There has been a shift in me over the past few weeks.
As a result of pandemic leadership, the loss of all we knew and had, and the seemingly endless changes and conflict, a part of me was quieted that I didn't realize: the ability to dream.
The pandemic arrived and settled like a fog that disrupted and confused any future plans. Instead of seeing what could be, I only saw two inches in front of me. I was forced to focus only on what was.
What was? Loss. Change. Unprecedented times (shudder!). Pivoting (gross!). Fear. Survival.
Leaders usually don't find these words exciting. These aren't the phrases that inspire confidence, hope, or a desire to lead.
I am grateful that my church navigated the pandemic with unity and hope. There were people who didn't like how we obeyed the law (!!), but overall I wasn't attacked widely or directly. The main thing remained the main thing.
COVID-19, however, brought a tornado of change, loss, and disruption that compromised my ability to dream.
The Fear Factor
This season of leadership was characterized by a bankruptcy of courage. As a leader, I am now re-learning the importance of leading straight into the storm instead of coasting on calm waters.
After Moses' death, what was Yahweh's charge to Joshua, the newly appointed leader of Israel? Joshua 1:9 says:
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
God's message for the rookie in first chair is clear: don't let fear and uncertainty distract you from your potential future. The task Joshua was given was to courageously lead Israel into the promised land.
Despite this, fear cripples a leader:
- How will people perceive me if I _______?
- What if no one comes with me?
- What if people ridicule, mock, and dismiss me?
- What if I fail?
Looking back COVID-19 suffocated so much internal passion and fire in me.
But no more.
It's time to dream again
Our church hosted a consultant a few weeks ago. We invited a group of trusted leaders into a room to discuss where we might be five years from now. Our church's history was recited, positive and negative points were discussed, and possibilities were brainstormed.
I felt as if oxygen had been let loose on the fire. I felt something ignite in my soul - something that had lain dormant for too long.
I was hungry again. Hungry for the presence of God, for renewal, for leadership development, for multiplication. To see God do something far beyond what I/we could accomplish on our own.
So I have decided not to let fear strangle my hope and determination for a better future.
Silencing the critics
While still wanting to be teachable and approachable, I have also decided not to let those in the crowd determine what I will do and not do.
Reflecting with my leadership coach, I realized that I was handcuffed by trying to please everyone. Chalk it up to people pleasing or being a new senior leader, but I have given up on trying to accomplish the impossible task of attempting to satisfy everyone.
As someone said, "if you want to be liked all the time, go sell ice cream, don't get into leadership."
Brene Brown borrows this quote from Theodore Roosevelt in her book Daring Greatly:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
Leaders know exactly what Roosevelt is saying.
We are easily distracted by those voices that constantly criticize and say how things should be done. They don't often realize how difficult it is to lead in real time.
- get distracted by the armchair quarterback who has never laced up a pair of cleats.
- get criticized by the passive theologian who has never led a group of diverse and imperfect people before.
- get put off by people who long for the comfort of yesterday and are afraid of what God could do tomorrow.
- get cancelled by those who are skeptical, hostile and even vocal
It's easy to get self-conscious and insecure. It's easy to become cynical and skeptical.
Do you know what isn't easy? To keep going despite stumbles, fumbles, and failures.
The Place where I'll be
So if you want to know where to find me, I'll be in the arena.
Investing hard work and praying big prayers for a transformed church and city.
We will continue to hope, pray, and dream with a dedicated team of staff and people who are leaning into a better future.
I'm not naive enough to think there won't be times when I feel discouraged, criticized, or fail.
But as for me, I believe again that the best is yet to come.
It's time to dream again.