Salon with Justin Whitmel Earley
By Matt Allen
Christian Union New York was delighted to host Justin Whitmel Earley on November 13, 2018, for the first of two salons that he is leading this month. Salons can typically accomodate up to 20 participants. This event was hugely popular, with twenty-five in attendance and many more on the waitlist. Graduate students and professionals gathered to learn about the topic, "Habits of Purpose in an Age of Distraction."
Earley’s topic is practical, but he began the discussion by sharing his personal story. Once a missionary in China, Earley returned to follow a call from the Lord to become a lawyer in the U.S. After excelling at Georgetown Law School and landing a great job, all seemed to be going very well. But one day he was suddenly overcome by existential paranoia, and he couldn’t sleep for several days. A trip to the ER provided him with sleeping pills, but his body responded badly to the medication, making matters worse. Crippling anxiety began to tear down the good life he had established.
In a last-ditch effort to restore order to his world, Earley sat down with his wife to craft some good habits and add some more structure to his life, and recruited close friends to keep him accountable to those rules. The result? His anxiety left him, his life changed drastically, and a growing number of people wanted to hear about his simple, yet life-giving rules. He began blogging and speaking on this topic, and soon he was approached about writing a book (The Common Rule). The more he speaks on this topic, the more he realizes just how essential, and radical, his message is—at least in our busy, technology-driven age.
Earley’s rules are remarkably simple (e.g. turn your phone off for one hour each day, spend an hour a week in meaningful conversation with a friend, take a sabbath, etc.), but the revelation behind them is profound. The crux of his presentation was that the habits by which we live determine our identity far more strongly that our identity determines our habits. Click to Tweet You deliberately set rules for your life, or you conform to your culture’s default. Living in line with that default does far more damage to your identity than you realize.
Furthermore, very few things are neutral. It may seem harmless to reach for your phone to check your work emails when you roll out of bed, and maybe skip part or all of your quiet time as a result, but in doing so you are speaking priorities and identities over yourself that don’t align with the Christian worldview. Immediately getting to work speaks a very different message to yourself than turning to a Psalm will. You are choosing to say to yourself “I need to work to prove my worth”, rather than letting the Word tell that you are dearly loved already. We make dozens of similar choices throughout our days.
The bottom line is that we structure our lives around many small habits whether we recognize it or not. Earley’s work encourages us to take small steps to break free from the bondage of the default culture, and craft our lives instead around biblical truths and identities. In doing so, we will become a light to those around us in our workplaces and homes, revealing the truth of the hope we have within us, and find freedom in an age of increasing busyness, loneliness, and distraction.
Salons provide an intimate gathering for around 20 Christian leaders at a time to develop strong ties, and interact on a more narrowly defined topic that strengthens either the intellectual or supernatural dimensions of your Christian faith. Expert speakers will go in-depth, but the setting affords participants opportunities for question and answer, and interaction with the speaker, as well as one another.