Some months ago, while I was having coffee with another pastor, I was surprised to learn that he had grown up in Guatemala (his parents were missionaries). I also discovered that his wife was a lawyer and his son had recently made the decision to forgo college and hike through Europe. In short, I realized that compartmentalization is a fact of life – and often we inhabit multiple worlds that few people (except those closest to us) understand or even know about.

My hunch is that most everyone lives in various “compartments”. Some, for example, might be required to balance business, marriage, and family – but also inhabit other worlds like caring for aging parents, providing for a disabled adult child, or working a second job to make ends-meet. Others might labor in hidden vineyards that feed their own spirit – and might not feel compelled to talk about their pursuits.

One thing I have learned over the years is that everyone has a story – and the human dramas are the most fascinating of all. There are often great obstacles that people have overcome, long rivers of sorrow that people have forged, enormous mountains that some have climbed. When we welcome each other and embrace these stories, our own worlds are enhanced and we learn lessons about the human spirit.

As I consider my own life I realize that my Methodist roots go very deep – as I have, for reasons both mysterious and rationalized, lived the bulk of my life through a disciplined and methodical approach (or as my wife might suggest … boring). For the past forty years I have, for example, carried forward with certain daily rituals that have remained virtually unchanged. When I was twelve I began lifting weights. I have never stopped, and for the past forty years I have missed few workouts and have also kept to certain dietary restrictions.

When I was thirteen I began writing every day. I have continued this daily ritual virtually unchanged, but have hopefully become more proficient and accomplished through the years. I have also continued to nurture publishing and editorial friendships that have taken me to New York, Florida, Denver, Chicago and London, among other places.

Likewise, my first date was with Becky (my wife of thirty years) when we were thirteen, and I began preaching at age nineteen. I’ve kept both marriage and pastoral work alive, I think, simply by going through these daily rituals of caring and nurture. I’m far from perfect in any of these loves and pursuits (I’m still going on to perfection as Mr. Wesley might intone) but embracing discipline and ritual has made all of the difference.

Compartmentalized? Perhaps. But I’ll bet you have your own worlds, too. You might, like me, still be learning how to balance it all. Or you might keep it all going on a wing and a prayer. But however you do it–it is your story and your world. Or as some of us might call it – faith.

Todd Outcalt lives, pastors, writes, lifts and loves in Brownsburg. Some of his life can be found on or at His newest book is Common Ground.