“There is a certain uncertainty that we need to have.”
Kent Ira Groff is a spiritual companion for journeyers and leaders, as well as a writer and retreat leader living in Denver, Colorado. He describes his work as “one beggar showing other beggars where to find bread.” You can travel with Kent through his books: Active Spirituality: A Guide for Seekers and Ministers; Journeymen: A Spiritual Guide for Men; The Soul of Tomorrow’s Church; What Would I Believe if I Didn’t Believe Anything?: A Handbook for Spiritual Orphans; Writing Tides: Finding Grace and Growth through Writing, and; Facing East, Praying West (2010). He serves as founding mentor of Oasis Ministries, Camp Hill, PA, and leads seminars at retreat centers, campuses, theological seminaries, and faith communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Q. How did these experiences change you?
A. When life gets tangled, you walk away, you let it go. If it comes back, it comes as a gift. I first realized this when my daughter—2 ½ years old at the time—got her new kite hopelessly snagged in a tree. We were about to leave when I gently tugged on the kite and it miraculously came free. I had this experience again when I left my parish and received back the ministry in a new form—chaplaincy, spiritual formation at the Shalem Institute, and the creation of Oasis Ministries. What got me through the conflict and uncertainty of that time was a sermon on St. John of the Cross, and his treatise, Dark Night of the Soul.
Q. What is the biggest challenge facing society?
A. Poverty and war. Why not teach peace negotiations in the same hard-nosed fashion that we teach military strategy? We have recent examples of nonviolent change, e.g., South Africa, the former Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall’s collapse. Poverty and religious extremism contribute to war, pitting insiders against outsiders. In James 1:19, it says, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” It’s the inability to say, “I may not be right,” that really causes war. There is a certain uncertainty we need to have. Teaching how to listen is an important part of my work. I compare it to this tree [pointing to a tree]. The tree’s roots represent listening beneath the surface of life, its branches are communication or action, and the trunk in between is Shema, or contemplation. So, contemplation goes both ways. It’s contemplating the inner life and the outer world. If we can teach contemplative listening, then we can affect our political structures. One of the ways I work for peace is writing. The pen is mightier than the sword.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.