Word-plays on “the center” and “centering” have come to my attention often in my new role at the Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership. Books I’ve read that highlight this concept regularly pop back up on my radar screen.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes “Each of us has a center, though we usually don’t recognize it as such. Neither do we recognize the all-encompassing effects of that center on every aspect of our lives.”
In Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard refers to the “executive center” of a person’s life.
And in Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald asserts: “If my private world is in order, it will be because I regularly choose to enlarge the spiritual center of my life.”
What is that “center” of which these authors write?
Defining the “Center”
The center is that place at the core of our being from which our choices, decisions, and actions are driven. It is that command post from which our entire will and way are exercised.
We call it “heart,” drawing metaphorically on that throbbing, muscular organ that pumps blood throughout our body. An appropriate metaphor indeed, for the heart is the wellspring from which “flow all the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We must therefore care for the heart, with the goal of a “fully integrated life,” as Covey calls it.
Such a life is marked by security [ref]identity and self-worth[/ref], guidance [ref]life-direction, an internal frame of reference[/ref], wisdom [ref]discernment and right judgement[/ref], and power [ref]a decisive, proactive, task-oriented spirit; the capacity to overcome obstacles, break bad habits and create better ones[/ref].
“When these are present…,” Covey asserts, “they create the great force of a noble personality, a balanced character, a beautifully integrated individual.”
Fully Alive in Christ
Irenaeus, the 2nd century Christian theologian, made the same point in a more curious way. He said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”[ref]https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1579882.Irenaeus_of_Lyons[/ref]
If you’ve ever cringed at the notion of God staking His glory (i.e. His reputation) on the “aliveness” of your heart, you’re not alone. But it’s true, so let’s say it this way:
God’s glory is most beautifully displayed when those ruined by the fall are not only restored to life, but become fully alive.
[bctt tweet= “God’s glory is displayed when those ruined by the fall are restored & fully alive. – Whaid Rose”]
Jesus underscored the difference when he said, “I am come that you might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). It is no small matter that many have life, but not life to the full; that many are alive, but not abundantly so.
[bctt tweet= “It is no small matter that many are alive, but not abundantly so. – Whaid Rose”]
The Common Grace God Gives to All Mankind
Abundant life is the outworking of being deeply connected to Jesus. It is drawing life from Him and imitating “the centered life” He modeled. Jesus often retreated from the crowd to be with the Father, and only did what He saw the Father doing.
Albeit, the concept of centering isn’t unique to Christianity; its practices have dotted cultural landscapes throughout time – from the ancients, to mystics and pianists, to yoga instructors, and to Oprah and other purveyors of today’s “mass-marketed spirituality.”
And centering has value for everyone, not just Christians, as the experiences of people such as James Stockdale and Viktor Frankl so powerfully illustrate.
Routinely tortured and confined to a small windowless concrete prison cell in North Vietnam for seven-plus years, Stockdale not only survived but triumphed over that experience.
Of his entire family, Frankl alone survived the Nazi prison camp, and rose to become a world renowned psychologist, helping many find meaning in suffering and death.
What was their secret? They anchored their soul to an internal reference point, never drifting from their life’s center, drawing strength from the common grace God gives to all mankind.
The Source of the Christian’s Center
But Christians draw from a different source – from Jesus, who takes centering to a much deeper dimension.
He enters our messy world, taking up residence in our heart with the goal of complete renovation. This is Christianity’s good news: hearts formed in a broken world can be re-formed! The heart then becomes the reference point from which we live the life Jesus offers in Matthew 11:28-30.
This offer is to Christ followers to live free of the exhausting pace that robs us of the abundant life, an invitation to apply the life and teachings of Jesus to every aspect of daily living – waking, working, resting, serving, loving.
This is centering, the underlying philosophy that drives the work of the new Artios Center. Are you tired of the religious rat race that leaves you empty? Try living and leading from a Christ-focused center. You may never be the same.
The key element of having a Christ-focused center is the enabling grace of God. Complimenting His grace, proper education and encouragement cultivate this center. And that is precisely why we have established the Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership! If you desire to make Christ the enduring focus of your life and leadership, please check out the following resources:
- Vibrant Church Conferences
- Leadership Training Workshops
- Local Church Consultation
- Leadership & Life-Coaching
- Skin and Bones Discipleship - December 12, 2019
- What it Means to Live and Lead from the Center - November 25, 2019
- Our Witness, Our Worship - March 7, 2019