It’s very easy to see the problems in other people and miss the weaknesses in ourselves. As Jesus said,
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
In the busy-ness of life, work and “stuff,” we just get so focused on the “other” that we miss the time and discipline for self-reflection.
The irony, of course, is that the very thing we identify in others is usually the thing that is an issue in our own lives. We can see someone else with a huge need to for others’ validation and we can be critical of their need for affirmation, when, all the while, we are doing exactly the same. Alternatively, we look at someone else and accuse them of making ministry all about their own ego when, actually, we do exactly the same.
So, Jesus’ words ring true in terms that go well beyond whether we see others falling into sinful habits. His words cut to the heart (if we will let them) and reveal to us our deeper needs and insecurities.
Take, for example, someone who can’t let go of a position or ministry. It’s easy to excuse that sort of behaviour by saying, “Things would fall apart without me,” or “I don’t have a choice.” But, it may be that we have a deeper dynamic going on – we may use our position or ministry to give our lives meaning or validation. It’s a dangerous and easy trap into which we can fall.
But our identity in Christ is not defined by what we do. It’s based on what Christ has done!
So, learning to be self-critical, to take time to self-evaluate and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal some of those deeper idols in our lives becomes critical.
Leadership can be isolating and the more isolated we are, the more we lose the capacity for self-reflection, so that good ministry and work can take on the role of self-fulfilment. In other words, it becomes a heart-issue, so that God is right when He says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things.” (Jeremiah 17:9).
But, God is in the business of changing our hearts – of doing that deep work through the Holy Spirit and the wise counsel of trusted brothers and sisters.
In recent times, I have been learning a new habit to help me quieten myself before God and listen to what He will say into my life. I realise it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if it helps one other person, it’s worth sharing:
I spend a period of time (10-15 minutes per day), sitting silently and following the rhythms of my breathing. As I breath in, I say, “Thank You Jesus,” and as I breathe out, I say, “I trust You Jesus.” The thanks as I inhale is in recognition that every breath is a gift from the God. The trust as I exhale is in recognition that I am dependant on God for that next breath. This rhythm of thanks and trust helps me refocus and see things through that prism. It’s also a time when I learn how to rest in God in the midst of whatever is going on in the day.
Ultimately, it’s about becoming more authentically whole and breaking down the partitions of our lives.
So, as Christian leaders, let me encourage you to be intentional about taking the time to do the heart-work of allowing God to speak into those deep and hidden recesses of your life, so that you may know ever-more-deeply the fullness of joy that is ours in Christ.
“People would rather follow a leader who is always real, rather than one who is always right.” (Craig Groeschel)
God said to the Israelites,
“Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)
Father, speak into the deep recesses of my life so that my heart is brought more into line with yours. Transform me by the renewing of my mind so that I may know yours and, in that place, know the joy your offer. Amen.”