Rising Leader Series: Week 46 - Gaps
Updated: Feb 25
I just spent twenty minutes with head bowed down,
seeking my God in contemplative prayer.
But mind hopped around like a rodeo clown
so much, I surely chased God out of there.
Or maybe not. Perhaps He still abided,
despite my discombobulated brain.
When intent and limitation collided,
perhaps He deemed intent the better claim.
Is this not the quintessence of our Savior?
That, knowing every wart and scar and sin,
notwithstanding frequent misbehavior,
yet still He calls for us to enter in?
Dear God, surprising lover of my gaps:
What goodness you create with humble scraps!
God willing, eventually the day will come when the desire of your heart will rise, at last, to meet the call of your soul. When it does, good leader, you will take up your mantle and step out into the great beyond. As you do, you will bring your all– your whole being. Not just your gifts– but also your gaps. Not just your wheat– but also your weeds.
We are not perfect. If only I could do this thing. If only you could do that thing. I wish I were more quick witted; you wish you were more easygoing. I judge, gossip, flare up in anger; you pout. In the moment of truth, you fail to do the charitable thing. In the crucible of conflict, I shrink from the moment and lose courage. You suffer from shyness, while I struggle with pride.
When Jesus first appeared to Simon the fisherman, revealing Himself as the Son of God, Simon’s response was, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Simon knew the measure of his gaps. Jesus responded by saying, “Come and I will make you fishers of men.” Simon left his nets and followed Him. Sure enough, in the months and years leading up to the Cross, Simon stumbled time and again. He was rash and impetuous; he was a slow-learning disciple. Nonetheless, at the appointed hour Jesus named him Peter (Peter means “rock”), and anointed him– saying, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” How Jesus’ other followers must have reacted when, on the day He was captured and taken to the cross, Peter fled in fear. When confronted, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. What did the Apostles have to say about their appointed leader then? Three times. Three times he denied Him.
Yet Peter was chosen to become the first pastor of Christ’s fragile, fledgling church. Starting with just ten apostles and a handful of other followers, he set the first roots of Christianity in the world. In the years after Jesus’ ascension, Peter led the church as best he could. He stood up for the faith against the attacks of the Sanhedrin and the authority of Rome. He spoke with authority to the crowds. In the name of Christ, he healed the sick and the lame. He assigned disciples, guided communities and corrected sinners.
His leadership was also marked by mistakes. He didn’t know what to do with the Gentiles– the non-Jewish followers– that Paul was converting. He was confused about whether they should follow Jewish law. Could Gentile Christians eat together with Jewish Christians? Did they need to be circumcised? It took him a long time to get to “yes” for the first question and “no” for the second. But he led as best he could, and the church grew despite his failings. Knowing his gaps as he did, he communed with God in constant prayer. He drew in other disciples and counted on them to do what he could not do.
Our gaps teach. They help us appreciate our dependence on God and others around us. We are not the “be all and end all”. We are all simply contributions to God’s great plan for humanity. All of humanity’s greatest leaders were great in no small part because of (not despite of) their gaps. Mother Teresa’s unrelenting doubt yielded humility and wisdom. Lincoln’s lifelong struggle with depression shaped him into a clear-eyed realist, a sensitive and inspiring speaker and man ready to give all to the cause– including his life. Dag Hammarskjold’s struggle with pride led him to a life of prayer and soul work that fortified his diplomacy. Imperfect leaders who keep close to God are both humble and authentic. Their very imperfections make them relatable, humanizing their leadership and sparking followership.
You are a work in progress, good leader. So am I. And it’s OK. We are called to get in the game, do our best, and learn. This is the disciple’s path: stumble-step, stumble-step forward toward the good.
Next week, let’s explore how we might grow towards our true selves.
“I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should, even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be.”-- Philippians 3: 12
Yours in imperfect service,
Previous Weeks' Letters: