can list about forty things off the top of my head.

So our lists may include occupation, roles, hobbies, interests, likes, habits, tendencies – those things that make us who we are. In other words, your identity.

It can be dangerous for us if we have a very short list. For example, if you are a pastor, and chiefly identify yourself as such, what will happen the day you retire? If you lack multiplicity, then you may experience a depressing void.

So, how many things did you list? God wishes for you to live your life abundantly. So why not seek out ways to add to it? That way, if any one thing is taken away, others will step up to the plate.

Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.

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