“Gravitas”: The Whole Soul

Published by Brian Hershey on

If it is true that “people do what we inspect, not what we expect,” then exactly how do we monitor spiritual progress? How do we move from product-oriented metrics to process-oriented ones?

Let me begin by looking at the term “gravitas.” Craig Barnes defines it this way:

“[It is] a soul that has developed enough spiritual mass to be attractive, like gravity…. [Gravitas] has everything to do with wounds that have healed well, failures that have been redeemed, sins that have been forgiven, and thorns that have settled into the flesh.”[1]

For years, I prayed, “Lord, make me whole.” But I’ve come to realize that such a statement is product-oriented. It assumes that I can arrive at such a place in this life-time. And, to be ruthlessly honest, it also implies I do not like myself. Sometimes I have trouble accepting me. I have trouble extending grace even to myself. Could this be because I also have trouble receiving grace? Such questions challenge me on whether I truly understand the Gospel.

While my intentions were good in praying this prayer, they were misguided. None of us will ever reach perfection in this life-time! So now my prayer is, “Lord, I desire a greater level of wholeness than I had yesterday.”

You see, the end goal is still the same, but the focus has shifted. It is now process-oriented rather than product-oriented. It enables me to receive God’s grace for the healing he has already done, and to anticipate the healing that is yet to come. And I find that I’m better able to accept myself because I am rediscovering God’s gift of grace.

Mind you, this is a huge paradigm shift for me; I get it all wrong some days. But through this journey I feel like I’m building “gravitas”. I want my life to count for something. I want it to mean something. And, somehow, I feel an attractive soul is a prerequisite for a lasting impact in people’s lives.

But how do you measure “gravitas”?

Answer: You don’t!

Because the moment we begin to quantify spiritual growth, we slip back into our old, secular-influenced models of inspection. You know “gravitas” when you see it. You can’t explain it. The best you can do is describe its effects. When you’re with someone whose soul has gravitational pull you:

  • have a sense of security, like you’ve entered into a safe place emotionally and physically
  • get the impression that you are the sole focus of your friend’s attention when you’re together
  • sense that in no way is your friend manipulating the conversation in order to meet his or her own needs.
  • admire your friend’s ability to never lose his or her peace regardless of the chaos of life.

This is what made Jesus such an attractive person. Yes, he prayed, read and studied the Scriptures, witnessed, and all those other good, external things. But there was a wholeness about him that drew the crowds – and me. Same with the apostles Paul and Peter. They all had “gravitas”.

I believe the goal of the Christian life is make God look great in everything we say and do. But this can only happen to the degree that our soul is made whole. Such souls will inevitably have gravity to them. Discipleship, then, must always have this view in mind. Only then will all those other good spiritual disciplines find their proper place.

[1] M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 49.

Brian Hershey

Brian Hershey currently serves as the Campus Life Military Senior Advisor for the Greater Omaha Youth For Christ chapter in Omaha, NE. He holds an undergraduate degree in education, a Masters in Theology from Dallas Seminary, and 20 years of youth ministry experience. He and his wife, Bonnie, have been serving military teens and families since 2001 in Bad Aibiling, Wurzburg, Heidelberg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and Kaiserslautern, Germany as well as Naples, Italy.


James Walker · June 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Very good insight that makes me pause to reflect on my own walk. I will reevaluate my desire to be perfect this side of heaven.

    Brian · June 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    James, Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad the post was helpful. Many blessings on your family!

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