Being a courageous leader is not always about doing something. Sometimes it is about slowing down and reflecting before acting. Steven Covey, in his book The Eighth Habit, says you have the freedom to choose how you act or react in every situation and circumstance in which you find yourself. You might not be able to control what happens to you, but you can decide how you will react to it. If someone treats you badly, regardless of who it is, you have the choice in how you will respond. In other words, who you are is how you lead.

Patience as a Leadership Skill

The eighth habit allows you to create the space needed to reflect before you respond. With that in mind, have you ever thought of patience as being a quality of a courageous leader? The list of qualities usually includes honesty, fairness, motivation, trustworthiness, and good communication. Seldom does patience make the list. 

Too often patience is thought of as a weakness when it comes to leadership skills. You are expected to make a split-second decision and move on to the next thing. And if you take time to consider your options or to think strategically, you are viewed as slow or incompetent.

Patience and Emotional Intelligence

So, let’s consider Webster’s definition of patience, “the quality of being capable of bearing affliction calmly.” From that perspective, patience is part of your emotional intelligence. When you understand patience as having the ability to stay calm in the face of disappointment, adversity, or distress, then being patient allows you to better process challenging situations. 

Patience helps you sort out your thoughts and to bring your feelings under control. It reduces the risk of angry outbursts. It helps you improve the quality of your decisions. Patience is key to developing relationships, establishing trust, and instilling hope. Patience is a cornerstone of true and courageous leadership.

Patience is Difficult to Practice

In his book, If You Will Lead: Enduring Wisdom for the 21st-Century, Doug Moran writes, “Patience is an easy thing to talk about, but it is extremely difficult to practice.” Then he uses Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” to describe patience:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,”

Moran writes, “Most of us think of patience as a construct of time, but Kipling was addressing the broader definition – enduring difficulty and hardship while awaiting the appropriate opportunity to act.” He is also referring to the patience required to bear the nagging and sniping that often accompanies a decision to wait. 

Patience is Courageous

As a courageous leader, you use patience when you focus on your mission, name the current reality, and wait with understanding and compassion as you help others take the appropriate and effective action needed to live into the mission. Again, patience requires composure and character. By modeling patience, you reinforce the importance of focusing on the mission and long-term goals. 

Keep in mind that the bigger the goal, the more patience is required to remain committed. It will require patience with strategic planning, negotiation, people development, vision casting, etc. Moving from where you are to where you want to usually means you must face issues, barriers, and obstacles along the way. It is easy to see what you want to accomplish and jump ahead without exercising the patience needed to get there. Being a courageous leader means understanding that patience might require sacrificing short-term glory for long-term results. 

Learning Patience

So, why am I writing about leadership and patience? I am learning more about patience each day, with each and every new interaction with you, our colleagues, and others who I am meeting along the way.

I have often heard that patience is a virtue, but it is also one of the “fruits of the spirit” listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-24: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.” 

As a fruit of the Spirit, or as a characteristic of a follower of Jesus, patience is “the ability to hold one’s temper for a long time.” The word is translated as “longsuffering” in the King James Version. It comes from a position of power or authority. You might have the ability to take revenge or cause trouble or react with just cause, but patience brings self-restraint and careful thinking. 

As a follower of Jesus, you chose to love when love is not present. You model compassion and grace as you lead through trying situations. Because God is patient or longsuffering with you, you are to suffer long with others. You not only become a better person and leader, but you also reveal who you are as a daughter or son of God. Who you are is how you lead. 

Reminders About Patience

So, as you lead through turbulence and chaos, be patient with those entrusted to your care. When you are faced with complex decisions in demanding situations with people who are insisting on their own way, keep the following in mind: 

Take time to pause and breathe before responding. Patience allows you to slow down and maximize your time and decision-making. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the ax. 

Keep the end in mind. Stay focused on your mission. There will be distractions, barriers, and detours along the way. Patience allows you to face each challenge as you move toward your goal. 

Keep in mind the people with whom you are interacting. Don’t take your personal frustration out on them. Be generous. Patience allows you to be generous with them, giving them the benefit of the doubt. 

Keep in mind what you need to communicate along the way. When is the best time to communicate? How will you share information? Patience allows you to slow down and think things through. Understand that the way you express yourself can motivate and uplift others. 

As you model the power of patience, others will follow your lead. Be prepared to respond to the unexpected. The best plans usually have to be modified along the way. The sign of a good plan and effective leader is the ability to respond effectively when things go awry. Unforeseen events are always a test of patience. Patience allows you to respond in a healthy and effective way. 

Be a Patient, Courageous Leader

There are those who say, “Patience is a virtue.” They are correct. But as a leader, patience is a characteristic of courage and effectiveness. You are facing challenges for which you are unprepared. Take the time to pause and reflect. Courageously endure the pressure to react before responding.The words of Kipling, “wait and not be tired by waiting,” will reveal who you are as a leader. Because who you are is how you lead. 

It goes without saying that you are leading through some difficult times. There are conflicting voices competing for your attention. These opposing opinions are seeking to influence your decisions and your direction in life. It is in times like these that your faith is essential in determining how you will lead. 

What is Essential?

Part of the challenge of leading during this time is keeping yourself focused on what is essential. It is sometimes expressed as “keeping your eyes on Jesus.” Ultimately it is to keep your faith deeply rooted in the God who has created you and who loves you. 

Even though we profess to follow Jesus, we have subtly shifted toward a life and message of being good, doing good, and becoming better people. Being good and doing good is needed, but what we have done is become a primary school for morality. We have helped the church to become shallow and impotent. 

Relationship with Jesus

Christian faith is not about trying harder to be better. Frankly, that is not the message of the scripture. Christian faith is about an intimate relationship with Jesus and making that relationship the center of everything you do. 

Eugene Peterson, author of Working the Angles and the translator of The Message, in an interview said that there is a strong fundamentalist attitude that has penetrated all parts of faith. It is an attitude of telling people what to believe and how to act. It is this attitude that has gotten in the way of the intimacy of relationship and of paying attention to Jesus. 

In Working the Angles, he wrote, “The pastor’s primary responsibility is to help people maintain their attentiveness to Jesus.” Paying attention to Jesus is countercultural in today’s environment. But that is faith shaped leadership. 

To get to the heart of faith shaped leadership, let’s first define what we mean by faith and particularly Christian faith. 

Christian Faith 

John R. Hendrick, in his book Opening the Door of Faith, defines Christian faith as a centered, personal, relational response involving trust and obedience. 

Centered

First, the Christian faith is centered. According to the scriptures, the object of Christin faith is the living God revealed in the person Jesus of Nazareth whom we call the Christ. It is not a generic faith or faith in general. The object is not a philosophy of life or a system of ethical ideals or a set of beliefs to which we give intellectual acceptance. The object of Christian faith is the living God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. 

Personal

Second, Christian faith is personal. It is personal because it is centered in a person. A living person, Jesus whom we know as the Christ. According to the scriptures, Jesus is the One who was dead, is alive, and is alive forevermore. Christian faith takes the resurrection of Jesus seriously. It is not a historical event that happened over two thousand years ago. It is not “what would Jesus do?” It is that Jesus Christ is alive right now, today. It is the dynamic action of, “what is Jesus doing” in this situation and in the lives of these people? By its very nature, Christian faith is personal because its object is a living person. 

It is also personal because it requires a personal response from each human being. Because you are a love shaped leader, you respect the decisions of each person entrusted to your care. Some people will accept this personal response and others will reject it. As a faith shaped leader, you can pray for another person, you can do your best to create an environment in which faith is taught and received. But you cannot have faith for another person. You can love them and lead them, but each person must own that faith for herself or himself. 

So, Christian faith is personal not only because its object is a living person but also because it requires a personal response. 

Relational

Third, Christian faith is relational. It is relational first because it makes possible a right relationship with God. Scripture says, “For it is by God’s grace you are saved, through trust in God” (Ephesians 2:8). It is the grace of God that provides the basis for a relationship with God. 

Faith not only properly relates you to God; it also properly relates you people, all people, The bible calls them your neighbor. You cannot be properly related to God and improperly related neighbor. Your relationship with God is bound up in your relationship with the people around you, and your relationship with others is bound up with your relationship to God. You cannot claim to love God while you hate your brother or sister. 

Faith not only establishes a relationship with God and neighbor, but it also helps you become an integrated person. It helps connect your head with your heart, your intentions with your behavior, and your talk with your walk. When you are in relationship with God and with your neighbor, you are one with yourself. 

Christian faith is so dynamic that you have a new respect for and stewardship of God’s creation. While you are related to God, your neighbor, and yourself, you can no longer be content to treat God’s creation selfishly and thoughtlessly. 

Centered, Personal, Relational Faith

Christian faith is a centered, personal, relational response of trust and obedience. This faith is not based upon feeling or your goodness. The foundation of faith is based upon what God feels toward you and what God has done on your behalf. The foundation is not so much your commitment to God but God’s commitment to you. Your commitment is a response to God’s commitment. Your response is not a mental acceptance but a full, all in, involvement of your whole being…body, mind, soul, spirit, senses, and will. Your whole self. 

So, your response is one of trust. This is the personal and relational dimension of faith. You commit your total self to God. You rely on and are shaped by the God you experience in and through Jesus. It is not dependent upon where you live, your church membership, or your denomination. It is dependent upon who you trust. 

Your response is also one of obedience or responsibility. This is the ethical dimension of faith. To trust God is to submit yourself to the guidance and teaching of Jesus. As a faith shaped leader, your allegiance is first to God. All lesser trusts fall in line. 

Three practices of Faith Shaped Leadership 

Here are three practices to develop faith shaped leadership.  There is nothing magical here. Just three ways that help you focus upon Jesus and reveal who you are in your leadership. 

1. Spend Time with Jesus

Spend time with Jesus. Read John 4:5-9. In the scripture, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also… Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” 

The theme in John’s gospel is “If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God.” The implication is that the work of God is seen in the work of Jesus. The work of God’s love is seen in the way Jesus loves. 

Then, Jesus turns things around and says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” In other words, to trust and obey Jesus is to live the life of Jesus, loving people the way Jesus has loved you. 

Spend time with Jesus to experience who God is and what God expects of you as a leader. Your time with Jesus is an active response of trust and obedience. Your time with Jesus will be seen in the way you love others. 

2. Learn the Ways of Jesus

Learn the ways of Jesus. Read Matthew 28:18-20. In the scripture, Jesus says, “…teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” 

The theme in Matthew is “God sent Jesus to teach us how to live a righteous life.” So, to believe in Jesus, to trust and obey Jesus, is to live a life of righteousness. When you read Matthew’s story of Jesus, righteousness is not the purity of living as much as living in the right relationship with God, “Love the Lord your God…” and the right relationship with others, “love your neighbor as yourself.” The implication is that you must learn and obey the ways of Jesus to teach others the way of Jesus. 

When Jesus says, in what we know as the great commission, “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you,” he is referring to living in a loving relationship, working for the well-being of neighbor, stranger, and enemy. He is referring to the way you make promises and commitments to the people around you. He is referring to forgiving others as you have been forgiven. 

Learning and obeying the way of Jesus is what God expects of you as a leader. What you learn and what you share is an active response of trust and obedience. What you learn and obey will be seen in your relationships. It will be seen in how you work for the good of others with integrity and trust.  

3. Live the Life of Jesus

Live the life of Jesus.  Read Mark 1:21-27. In the scripture, there is a shouting match in the sanctuary. Jesus confronts an unclean spirit. In doing so, he sets a person free to be who God created him to be. 

The theme in Mark’s Gospel is “God sent Jesus to oppose all the evil, suffering, and pain in the world. The implication is, to spend time with Jesus, to learn and obey the ways of Jesus, will lead you to oppose the evil, suffering, and pain in your communities, neighborhoods, and the world at large. 

Even the unclean spirits know who Jesus is (intellectual acceptance). “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” There is no change of behavior. No love of neighbor or enemy. Just a disruption of the life of a man, who knows who Jesus is, but who does not live in trust and obedience. 

When you read Mark’s story of Jesus, Jesus is restoring relationships. When he heals the man with leprosy, he is restoring the man to his family, to his community, to his synagogue, to his job. When Jesus encounters the man with demons in the cemetery, he frees the man from the pigs, from living life as if he were dead, trapped in the evil of his living. 

Over and over in Mark’s story, Jesus is facing the evil of unclean spirits that lead to the suffering and pain of the people he encounters. To live the life of Jesus is an active response of trust and obedience. Your life and leadership will reveal how you face the challenges and difficulties of this time. 

Faith Shaped Leadership

These three practices can and will assist you in deepening your faith and developing faith shaped leadership. 

So, as a faith shaped leader, what are you doing to pay attention to Jesus and to develop your trust and obedience? Let’s not make it an intellectual exercise, but with trust and obedience let’s actively commit ourselves to God and to one another for the transformation of our lives, our families, our communities, our church, and the world. 

The question is “Who do you trust?”  Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

As Jesus followers, we talk a lot about love. We talk about loving our neighbors, as well as our enemies. We talk about including strangers, as well as people with whom we disagree. We do a lot of talking, but when do we put love into action?

As a leader, you meet people with different experiences from your own. Who has helped you put your love into action? Who has taught and modeled for you the love that makes a difference in you, your family, your community and the world?

I hope this short devotion will assist you in becoming more the person and leader God has created you to be. Always keep in mind, who you are is how you lead.

Read Matthew 7:43-44

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Reflect

In 1960, I started first grade in an elementary school in a small town in West Virginia. Every day, I walked up the sidewalk to the school with other children. I talked and laughed with friends as I made my way into the building. I was welcomed, by a smiling teacher, into a classroom full of children. I was just a kid starting my educational journey with no care or concern of what was going on in the world.

That very same year, a little girl by the name of Ruby started first grade in an elementary school in New Orleans. Every day, as she walked up the sidewalk to the school, she was escorted by federal marshals. She was not welcomed by smiles. The sidewalk was lined with adults shouting threats at her, calling her names, and screaming for her to go home. Enraged parents pulled their children from the school. Due to the chaos, Ruby spent her first day of school in the principal’s office, not because she had done anything wrong, but for her protection. She was just a kid starting her educational journey which would change her city, her state, her country, and the world.

My teacher was my neighbor. I could stand in my backyard and see her house. Ruby’s teacher came to New Orleans from Boston. She was the only teacher willing to accept Ruby. I was in a classroom full of children just like me, Ruby spent her first year in a classroom by herself. Every day, I played on the playground at recess, and I ate lunch in the cafeteria with my friends. Every day, at recess, Ruby played in her classroom and ate lunch in the same classroom with her teacher. Neither Ruby nor I missed a day in our first-grade year of school. But as you can see, our experiences were worlds apart.

Ruby Bridges and I were six-years old. But Ruby at 6 years old learned and lived something that has taken many years for me to learn and all my 68 years to live.

Robert Coles, a noted author, and Harvard psychiatrist volunteered his time to work with Ruby that first year. Every day he would talk with her and offer her assistance to cope with the crisis. One morning, on the news, he noticed Ruby walking up the sidewalk while people screamed at her and threw things at her. In the midst of the turmoil, Ruby suddenly stopped and said something before walking on up the sidewalk. Then the marshals picked her up and took her into the building.

When they met later that evening, Cole asked her what she said to the marshals. She said, “I was not talking to the marshals.”

He said, “Yes, you were. I saw you on the news. I saw your lips moving. You were talking to the marshals.”

She said, “I was not talking to the marshals.”

He said, “Well, what were you doing?”

She said, “I was praying for those people who were hollering at me. I had forgotten to pray, and I was trying to go back and pray for them as I walked to the school building.”

Coles shook his head and said, “You were praying for the people who were screaming at you?”

She said, “Yes, my mama taught me that when people speak mean of you, you pray for them just like Jesus prayed for the people who spoke mean of him.” Then she said, “You see, when Jesus lives in your heart, you just can’t hate anybody.”

Through her mother, Ruby learned to love and pray for the people who were mean to her. She had learned that when Jesus lives in your heart, you just can’t hate anybody.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Respond

O God, come and live in my heart so I can love the people who have hurt me, who disagree with me, and who wish to do me harm. Fill me with your love so that my heart is big enough to include each person you send my way. Help me to be aware of your presence that everyone I encounter will meet you in me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen

Return

Who did you love and pray for today? Who taught you to love your enemies and to pray for the people who hurt you? Give God thanks for the people who have helped shape your life into the person you are today?

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

There was a time in my life when making a name for myself was extremely important. I never said it out loud, but I wanted to be known for something significant. I thought that would give me a reason to like myself and that I would really be somebody who had accomplished something. 

Be Like Jesus

Even though I felt this way, I said I wanted to be like Jesus. I confess at that time I did not understand why Jesus did not share my preoccupation for notoriety. In fact, I was astonished at how indifferent Jesus was to fame or reputation. 

For example, during the early days of his ministry in Galilee, when he was making an impact with the wisdom of his words and the power of his deeds, he deliberately asked the people he helped not to say anything about it to other people.

One day in the wilderness, after feeding 5000 people, the crowd got so excited they wanted to make him their king.  He turned down their offer without batting an eye.

On the last night of his life, after the disciples had been quarreling all afternoon about “making names for themselves” and over who was going to be greatest among them, they gathered for supper in the Upper Room. Not one of them was willing to lower themselves to do the servant’s task of washing the other’s feet. According to John, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…” (John 13:3-5).

Jesus and Status

In other words, Jesus did not hold himself above doing the lowliest of tasks. He did not care about status, position, or prestige.  And, there are those puzzling words Paul used in his letter to the Philippians, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself…” (Philippians 2:5-7). At the time I was trying to make a name for myself, I often wondered how Jesus could be that way and why something so important to me was not important to him. 

So, why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I believe this is one of the secrets to courageous leadership. 

Acceptance of Who God Created You to Be

Jesus didn’t have to make a name for himself because he wholeheartedly accepted the name God had given him. In the Hebraic sense, a name stood for the whole reality of the person. For Jesus to accept and be satisfied with this name meant that he totally accepted who he was, when he was, and where he was in history.   

It was this acceptance of who God had created him to be that freed Jesus from having to make a name for himself. He didn’t have to spend his energy trying to earn what he had already been given. He was at one with God and with whom God had created him to be. 

Jesus’ Authority

Here is the secret. Jesus’ authority was not because of an unusual I.Q. or a healthy E.I. His authority was neither because of a charismatic personality nor economic, social, or political power. His authority lay in his freedom to say, “I am who I am by God’s grace. It is good.” 

This means that it was good that Jesus’ parents were who they were.  It was good that his life was in the time of history that it was in.  It was good that he was a carpenter, that he got to associate with the people who lived in Nazareth.  All these things that came together to make Jesus who he was were good.

Who You Are is How You Lead

This is why I can say, “Who you are is how you lead.” You were created to lead at this time in history. Your experiences from childhood, through adolescence, into adulthood, and up to today, have shaped you into the person and leader you are for this time in history. 

Now, I’m not dismissing traumatic experiences, but whether you agree or not, you have been shaped into the leader needed for your church and for your community.  You might find yourself in a place you never dreamed of being, but life is good where you are.  You might find yourself with people with whom you identify as not your type, but life is good and enriched by the people entrusted to your care.

Courageous Leadership

The secret to courageous leadership is found in the condition of your heart. You might read books on leadership and attend seminars on leadership, but until you accept the truth that your life is good, that who you are, where you are, and when you are is a good gift from God, you will not be the person God intends you to be, much less the leader needed for this time. Who you are is how you lead. 

The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved

Look at the writer of the fourth Gospel. The writer is traditionally known as John. Yet, at no point in the Gospel does John identify himself by name.  He describes himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Why would he identify himself this way? Was he a spiritual egotist, suggesting that he was the favorite among the disciples? Was he part of the inner circle, making his way to the right hand of Jesus?  I suppose either could be true, but I think such speculation reveals more about us than him. 

Here is what I think. John, after meeting Jesus, began to live into his name. He began to become who he was created to be. I think when John referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” it was his way of saying, “The most wonderful thing that ever happened to me was the fact that Jesus loved me.  Before then I never had a reason to love myself.  My father, Zebedee, was so busy in the fishing business he did not have time for me.  My mother was a proud and ambitious woman. She had dreams of who my brother and I could be. She was always trying to get us in on the right and left hand of glory.  And my brother, James, was terribly competitive.  

But I never felt I had much worth until the day Jesus met me beside the sea. I could hardly believe it. He didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t pressure me. He didn’t make me feel as if I had to be number one in order to earn his affection.  He simply took delight in me. He took my gifts and interests seriously. And as our friendship developed an incredible thing happened. I began to love myself. For the first time in my life, I realized I did have worth and that who I was and when I was and where I was had value.”

“This is why I chose to refer to myself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ At first, it seemed like a miracle.  Jesus actually loved me.  But the more I lived with it, the more I realized that it was just the way it was supposed to be. I didn’t need to strive to be somebody. Because of Jesus, I was somebody. Before I met him, I was the son no one had time for or the child a parent was always trying to push, or a sibling’s rival.  But now, I see myself in a new light. I am a follower of Jesus.  I am the disciple whom Jesus loved, and because of that I am now a person who loves himself and who loves others.”

The Secret of Courageous Leadership

The secret to courageous leadership is to be who God created you to be…nothing more and nothing less. 

This week, try living up to your name and be who God created you to be. Contact a trusted friend and tell him or her how God’s love for you has shaped you into the person you are. Then tell them how God’s love has shaped your leadership. Just think about it. You are the leader whom Jesus loves.

Who you are is how you lead!

How are you doing this week? As you have navigated a pandemic, balanced family and work responsibilities, and continued to lead prophetically through recurring acts of racism, how are you feeling? How are you doing? 

If you are weary of the false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the political bantering and conflicting opinions, you are ready for an encouraging word. As a leader, created to lead for such as time as this, a word of hope would be good. 

The Meaning of Hope

As you know, hope means different things to different people. To some, it has religious connotations. To others, it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still, others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. 

So, what will lift your spirits and keep you looking beyond the obstacles you are facing at the moment? What will keep you believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly? 

Hope Keeps You Focused

What we know is this, when there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be. Hope keeps you focused on the direction you are moving in the midst of the challenges. 

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Even hope-filled leaders need a word of hope. I know it will sound strange, but you already know what is needed to move forward. Even though you might feel weary, anxious, and exhausted, you have it within you to lead others through the days we are living. 

Hope Abounds

Even with that in mind, I know that when you are weary, you are more open to doing anything other than what you are doing to get out of the weariness. So, here is what I want you to do: 

Keep your eyes on Jesus 

  • Jesus said, “If you believe in God, you believe in me.” God created you to lead through this time. As much as you want to please people, keep Jesus at the center of your life. Feeling anxious is normal. Following Jesus is transformational.

Trust your instincts

God has put within you the desire to trust God’s leading. You are who you are for a reason. There will be times that you will doubt yourself. Trust who God has created you to be and lead out of who we are.

Be generous with the people you are leading.

Love people the way God, in Jesus, has loved you. People are only trying to live into what they know. You are the leader and you know the mission and goal that is to be accomplished. People trust who and what they know. Give them the benefit of your doubt and love them into the future.

Don’t give up. 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Continue to hold before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next. Empower them to look beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers. 

Remember that you are surrounded by those who have gone before you. They are cheering you on. Listen closely when you are weary. You will hear family members, mentors, saints throughout the ages saying, “Don’t give up. Keep going. We are with you! Hang in there! Don’t give up.”

Don’t be afraid to move forward.

You are a leader.  You know there will be times of disapproval and pressure to conform. But you also know how to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.

Be the hope-filled leader you feel you need to face the challenges of today. 

I know it is easier said than done. But the bottom line, in the midst of your weariness, is not to be afraid. When you are weary it is easier to be motivated by fear and by hope.  

Fear prompts you to stay with the status quo. It is easier to stay with what you know rather than what you don’t know. There is a level of fear that is reasonable. But, when you let your fears take control, you often become paralyzed and do nothing.

Hope, on the other hand, gently steers you toward making a difference. By keeping your eyes upon your goal, hope helps you manage your fears. You move from weariness to expectation. 

Slow Down for Hope

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning historian, writes, 

“The opposite of fear is hope, defined as the expectation of good fortune not only for ourselves but for a group to which we belong. Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon. Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.” 

When you move forward with hope, you:

  • Let trust be the basis for your relationships,
  • Offer opportunities for improvement,
  • Test your assumptions with those entrusted to your care,
  • Think more about what you stand for and less about what you oppose,
  • Are curious about possibilities.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, embrace the risks, and move forward.

Move Forward with Hope

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Stop what you are doing and read your favorite verse of scripture. Let the God who created you for this time give you a different perspective. Call, text, email a friend or colleague, and let them give you a fresh perspective on your leadership.

Remember, in the midst of weariness, hope is a gift. Don’t throw it away. 

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, in him I will place my hope” (Lamentations 3:22-24). 

When you need and want encouragement, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you in the ways you might need it the most. Know how much you are appreciated. 

Don’t give up! Move forward with hope. We need you and want you! Don’t give up!

How are you doing this week? Has anyone told you that you are doing a great job? Even though I can imagine that you don’t feel that you are, I want to assure you that God has not abandoned you.

The people entrusted to your love and care are looking to you for connection. Those with whom you live, work, and see from a distance on Zoom, or some other form of social media, are looking to you, as their leader, to keep them connected to one another and to God.  

Please understand, I’m not trying to put more on you.  I am stating a fact.  You were created to lead through an unprecedented worldwide health crisis. 

Navigating Uncharted Territory

With no warning, you have altered the way you do just about everything. You have watched more than one black man be murdered in the street. You have learned of levels of racism that you never dreamed afflicted your family, your friendships, or your leadership. As you have tried to make sense of it all, you have done it without a single hug or needed affirmation.  

Although you hear me say that you were created to lead in such a time as this, you don’t feel equipped for this. You feel overmatched and overwhelmed. And at best, you feel disconnected from the community that has shaped, formed, and affirmed your identity. 

From where I stand, I think you have done a fantastic job navigating uncharted territories. As you have met the challenge, you have become who God created you to be. I want to affirm your leadership by reminding you, that as a follower of Jesus, your leadership is rooted in your relationship to God and to the people entrusted to your care. 

Jesus’ Teaching

From the perspective of Matthew, the first followers of Jesus were to teach others to obey everything Jesus had taught them (Matthew 28:20) with the assurance that Jesus would be with them. The question is “What had they been taught?” 

From Matthew’s perspective, God sent Jesus to teach us how to live before God or how to live a holy life.  For Matthew, at the heart of holy or righteous living was relationship. The words “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” is what Matthew wants us to know about living in relationship with all the people around us. Being in relationship with God and with one another is what it means to be a Jesus follower.  Being in relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care is the foundation of effective leadership. 

5 Reminders about Effective Leadership

Let’s think of it this way. Effective leadership is rooted in: 

1. Healthy relationships

Whether with family, friends, strangers, or enemies, you have been taught to be proactive in how you treat others.  You act on behalf of others not because they have acted on your behalf but because loving others is who we are as a Jesus follower.

2. Self-respect

Having respect for yourself in such a way that you are a person of your word.  It means that you are integrated in your living, that what you are living on the outside in your relationships grows from the convictions of your inner life. 

3. Seeking first the kingdom of God.

Being self-aware and keeping all aspects of life in a healthy perspective.  

4. Caring for others in such a way that you are caring for Jesus himself. 

You are growing to the point that caring for others becomes so natural that you don’t even know that you are caring for Jesus.  You lead with care, not to become holy, but because you are holy. 

5. Being proactive in forgiveness. 

Relationships are so important; your leadership is about investing your life in the people around to the point that broken relationships are restored and become productive.    

Being the Leader You Were Created to Be

Jesus says “to obey” the things you have been taught. In other words, it is easy to talk about effective leadership, but it is not easy to be the leader you were created to be. There are times that you are vulnerable and you step out in faith to live out your purpose. You become who God created you to be as you practice your faith.  

Fred Craddock tells the story of a missionary, Oswald Goulter, who served in China in the 1940’s. An agricultural missionary, he taught people to raise their own food as he loved and cared for their families. When the Communists came to China, they forced him to leave. So, his supporters in the United States wired him money for a ticket home.  

His journey home took him to India. While he was there, he discovered there were Jews living in barn lofts, attics, and sheds throughout the city. They were there because India was one of the few countries that welcomed Jews after Hitler expelled them from Europe.

Goulter was glad to see them. It was Christmas time and he visited them in the barn lofts, attics, and sheds saying, “Merry Christmas!” They said, “But we are Jews.”

“Oh, I know, but Merry Christmas anyway. What would you like for Christmas?” They said, “But we are Jews.”

He said, “Oh, I know. But is there anything you want for Christmas?” 

Several of them thought about it and said, “It has been years since we have had German pastries.”

Goulter went all over the city and found a shop that sold German pastries. He cashed in his ticket to the United States and bought boxes of pastries. Then he delivered them to the Jews in the barn lofts, attics and sheds. Handing them out, he said, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”

Years later, that story was told in a gathering where Goulter was present. After the story was told, one young preacher in the back of the room stood and asked, “Dr. Goulter, did you really do that?” 

Goulter, a little taken back said, “Yes. Yes, I did.”  

The young preacher said, “I can’t believe you did that.”

Dr. Goulter asked, “Did I do something wrong?” 

The young preacher said, “Those people aren’t Christians. They don’t even believe in Jesus!” 

Dr. Goulter responded, “But I do!” 

The effectiveness of your leadership is seen in your faithfulness to your relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your love and care. 

You might not feel equipped. Maybe you feel overmatched and overwhelmed. You might even feel disconnected from the community that has shaped, formed, and affirmed your identity. But the good news is, you are not alone.  Jesus is with you as you lead into and through the chaos, confusion, and uncertainty. 

Your Next Step

So, here is what I want you do:

  • Give God thanks for the opportunity to live and work in this time of chaos and confusion.
  • Confess your need for relationship with God and with the people entrusted to your care.
  • Place the people, situations, and circumstances into God’s hands.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of peace and love. 

O God, thank you for the opportunity to live and work at this time in history. I confess that I do not know what to do. But, I do know I need you and I need the people you have given me to love and to serve. I place my relationships, the church, and the people around me into your hands. I pray that you will use me as an instrument of your peace and love. By your grace, I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Let me say it again, from where I stand, you are doing a fantastic job navigating uncharted territories. You are growing into the person and leader God has created you to be. Remember, you are not alone. As a follower of Jesus, lead on.  We need you to lead us now more than ever before. 

You’re invited to pray every day at 8:46 am and 8:46 pm.

We’ll post prayers each evening at 8:46 pm on the Transforming Mission Facebook page. They’ll be simple sentence prayers with the hope that you’ll repeat the prayer into the evening and throughout the next day, pausing specifically at 8:46 am to pray. (Hint: Your cell phone alarm is a great alert system!)

Why 8:46?

The time represents how long now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a knee to pin George Floyd by the neck on the pavement. As you know, Mr. Floyd died soon afterward.

As we unite in prayer, may we have eyes to recognize the evils of racism, the heart to be open to the necessary changes, and the will to confront the injustices of this world. Join us on the Facebook page at 8:46 pm. May prayer change us so we can change systems that perpetuate racism.

Additional Resources

Here are a couple additional articles about addressing racism and becoming antiracist:

The prayers posted are written by Tim Bias, Sara Thomas, and/or adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and Sacredise.

In April 1968, Jane Elliott was a third-grade teacher in the small town of Riceville, Iowa. On the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, she felt compelled to shift her lesson plans. She decided to teach her young white students about discrimination by telling the children that brown-eyed people were superior to their blue-eyed peers. She watched as the students turned on each other. Then, the next day, she reversed the script. 

The exercise highlighted the arbitrary and irrational basis of prejudice, an issue that we, in the United States, continue to grapple with more than five decades later. 

Race and Racism

In the early 1990’s, I invited Jane to come to Clarksburg, West Virginia where I served as pastor of the Duff Street United Methodist Church. We had invited community leaders, educators, health care administrators, pastors, and congregational leaders to come together for a diversity training workshop.  

There is much to be said about that training experience, but one of the statements Jane made changed my life. She said, “Many people don’t recognize that race is a social concept. Race isn’t biological. Race does not run in our DNA. Race is how somebody somewhere hundreds of years ago decided to categorize the human race.” 

In a recent interview, I heard her say, “There has been a big increase in racism in America over the past five years. We were making progress in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, even in the ’90s, and then a black man in the White House made a whole lot of white folks really angry, because that said plainly to everyone, ‘A black man can get there and do it, and do it well. Now if that’s true, then maybe my white skin doesn’t automatically make me superior.’ And it knocked the socks off everyone who believed in the rightness of whiteness.” 

I have heard her say, as well as, quoted as saying, “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” If that is true, then maybe education will get us farther than “thoughts and prayers,” or “All lives matter,” or “police brutality,” or “black on black” crime. 

Say Their Names

I have written too many articles in response to the unnecessary deaths of black brothers and sisters who were at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. The list of innocent Black lives needlessly killed grows each day,

  • Eric Garner
  • Terrence Crutcher
  • Alton Sterling
  • Philando Castile
  • Samuel DuBose
  • Trayvon Martin
  • Michael Brown
  • Freddie Gray
  • Tamir Rice
  • LaQuan McDonald
  • Sandra Bland
  • Walter Scott
  • Ahmaud Arbery
  • George Floyd

As you know, there are many more names. And I understand that there are special circumstances with each killing. But justice for crimes committed is dealt with in courtrooms and not on city streets.

Deep Rooted Attitudes

So, maybe a little education will help us get past some of the deep-rooted attitudes and views we hold regarding people who are not white. I don’t intend to quote statistics, but I do intend on presenting a challenge regarding racism.   

What I have to offer is not a quick fix.  In fact, it might take a couple of generations before racism is rooted out and gone. It is obvious that we are late in getting started. But we have to start somewhere.  So, here are 3 ways to start changing our culture regarding racism. 

1. Name Current Reality

Let’s be honest about our history. It’s not pretty, it hurts, but it’s true. We will never be free from our history until we are honest about our history. Denial is our pathology, but the truth will set us free. 

In August of 1619, a ship appeared on the horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia.  It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of this country has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.  

It is time to recognize that in the same way that “slavery is a necessary evil” (Thomas Jefferson) as accepted in 1820, is the same as “separate but equal” as accepted in 1940. Choosing not to admit it and not condemn white nationalism is an overt act of racism in 2020. We have 400 years of history to face as we seek to reshape our future.

2. Focus on Educating Children

When you have a close relationship with a young person of color, make sure he/she knows how much you love them. Love and affirm the child and the relationship. Fredrick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” So, focus on children, adolescents, and young adults. Develop relationships of trust and become a mentor.  Encourage them to go to college where not everyone looks like them and shares their political, sociological, or religious views. Encourage them to study abroad or to participate in mission teams in other countries where they can experience the achievements and beauty of non-white cultures.

Here are books for younger children to read or for you to read to them. These books are inspirational and shape the minds, hearts, and imagination of all of us. These books help design a future without racism.

There are so many more books. Take time to educate your children. Teach them to be the leaders that will shape the future of the United States of America.  

2. Decolonize your bookshelf

Alley Henny offers four things to decolonize your bookshelf:

  • Add books written by black, brown, and indigenous people. For the next year, add at least one book from an author of color for every book written by a white person.
  • Purge books that are racist or written by problematic authors. The goal isn’t to run away from alternative viewpoints or ideas with which we disagree, but these should not be the dominant voices. There are some books that belong in university libraries and not in your personal collection.
  • Don’t pigeonhole authors of color. Black, brown, and indigenous people can do more than talk about race. Pick books from your favorite genre written by authors of color.
  • Don’t hold authors of color to a higher standard. Not every book written by a black, brown, or indigenous author will be great. That’s okay. Since you have mediocre books written by white authors, you can have some mediocre books from people of color too.

Books to read and add to your library:

Here is a list of books I have used in studies to help address racism:

Your Next Step

I know what I have shared is a bit overwhelming, but we have 400 years of history to learn, to face, and to overcome if we are to step into a future without racism. We have the responsibility and the ability to change things.

I have not given up hope, but I have decided writing words on a page or posting them on social media is not the answer.  So, I am asking you to join me in taking one step toward learning about and stopping racism in your community.

What is one thing you can and will do to learn about the racism in which you participate every day? If you say you are not participating in racism, I say you have some learning to do.  If you say you don’t know or have any ideas, I say I have given you more than enough options in the article.  If you say you don’t want to and that you are fine the way you are, I will say I am praying for you and for your soul.

It is past time to get started.  Now, will you join me? What one step will you take toward learning and stopping racism in your community?

Read Tim’s post from this weekend, Let Us Draw Our Breath

How are you doing today? Seriously. How are you feeling? Since you are asked that question, in one form or another, several times a day, it should be an easy question to answer. Yet, it is difficult when you attempt to answer the question honestly.   

Even when you ask the question, you don’t always wait for an answer. If you are honest, you either don’t wait for an answer or you receive a perfunctory answer.  Neither your question nor the answer is offered seriously. So, let me ask again, “How are you feeling today?”  

How are you feeling?

You might deflect your feelings and hide behind figures of speech. When you are asked, “How are you doing?” Or “How are you feeling?” you might say, “On top of the world,” or “If I were any better, there would be two of me,” or “About half,” or “I’m down in the dumps,” or “I’m blue,” the list goes on.

Each statement allows you to evade having to confront, plainly and exactly, what you are feeling. Even though they are creative and descriptive, they often create a distance between your feelings and your words.  Thus, creating a false perception of a relationship. 

Over the past several weeks I have begun to be more aware of my emotions. I am learning that my feelings direct my thinking and if I am not honest with my feelings, I may not be making the best decisions for myself, my family, or for the people entrusted to my care.   

Emotions in Scripture

Feelings are not foreign in the scripture. You do not have to look far in the Bible to see examples of people letting emotions lead them down certain paths. For example, Adam and Eve and their desire to be like God. Cain’s jealousy over God’s favor toward Abel’s sacrifice. Jesus’ anger when he overturned the tables in the temple. 

What about King David and his lust for Bathsheba?  His emotional needs led to the death of Uriah and ultimately to the death of this first child. It was only after David dealt with his selfish actions that he became “a man after God’s own heart.” 

There are stories of strong emotions that led to life-changing decisions for the better. Mordecai’s public display of grief over the plight of his people and Esther’s courage to tell the king of a murderous plot. There were emotions like passion and anger to do good for others. 

Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle, is an example of how negative emotions of anger and hatred can be transformed into positive emotions of love and leadership. He encouraged early followers of Jesus to live with positive emotions like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as opposed to negative emotions of jealousy, vengeance, and anger. He encouraged them to be forgiving and to deal with others with the love that Jesus had dealt with them.  

 Identify, Understand, and Express Emotions

We could go on.  The scriptures are filled with stories of how feelings become thoughts which become actions expressed in both negative and positive ways. 

With that in mind, during this stay at home order, you have time to identify and understand your feelings and to express them in positive and appropriate ways.  You also have time to listen to the people with whom you are related, whether they be family or people in the church. As a leader, identifying, understanding, and expressing your feelings are important in developing trust and confidence in your leadership.   

I’m not trying to add anything to your “to do” list, but I am suggesting that you look at your emotional condition. While you are at home these next few days, take time to reflect upon the following: 

  •  Recognize your feelings.

    • Take a moment to stop and to discern your emotional current reality. When you are willing and able to recognize your own feelings, you will be able to recognize, more accurately, the feelings of others. This provides an opportunity to be curious and to listen more honestly.
    • Your world has been turned upside down.  You are stepping into a new normal. You might have feelings of sadness or loss. Even anger or disappointment.  Once you have recognized these feelings within yourself, you will be more able to recognize the emotions in the people entrusted to your care. Your self-awareness will make you a better leader.
  • Understand your feelings.

    • Why do you feel the way you feel? Understanding your emotions is an adventure.  As you begin to understand “why” you feel the way you do, you also learn to understand “why” you react or respond to the feelings of others. This provides the opportunity to become vulnerable and to build trust in your relationships. 
    • Once you begin to understand “why,” you will be able to empathize with the people around you. Through understanding and empathy, you will become a better leader, as well as a better spouse, parent, friend, student, and colleague.
  • Express your feelings.

    • This is where you not only have the courage to be honest, but you begin to express your feelings in healthy and productive ways. It is in the “give and take” of expressing your feelings that relationships are potentially strengthened. 
    • Again, it is important to know yourself.  As you express your feelings you understand that you are stirring up feelings in someone else and vice versa. But the potential of understanding one another is there.  This provides you, as a leader, the opportunity to be sensitive as you listen, share, receive, and respond.
  • Choose one emotion to work on this week. 

    • Write it down and intentionally focus on it. Give yourself permission to name it and to feel it. Ask a friend to partner with you. Then, ask for feedback on your growth. 

You are more the leader God intends for you to be when you are emotionally healthy.

I once heard Mike Tyson say, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” What is true in the boxing ring is true in leadership.  So, along with permission to feel, give yourself permission to fail. When you start recognizing, understanding and expressing your feelings, there will be moments of joy as well as anguish.  When you lash out in anger, take a deep breath, and start again. 

For you to become who God created you to be, you will need to be vulnerable and courageous. You will need to be kind to yourself and apologize when you fall short. The payoff is worth it: better health, better decision making, better relationships, and a better you. 

So, let me ask again, seriously, “How are you feeling?”  I’ll be looking for an answer next time. 

 

You’re invited to hit play and listen to this post, instead of read it. If you choose to read it, read it as you’re listening

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. It’s a day we pause and remember the crucifixion. 

As we are journeying through Holy Week, I was asked to respond to two questions:

1) What is one message of care or comfort you’d like to provide?

2) what’s one thing you’ve learned already in the midst of the pandemic?

A Message of Care

Here’s the message of care I’d like to share with you this Good Friday

As I consider sitting at the foot of the cross, standing in the crowd watching what was unfolding, or simply hearing the news of Jesus’ death, just as the first disciples did, I pause at these words from Matthew’s gospel.

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” Matthew 27:45-46

Even Jesus was expressing grief.

And that’s what I’d like you to consider today. The grief you’re experiencing. Yes, the grief we encounter in the cross. But this year, likely more than any other year, consider the grief you’re experiencing because of the pandemic. And before you say, “I’m not grieving..” I invite you to go with me as I journey through what grief sounds like for me right now.  It’s likely different for you, but I pray, as you sit at the cross with Jesus today, you’ll experience both the reality of the cross and the outstretched arms of a Savior’s love.

You, Grief, and Good Friday

This was the quote that got me thinking about you, grief, and Good Friday.

“We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. The world we knew is now gone forever.” – David Kessler

Wait, is he speaking of Good Friday or the pandemic?

The message seems to hold true to the message of the cross as well as the message of the pandemic. 

He was speaking of the pandemic.

But when I heard those words and like anyone who has ever experienced loss, I wanted to place my hands on his shoulders, look him in the eyes, and say, “No. no. no. no. no. no. no.” 

But he wasn’t with me. I was hearing those words on a podcast. 

Can I imagine what the disciples must have felt? Yes. I can sit at the cross. Or maybe I would have left the scene. Would I have been busy trying to tie together loose ends or holding a space for others to grieve. 

I wanted to reverse what he said.“No, the world we knew is NOT gone forever.” I still live in the same place. I still have meaningful work. Jesus, tell me, how is this happening?

I still…

And then I realize I’m bargaining. If I can just prove what is still the world I knew before this pandemic, I won’t have to accept that it’s gone.

A little voice in my head says, “Bargain much, Sara B?” Sara B, that’s what my mom calls me. The words are gentle and loving and confrontational all at the same time. 

You see…Bargaining is a classic part of grief.

Dang it.

The World We Knew Is Gone Forever

I hit the “back 15 seconds” button on my podcast player and hear the words again, “The world we knew is now gone forever.”

Who are you, MR. Grief Expert, to tell me “the world we knew is gone forever.” I don’t care that you worked with Elizabeth Kubler Ross on the stages of grief, written books on loss, and making meaning of loss. You’re making me mad. If I’m honest, I’m tossing and turning in bed, angry that you’re keeping me awake. Angry that I’m thinking about this now. I’m trying to go to sleep. Why are you doing this to me?

Go ahead, laugh. Ask the question you’re asking. Ok, I’ll ask it for you, “Who hit the play button on the podcast as you got in bed?” 

Of course, there is only one answer. I did. 

Who has been avoiding listening to this podcast for a week?

Again, I’ll raise my hand and fess up, that was all me.

Who didn’t want to hear the words, “We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. The world we knew is now gone forever.”? 

Here I am, raising my hand…again… that’s me.

So instead, I’ll toss and turn and try not to feel what I’m feeling. I’ll get all judgemental at the podcast host, Brene Brown, for interrupting her guest. I’ll judge David Kessler for trying to give words to my feeling because then I can offload the hurt I’m feeling. “Judgment demands punishment.” Heck yes, that I can get on board with, and right now, that judgment is directed at the podcast, at your words, at the actions you’re taking.

And right about here, if I could, I’d insert the sound of screeching brakes.

That’s What Grief Does

If all of that sounds horribly unkind, yeah, I know. It does to me too. But that’s what grief does. I bargain. I get angry, feel depressed, and have fleeting moments of acceptance. But mostly, right now, I want to deny this is happening. 

It’s easier to hold it at an arm’s length distance. Just look at the Good Friday passages of scripture. You’ll see it there too.

And that voice I want to silence with the largest muzzle I can find says to me, “Sure you do. But it’s not easier…. Because if you don’t name it as grief, you can’t feel it.”

“Exactly.” I want to respond sarcastically. 

I don’t want to feel it, I say in my best teenage judgmental voice.

Here’s the thing. 

Comparative Suffering

I’m in a relatively good place. I still have work, a home, I have food (albeit my cooking!). What I’m experiencing isn’t like a nurse, a doctor, a parent of the class of 2020. Who am I to feel grief?

“Who are you not to?”

Dang it.

Stop. 

Isn’t it great how our brains have the magnificent ability to recall information? 

I grumble beneath my breath.

Shush. I say to that memory.

“You can’t shush me.” It responds.

You see, I know better. 

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, it’s the scaffolding of grief. I see it all around me. There’s no shortage of the scaffolding that makes up grief right now. 

I see it in…

  • teachers.
  • the class of 2020.
  • Moms and Dads trying to work from home and teach kids at home.
  • friends’ posts on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Zoom calls and text messages and I hear it in colleagues’ voices.
  •  grandparents standing outside windows.
  • pastors praying on Facebook.
  • Governors, Directors of Health, and Grocery store clerks.
  • Doctors and Nurses.
  • wives and husbands.
  • aunties and uncles and sisters and brothers.
  • my neighbors drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.
  • the husband and wife having groceries delivered by their daughter.
  •  tv, social media, and in my email inbox.

I see it…when I look in the mirror.

And, dear one, so do you.

The world we are accustomed to is gone. Forever.

Collective Grief

We are collectively grieving.

Said simply, “Grief is the death of something.” And, “just like every other loss, we didn’t know what we had until it was gone.” (David Kessler)

So as I coach Christian leaders, pastors and church leaders, it would be easy to say “This is what you do.” You lead others through loss and longings all the time. Yes, I do. So do many of you. But, this collective grief requires that I hold space for a virtual hug while recognizing there is no way I can get through this without you doing the same for me.

So what has changed?

Everything and nothing.

I still teach people how to leverage their strengths. I still am facilitating Brene Brown’s courage building curriculum, Dare to Lead. I’m still podcasting and blogging and attending Zoom meetings and posting a daily devotional to equip people to follow Jesus every day. 

But what has changed is this: I’ve come to recognize that the work I’m doing is now happening in the midst of massive, collective grief. And to deny that reality is to deny the people I lead and serve the space to be human, to be whole, and to become who God created them to be. 

Pause. Sit. Experience Transformation

So, maybe, this Good Friday you’ll pause a little longer. Maybe this Good Friday you’ll sit at the foot of the cross a little longer. 

And maybe, as we move into Saturday and celebrate the resurrection on Sunday, you’ll experience transformation with the disciples.

My to-do lists to meaningful moment lists. What do I mean?

Instead of focusing on getting a task done, I focus on how this task facilitates a meaningful moment for people. I don’t always get it right. Because, like you, I’m experiencing loss. But here are a few of the meaningful moments I’ve tried to introduce to hold space for a virtual hug.

A daily email that arrives at 5:00 am inviting people to read a passage of scripture, reflect on a written story, respond in prayer. At 8 p.m., I post a question on Facebook, inviting people to name and remember how is God is with them. Sometimes the question is for one person. Sometimes for 25. The number doesn’t matter.

There are now weekly Facebook lives that are becoming meaningful moments to share, talk, and celebrate where God is moving. The podcast, emails, and three blogs a week are what we’re doing to hold space for others to make meaningful connections with one another, with God, and with their community. 

Because what I know this Good Friday is this: the only way we’ll truly experience the transformative power of the resurrection, is if we hold space for one another to experience the reality of Good Friday. 

Every blessing to you as we journey through these next three days and live into the promise of Easter.