March 28, 2023: I wrote this on social media back in 2014: “Leaders make themselves available to those who need them. A title makes not a leader any more than offspring makes a parent.”
Some things are just always timely. I'm not painting a canvas about titles with a big broad stroke, in the same way that just because I ate at a buffet about 17 years ago and got severe food poisoning, I don't think all buffets will give me food poisoning. There are rich and beneficial lessons to be learned in every circumstance when we leave offense under our feet and can turn around and be a revelation for someone else. Being a leader does not mean you're going to abuse the responsibility, but aligning with people who carry and pour out the whole heart of the Lord will save you heartache, headache, and a lot of heavy baggage you have to unpack afterwards.
Here's what I'd like to impart, from my little peg of tent making:
I remember when I was younger and less steady on my feet, and I desperately needed the embrace of inspiration and courage in my life to help me navigate and understand the hard mountains and valleys. I wasn’t “needy.” I was IN need. I knew there was an urgency in me to connect dots and learn from those who had a well of knowledge and experience. But I also knew I wanted this investment to be reciprocated as a two-way strengthening. I saw these leaders as valuable, and in turn, I wanted them to see that I had sharpening value and purpose, too.
These weren’t parents in the faith, ministry, or marketplace who were not present in my life already and physically. These were people I was with day in and day out - the ones who could have made the most impact in my life, because we were running on the same track with each other. I spent decades without as much as a mentor or mother not because I wasn't reaching out in hope and kindness, but because I reached out and was rejected by those who talked the talk but didn't walk the walk.
Despite my efforts to be flexible and receptive, those specific leaders also didn’t connect me elsewhere. That’s another cornerstone leaders and people in general must be comfortable with - not being territorial and bottlenecking what isn’t ours to steward. We aren’t supposed to be everything to everyone, and someone else might be a better fit outside of us for the need. I inquired of Holy Spirit for insight on the deficits that occurred in my years thereafter of “untying the knots" and he availed much. This insight and “untying” was the backbone to my understanding the power of forgiveness. So God was at work in me even in the rejection. Is that a now word for someone who’s reading this?
(In hindsight, I believe God was protecting me from a few of those with whom I wanted relationship, and I am very grateful.)
Because I had to work things out in the stillness of the cave (which yes, was often lonely and difficult,) I laid at the faithful feet of Jesus, and He was my teacher. Literally, I laid at His feet with my hoodie pulled up over my face, bawling my eyes out under a row of sanctuary chairs in the dark once - so I’m not being cliche. I knew He would be there and He was, and that's the way it's always supposed to be. But having the compass and community of actual people in your life to walk with you - while you sit at the feet of Jesus together - is also one of those "always." Vacation on an nice island. Don't resolve yourself to get stranded on one because you feel rejected, or haven’t yet found your tribe or timing.
I think so many of us can relate to being IN need, even those who have been or are currently in some kind of tight knit circle, but still feel disconnected and unseen at the table. You go through the motions and participate, but the peripheral chasm between being a part and being apart still exists, and you're hungry for someone to see the quiet look in your eyes and authentically offer you a shoulder, an ear, or some guidance. As we travel along this journey of life and learning, no matter our milepost, we all experience the deep wells of being thirsty for reassurance and connection, of encouragement and people and personal-building.
Humanity is wailing for mothers and fathers to rise up and be mothers and fathers. Tragedy can be diverted and realigned by authentic compassionate listeners, maturity in wisdom, and willing refuges. We ALL have to be the person that we needed. We have to be willing to expand our hearts and share how God got us through. We have to be ok with being honest with others about our less than great decisions, how we learned from our mistakes, and the changes we had to make that drew us to God and our identity.
But most of all, we just have to show up, be present, and pull out a chair at our table.