Leadership keeps presenting herself to me – not as a clear, concrete presence; she is yet an abstract idea. I seem to walk in the shadow of her essence without laying eyes on her form. She and I have met on a number of occasions, but we are not well-acquainted. My goal with this essay is to see her more clearly.
I distinctly remember meeting her in seventh grade. She was so funny and witty and passionate. She wrote poetry and directed her students with confidence. She had a HIYA!-knife and told us about it with the most killing effect. She engaged me to help her staple papers; she taught me what ellipses points and alliteration are. Accomplishment is something I strive for naturally, but Leadership taught me to care more about learning than achievement for achievement’s sake.
I don’t care what your grade is.
I just care that you learn something.
Leadership, I learned, values the “least” of her flock – because Leadership sees the astounding greatness in those who don’t behave or perform at the highest standardized level. Leadership lifts other people up. Leadership strives not to control, but to grow.
I wonder if I’m a leader. I work very hard, but there is nobody under my direction. A small and valuable handful of people consistently read this blog (and I’m so grateful for that, just as I’m grateful for my inconsistent readers). I am striving to bring cohesion to the community of single people in my church, but the response is sometimes disheartening (and frankly, I’m not sure if I know what I’m doing).
. . . Perhaps I don’t lead a group of people, but I am the primary initiator of, and decision maker for, everything from my wardrobe to my finances to my academic pursuits. It’s empowering and exhausting. It’s eye-opening. I wonder if I’m doing it right.
I’ve certainly learned that I’m not good at leading in every area. I am digging into the soil around me so that I can be deeply rooted in a community and bear much fruit for the benefit of others . . . but just as I desire to offer loving leadership to others in areas where I am skilled, I recognize a need for more defined, consistent, external leadership in my life. In fact, I crave it.
I think external leadership would look like . . .
Something beautiful. Not necessarily a symmetrical, clean image – but something colorful and bright and delightful.
It would not look like control, or oppression, or unkindness. It would look like gentle decisiveness. It would look humble – willing to recognize its mistakes. It would be humorous and serious and authentic. It would be courageous. Earnest. It would seek my good instead of selfish endeavors.
. . . But I have to examine my own character, too, because I want to embody what I hope to find in others. And that self-examination means asking myself,
Am I gentle? Decisive? Willing to admit my own mistakes? Am I authentic and earnest; do I seek the good of others? Am I submissive when occasion requires it, and fearlessly contrary in the face of sin? Do I use the gifts God has given me, including my voice? Am I a leader?
• • •
Dear Leadership, thank you for becoming better acquainted with me.
Dear God, thank you for the leaders in my life. Thank you for the sufficiency of Your presence in the weakness of my capacities and the limitations of my circumstances.
• • •
I saw my ashes, but You saw Your dream;
I saw an orphan, You were my family.
I saw my frailty, but You saw Your might;
I saw my blindness, but You were the light.
And I saw the water, but You saw the wine;
and I saw dead branches, but You were the vine.
And I saw my weakness, but You saw Your blood;
and I saw my failure, but You were enough.
– Cory Asbury, “Garments”