“It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God.”
Stuck in the snow
This past week we had a snow storm here in Murfreesboro, TN. I should probably be a little clearer. We had about 3 inches of snow (which for us southerners is nothing short of a blizzard). The best part of the snow is getting to play in it. I ventured out into the white wonderland with my three kids in a 12 passenger van for a sledding adventure. We were all so excited! After all, Tennessee blizzards only come around once every decade or so.
I was told by my friend (who we were meeting) to be careful once I got to the hill because it’s pretty steep. When I made it, I just drove up without even thinking. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate…I told myself, “I got this.” The next thing I knew I was sliding backwards into a ditch while my kids were screaming in the back seat, asking their dad, “Why are you trying to kill us?!?”
What happened? Everything started off great. We had a plan, we had a goal, but things didn’t quite turn out the way we hoped.
Many times this is what happens to us as leaders.
We are moving along, with visions of grandeur as to what God has for us and at some point we end up stuck. We may ask, ‘How did I get here?” We tell ourselves, “This isn’t what I signed up for”, or “Why does it have to be so difficult?”
Maybe you feel like you are a “soulstuck” leader. Maybe you find yourself stuck in a snowdrift of confusion about what you are doing, not really sure where to go. It could be that you are questioning whether or not God ever called you to lead in the first place.
Why am I leading?
There is a foundational question that every leader must ask. Why am I leading? Am I leading primarily for what I get out of it, or for what others get out of it? Am I leading to validate who I am as a person? Do I have to lead in order to feel fulfilled in life? These are questions that can best be answered when we are stuck.
One biblical example of a soulstuck leader, is John the Baptist. (You can read about him in the Good News story of John in the Bible) John spent his life being groomed to become the “voice of the one crying in the wilderness”. He had one job…to lead and prepare the hearts of the Jews to receive their Messiah.
John was present when the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and God the Father said, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Can you imagine that? John audibly heard the voice of God confirm Jesus as His Son! It would seem that John could rest easy knowing he had completed his job. He was probably ready to retire and enjoy something to eat other than honey and locusts.
Instead, when we fast forward, we find that John is in prison. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking. He probably felt alone, betrayed, and confused. How could God have called him to something so amazing, only to abandon him? John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the chosen one. Imagine the fear and doubt John must have been feeling to motivate him to ask such a question?
Do you ever feel this as a leader? Do you ever find yourself so discouraged that you doubt whether or not your leadership has made any difference? If so, you are in good company. John’s story ends with being killed by Herod while in prison. Alone…scared…feeling like a failure. This is not the fairly tale ending that leaders dream of when they begin leading, but it is a reality we must all face. Chances are, God’s plan for our leading will end up different from our plan.
How do we deal with this? Here are three things that have helped me in my journey.
- Focus on the Process, Not the End Product. God doesn’t need you to lead. God doesn’t need you to do anything. This truth will set you free. Instead of focusing on what you think God wants you to do, focus on the process of growth and intimacy He is calling you to along the way. Lower your expectations for the final result and trust that God’s end game is far greater than anything you can come up with.
- Have Fun. When I was stuck in the ditch with my kids, do you know what I did? I told them to get out and have some fun. They sledded like they have never sledded before and had the time of their lives! When you are leading and things don’t go the way you plan, just learn to roll with it. Don’t take yourself or your job too seriously. I know the weight of leadership can become unbearable at times, but that is never what God intended. When we understand that the work God is doing in us is far greater than the work He is doing through us, we can enter into His rest while we lead…which is a lot more fun and rewarding.
- Remember Your Why. Never get so wrapped up with WHAT you are doing that you forget your WHY. When things get hard and stressful and you want to quit and give up, remember why you are doing what you are doing. You are leading out of obedience to God’s calling. God isn’t going to love you more or less based on your leadership ability. He loves you because you are his child. While leading isn’t easy, Jesus is there to reveal to us more of who He is in the process. Our leadership effectiveness will be determined by our willingness to be led by Him.
These three leadership principles are not original with me. I have picked them up from great leaders like you. Are you stuck? Are you questioning your adequacy as a leader? If we ever reach the point where we forget these principles maybe it’s time to consider the fact that we are stuck. However the good news is, sometimes being stuck is exactly where Jesus wants us to be. When we are stuck as leaders we are reminded that His grace and His power are perfected in our weakness.
So, if you are a soulstuck leader, take a minute and thank Jesus because it may be just where he wants you to be. Remember in the end, being a great leader all comes down to being a great follower.
Mark Schmahl is the Associate Pastor at Believers’ Chapel in Murfreesboro, TN. He was born in Omaha, NE but considers Murfreesboro, TN home. He has been married for 14 years to his wife Gena and has three children. He is a graduate from MTSU and Dallas Theological Seminary. He has been on staff at Believers Chapel for 10 years and his ministry passions are Discipleship and Counseling.