Today’s post is written by Annwen Stone. Annwen is married to Andy and together they lead The King’s Centre, part of Network Church Shefffield (NCS). Andy and Annwen have 3 children, Caleb (10), Toby (8) and Elly (5)
Leading Others when Life is Tough
We are called to live an authentic life modelled on the life of Jesus. But living a life of incarnational leadership can feel incredibly costly. The goldfish bowl reality of the life of the leader can sometimes feel claustrophobic, particularly when life circumstances are tough.
Last year our middle son was diagnosed with Epilepsy. 18 months ago the daughter of a close family friend (our four year old daughter’s best friend) suffered a brain injury. These last 2 years we have been “living in the gap” more than I’ve ever known or experienced before. I don’t mean extended prayer or intercession type “standing in the gap” – although there has been bucketful’s of that. I mean the gap between what Jesus taught about his rule and reign in the Kingdom of God and our reality on earth today. The gap between “the what could be” and the “what is right now.”
I know that if Jesus was here on earth now both my son and this little girl would experience the fullness of the kingdom. Everyone who came to Jesus got healed. But what we have experienced is the gap. The waiting. The persisting. We have stood in the tension of having faith for “more” and the reality of the pain right here in the present.
There have been lots of questions. In the early days there were real times of depression, darkness and doubt. And yet what I am realising is that to be a good incarnational leader the people I lead do not require a squeaky clean perfect life, overly victorious, devoid of doubt and feeling. They need to see a life that in the midst of the most difficult things continues to look to Him. A life that persists in pain and loves in loss. A life that doesn’t have all the answers but knows the One who is the answer.
The goldfish bowl is only stressful for us as leaders if we are trying to live a life of pretence. A life of worldly perfection. We effectively model Jesus when we are true to ourselves, trying to be Jesus in the way he would be if he were me. When we model looking to Him in the midst of the gap and the waiting, we are modelling discipleship
I have learnt that relationship with Jesus, following him and looking to him (discipleship) is about me allowing him to speak into the most painful of emotions and doubts. Into the whole journey not the nice clean edited one. I have developed a conversational relationship with him where, even though he knows the circumstances, I live in actively discussing with him the things I find hard. I have filled many journals and walked the dog a lot! It’s in this place that he has given me the rhema (faith now) word or the sense of peace that have enabled me to keep following and living in the gap.
I have come to realise that the people I lead and love learn most when I am open with my weaknesses and failures. When I allow them windows into my relationship with Jesus. When I display my humanity warts and all but also allow God by his spirit to transform my perspective and circumstances. If I lead from a distance people will never get to see that or share in it. But, if we let people get close enough we can allow them to see what it is that we’re facing, and how we are allowing God to shape and disciple us through that experience.
Every so often in my journey with God worship songs are released that seem to articulate in words what my spirit senses in a situation. This song from Aaron Keyes has done just that for me in the last year. It has given me faith that in living in the gap He is at work and He is faithful.
There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting, Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding, You’re teaching us to trust