Last week I attended a training in New York City. Each morning, as I walked to the skyscraper where the training was held, I was swept away with the throngs of suited professionals walking in unison, yet isolated from one another with their eyes glued to small screens and their ears filled with buds. New Yorkers are a hurried bunch. I'm not sure what they are all listening to on their headsets, but apparently it's fascinating enough to capture their full attention. My training class consisted of all men in the construction trades. There was a lot of power positioning and pretending. I tried to be authentic, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't participate to some degree in the competition of proving oneself to a group of insecure strangers. It's a strong temptation to try and prove that we're enough to everyone we meet. Or, are we only continually trying to convince ourselves?
I sit on a non-profit Board of Directors. Recently, we were interviewing a candidate for a leadership position. The interview was going well, however I wanted to turn up the heat a bit. I painted a chaotic picture of the stressors and the loneliness of leadership. "Do you think you can handle that?" I asked. The candidate paused and after a few moments replied, "I believe that I am called to do this work and I believe that God can use me to do what's necessary in this role." She should have responded confidently saying that certainly she could handle whatever comes her way. She should have told me that she had the iron-clad guts and rhino-thick-skin to deal with the tough stuff of leadership. She said nothing of her own merit. She only said matter-of-factly that she believed that this was God's call on her life and, if that's the case, He would equip her accordingly. She was hired.
Early in my career, I came upon a kind, gentle man who wore a lot of sweaters. He could talk sports and the origins of the earth, however he always held his opinion until after others had a full opportunity to speak first. When decisions of any weight were needed from this man, he almost always requested the opportunity to pray about it first. I thought this man's delayed decision making was more a reflection of his lack of fortitude to lead. Over the years, I've seen this man enjoy a quiet life with many joys but also a fair share of hurt and pain. Through it all, he is notably resilient because a Power greater than anything he could muster dwells deep within his soul. He's anchored by a Love greater than anything that he could garner from this world. He continues to lead well because he, the creation, doesn't attempt to outpace the Creator.
My identity was built upon navigating my own direction. As I journeyed, the accolades of the crowd was a drug that I'd sacrificed much to gain. This pursuit might have cost me my life. Not in a tragic accident kind of way, but more akin to a slow disease where something eats slowly away at you without you noticing much is going on until you're on life support, trying only to hold on.
Tonight, I write from a cabin in the woods. I'm so thankful to be here with my family, us pushing the world back for a weekend to just be. I'm thankful that I now find my identity in something deeper, an inexhaustible love that never fails. I'm a beloved son of God, born to do good works that were planned before the world began. I don't have to pull myself up from my bootstraps and prove my value to a society that's sadly lost it's own in many ways. Tomorrow, I only have to trust that God will show up for me, as He always has, working through my life in ways that I could never do on my own. Some days that's me being afraid to lead in certain areas, but doing it anyway, because I've been called and I trust that God will equip me as necessary. Other days, that's me slowing to bathe decisions in prayer and listening for God's still small voice. Every day, that's us choosing to be thankful and to receive each moment as a gift - God's grace all wrapped up and given.