The other day I remembered an incident from a motorcycle ride a few years back and for some reason it has stuck with me. It was Barb and my first long ride with a group and on the last day as we were heading home we had to ride out in a heavy rain. We stopped for breakfast hoping the rain would let up but it would not. So we headed out...three bikes heading home after a great week of riding. Of course Barb and I had the worst rain suits ever and the other tried to talk Barb into tying plastic bags over her shoes to keep her feet dry. Come on. No one looks cool with plastic bags tied to your feet...even Barb. So she refused.
Well, we left out and it was raining and on the highways you get lots of spray off the cars and trucks around you. It was wet...and not real comfortable feeling...little scary I suppose. Somehow I ended up leading the pack through a downtown interstate area and we got beside a truck and we had to decide whether to pass or not. So I am leading...wondering what the others would like to do. Pass? Stay? Pass? Stay? No way to ask. Now I begin to feel the pressure to lead...I am uneasy. Water spraying, rain falling, road wet. WHAT DO I DO?
I decided to pass the truck...on the right side...in at least three lanes of traffic. The cool thing about being on the bike is no one can tell I am scared. All looks the same from behind me I suppose. Even Barb cannot tell. So I go for it. The good news is we made it just fine...and even if I had wet myself no one could tell because I was soaked anyway! But I was really tense going around the truck. I might not have done it if we had been by ourselves but with others following expecting you to lead...you go.
I read this the other day: Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow. ~Dan Rather. Dan is not a guy I will probably quote a lot and I am not saying it took courage to pass...but as a leader I find myself leading even if I am not feeling the bravest at the time. People are following...you either lead or get out of the way. I remember on mission trip we had a young high school guy with us working and he did everything slow. Now he was a great guy to have on the trip but he was not a sprinter for sure. We were carrying paint supplies into a building we were going to paint and he was in front of me carrying some items and I was right behind him carrying a bag of cement mix. He was moseying along and finally I said, “Anthony, either speed up or step out of the way.” He started to speed up...then shrugged his shoulders and moved over so I could pass. Great memory for me.
I have felt the poking or prodding from others as they wait to see if I will lead. I have also felt the poking and prodding from the Lord to see if I will lead or not. His is gentle prodding for sure but still there with persistence. God is the only One who really knows when we are afraid to lead and He is the only One we can count on to go with us as we lead. Others may not go...He will. The angel of the Lord came to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon is hiding in a cave! Mighty warrior! You have to appreciate the Lord’s great kindness to call to us as He sees and knows us not how we see and know ourselves. Being afraid does not disqualify you from leading...it means you are human. Does the fear lock you up...do you hear the voice of the accuser reminding you how big of a chicken you are? Do you hear our own voice telling you you cannot do it? Do you hear the lies from your past saying you have always been a coward. What makes you think anything is different now?
I love being around people that seem to be fearless. Nothing is a problem. No problem is their favorite answer...we can take that hill! (or whatever they are going after) Well maybe I don’t really love it...but I am fascinated by it...appreciate it when I see it. So different from my wiring it can be confusing to me and I can get offended by and I begin to accuse them of not having humility...not true at all, just me. I guess when I write I am writing for the leader like myself...that is not John Wayne. For every very confident leader there is another leader God has called and is looking for the confidence to put one foot in front of the other. To keep moving at all. I am not sure one is better than the other but I do know this...who God calls He will equip. If God chooses to use you or me in a leadership role He will not only send us out...He will go with us!
Gideon threw out fleeces to God...if this is you do this...or this...or that. I think it came to the point where God would bypass Gideon’s asking and just say, “If you need to know more do this...or listen to that.” I do not do a lot of fleecing but I do a lot of talking...to God.
The challenge we all will face is if He has called you to lead then you must lead. It is simple obedience. He is not sending you or me out to fail...but He is sending us out...to lead. I know you did not pursue a title or some position...He chose you...He pursued you. I think we all have to put ourselves in a place to hear the Father say, “Hey there mighty warrior, I am with you.”
Yep! I was afraid that day on my bike...not a big deal really...but it is a reminder that to walk on water you have to push fear back, look at Jesus, and get out of the boat. Either God is who He says He is or He is not. Either He is with us or He is not. I am meditating on something AW Tozer once said: The most important thing you think is what you think about God..” (might not be an exact quote) I am thinking that as a pastor one of the things others want to know from me as a leader is just that...what do I think about God. It will show up in our leading...or lack thereof.
So all of my chicken friends out there...let’s lead through the fear of failure...through our weaknesses...because if you are leading...someone is following. I have an acquaintance nearby, another pastor who teaches spiritual formation primarily to pastors. What he does to start each session is send the class out with the 23rd Psalm and a notebook and pen and instructs the class to read and listen. You know if you struggle with much fear as a leader I really would recommend you doing the same. Become very familiar with this Psalm...and what God would say to you through it. Good stuff.