30 people debating eggs. None were thrown, but the conversation was loud enough to rattle the walls of the 100-year-old church. The debate was not over scrambled, poached, or sunny side up. It was 2008 and it was time for Californians, specifically this group of Christians, to vote on proposition 2.
Proposition 2 prohibits all confinement of farm animals that does not allow them space to freely roam. The proposition, if voted through, would rid California of egg laying factories and increase the standards given to hen farmers.
As earth loving, organic eating, Christians this seemed like a no-brainer. God says to love and nurture the earth so the more organic the better! It makes sense to get rid of the bacteria carrying hen houses and support small family farmers. Exactly like Jesus would do!
But then one person brought up a dissenting view. He shared that 95% of the California $648 million egg industry value would be lost by 2015, including an even more significant loss of 3,500 jobs that the egg industry employs. In addition to fewer jobs he shared that eggs are an affordable source of protein. Using scripture he pointed out that Christians are also called to love and serve the poor. If the price of a dozen eggs was to double, would that in fact be looking out for those in California that need to feed families of four for under $5/meal?
These considerations were reason for pause among the churchgoers. It was a complex proposition with complex implications. It was not as easy as their hippie Jesus idealogy led them to believe.
The debate continued and although there was now some disagreement, they all wanted wanted to vote in a way that was in line with their larger values. Their meeting concluded with a decision to research a bit more. Each person committed to contacting a local farmer to discuss what they thought of the proposition and to abstain from eating eggs for the week as to notice their reliance on the protein.
This small group of voters modeled the work we should all do if we intend to have profound and meaningful futures. My friend and consultant Ron Carucci calls it decoding and encoding. We must decode our past behaviors and opinions and encode our desired future.
In the last post I mentioned that a sign of maturity is to be aware that our present actions may be about more than our present circumstances. This is decoding. We must become familiar with our reptilian, natural reactions to things. Do you tend to over commit yourself? Why is that? Do you avoid conflict? Why is that? Do you get really excited when people talk about their feelings? Why is that? This is the work of decoding. Decoding our past is the first step in reshaping it (if it is leading us to undesired results).
But decoding is not enough. We need both the chicken and the egg. We need to encode. Ron describes encoding by saying “The greater challenge is moving beyond awareness and implementing necessary formation.” Implementation of anything requires work. THE work. And I believe that this encoding requires the four P’s (I know its silly. But I was/am a pastor, remember?). I will be brief, but the work is not so. Encoding requires purpose, plan, pause, and partners.
Purpose: What desires do you have for your future? Do you want to be a more available friend? Do you want to spend more time with your children? Do you want to be a kinder manager? Do you want to vote on Proposition 2 in a way that honors your religious tradition? Encoding your future begins with laying out your desired future. Try it. In one area of your life write down one new desired future. This is your purpose.
Plan: You have a finish line, how will you train to get there? The egg debating church made a plan to talk to a farmer and abstain from eating eggs. This can often be the most difficult part and may require a good deal of creativity. This is usually where our New Year’s resolutions crumble. Which is where the next two Ps come in. But try it. Make a brief plan to achieve the purpose you have written down
Pause: You cannot encode your future without times of rest and pause. Steve mentioned this in the comments of the last post. I know that we are all busy and I don’t care. On Sunday afternoons my wife and I stop what we are doing and map out our weeks. We do this so that we can make time for our purposes (and hopefully the plans that go with them). Schedule in your pauses.
Partner: Everyone needs a buddy. To be honest, if I was a member of that eggy church I would have gone to the poles and voted without thinking critically. But that community of faith challenged each other to a better purpose and process. I find I need partners now more than ever if I intend to encode any of my future. Write down at least one person who can assist you in your work.
In the last post I mentioned Jason Russell from the KONY2012 campaign. I also mentioned that his outburst could have been avoided had he known how to decode and encode by using purpose, plan, pause, and partner. I may have spoken too strongly (as Rafa explains well in the comments). However, if you are going to prepare something as big as the KONY campaign you must work equally as hard at decoding and encoding. If you are working on something that is going to be in the public eye, cost millions of dollars, or require 60 hour work weeks then you must work even harder to decode and encode.
Could Jason’s disappointing meltdown have been avoided? Maybe not. But perhaps with more of the work outlined above he could have melted down more like a candle than Chernobyl.
And maybe the meltdowns are inevitable and I am an idealist. Maybe it is only in breakdown, failure, and rejection that we will learn. But I believe we can reflect on and rehearse all of those things without deeply hurting others and ourselves. Which, in the end, is why they gathered to talk about eggs – to take seriously the work of a better future for everyone. May we take our futures as seriously as they take their eggs.