Desert Lessons

For the past week I’ve had an image from Thor 2 stuck my head: He and his crew have finished vanquishing evil for the day and all his men are celebrating the old fashioned way (with an overflow of drinks, women, and laughter). Yet Thor somberly strolls around the premises. He’s got other things on his mind. While there are victories to revel in for the moment, tomorrow is on the horizon and it promises even more challenges.

I relate to that.

Recently a lot of people have affirmed me in the ministry happening in Cayman and, though I appreciate it, it’s been hard to receive. Much like Thor, I often find my people celebrating but in my head are all the things we’ve yet to accomplish. I wonder if I’m making better disciples, better worshipers of God, more missional Christians, etc. and I grow frustrated.

Interestingly enough, I don’t think that’s all together bad. To be a leader is, yes, having people who follow but equally important is having some place they’re following you to. To be a leader is to stand in the “not yet” guiding people towards the “what’s supposed to be.”

But I’m finding it takes patience. More important for the Israelites than the Promised Land were the desert lessons. While our destination is crucial, it’s the journey that shapes us and makes the destination worthwhile.

This is the paradox of leadership: being content without becoming complacent. If we’re never content we will work ourselves, and those beneath us, to the ground. They become means to an end and God becomes our King but never our Father (though I would say the latter causes the former). However, if we grow complacent we will never become the people God has called us to be nor will we accomplish what he’s set out for us. Instead we’ll become stagnant, lose vision, and cease to exist. Though we may say Jesus is Lord our comfort will beg to differ. Leadership is longing for the destination but embracing the journey.

So how do we best embody this paradox?

1)     In God’s Presence – More important than the voices of those around us is the voice of the One we’ve been working so hard to gain the approval of. When we slow down long enough we find God is not nearly as concerned about our performance as we are. He’s more concerned about us and He’s not one to rush quality. But God’s presence also reminds us he cares about them just as much as he cares about us. We are sent out again.

2)     With Celebration – As silly as it sounds, celebration is a spiritual discipline. It’s the remembrance of what God has done/is doing and rejoicing at the progress made. We celebrate because we are not the same people we were in the beginning but we also recognize we have a way to go. Good celebration pushes back to the mission.

Even as I write this I recognize the reason receiving affirmations has been hard for me is because both of these have been absent, making it increasingly easier to rely on strategy than God. But do people need another strategy? I think not.

This week I’m making a concerted effort in restoring both of these in my life. Won’t you join me? Perhaps it will change the DNA of our groups and, more importantly, us.

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