What is Gravitas and Where Can I Get Some?

Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading and reflecting upon Craig Barnes’ masterful book, The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life. While there is much to write about from this gem, one big idea that caught my attention was Barnes’ thoughts on this called gravitas.

What is gravitas? Barnes writes:

“Gravitas refers to a soul that has developed enough spiritual mass to be attractive, like gravity. It makes the soul appear old, but has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with wounds that have healed well, failures that that been redeemed, sins that have been forgiven, and thorns that have settled into the flesh. These severe experiences with lie expand the soul until it appears larger than the body that contains it. Then it is large enough to proclaim a holy joy, which is what makes the pastor’s soul so attractive. The early church found gravitas through persecution. The desert fathers and monks found it by abandoning comfort and dedicating themselves to avocation of prayer for the world. Most reformers found it in prison. The American slaves found it in the hot cotton fields. Pastors find it by committing themselves to the One who called them into ministry, but whose work is so often resisted by the congregation and by the pastors themselves.” (49)

Where can I get some gravitas? Barnes suggests three sources:

  • Our Families (both functional and dysfunctional ones)
  • The Church (both the wounds and the institutional demands)
  • The Created Order of Life

This third source captured my imagination. Barnes reminded me that none of us is the complete package. The created order of life makes it clear that there is something missing and forbidden in every garden. As hard as I work, as faithful as I seek to be, I can never be everything my community wants and needs me to be or even what I desire and want to be. And in the divine ordering of things, this is how God has designed it. God alone is whole and complete and getting more in touch with what is missing in me, produces more gravitas in my soul. “Faithfulness means choosing to love and serve God in spite of not having everything we want” (52).

How weighty is your soul and what sources has God used to bring gravitas into your life?

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