It’s time to withdraw to the lonely places

None of us could anticipate the pandemic that has turned our world upside down. It has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being infected and tens of thousands even losing their lives. Our global economic system is suffering, many have lost their jobs, the supply chain is tremendously strained, students are trying to find their way through finishing classes online and the list goes on and on. My heart literally breaks for everyone worried about whether or not they will have money for rent and money to put food on the table. I am praying that the federal relief package will alleviate at least some of the burden.

The flipside, and might I even say the “good news”, from all of this is that the stay-at-home order and lock down is forcing us all to slow our frantic pace a bit. We are spending more time with family. As businesses, we are speeding up the process of using technology to collaborate virtually. We are seeing huge corporations such as Wal-Mart, Ford, Anheuser Busch and many others step up to make ventilators, face masks and hand sanitizers – when these products are not even close to their core business. Many individuals are getting creative in how they are caring for others and loving well. I truly feel that if we pay attention, there are lessons that we are learning now, that if we continue to apply after this crisis, will cause us to emerge stronger. We are seeing the best in our people as they step up to care for others.

No one in history was as compassionate, gracious, just and present when dealing with people as Jesus. When I read the red letters in the New Testament, I am always amazed at how He interacted with people. How was He always prepared with the right words, the right care and concern, the right questions and the right answers? A recent study by Bain and Company examined the most valued attributes of great leaders and the number one attribute cited was “centeredness”. When I think of Jesus, it is clear that He is the epitome of centeredness. He was aware of His surroundings (the woman in the crowd who touched the hem of His garment), He was empathic (when He said of the woman who had been with several men, he who is without sin cast the first stone – go and sin no more), He was thoughtful and creative in His teaching and responses (the great and many lessons He taught in parables) and He was never rattled (He knew His priorities). He was all about His Father’s business, yet He ‘noticed’ individuals and took time to speak into them personally and to even heal many, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually.

One of my mother-in-law Dixie’s favorite verses has always been, “Be still and know that I am God”.  As I think about this verse, it is so apropos for where we are right now. This forced ‘slow down’ has definitely created a little more margin than we had before. I believe that Jesus was the leader He was because He had His own form of “social distancing”.  Luke 5:15-16 says, “Yet the news of Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus knew that to lead well, He needed to spend face-to-face alone time with His Father.

As leaders, we cannot give to others what we do not have ourselves. It is in the abiding that we will find everything we need to be the leader that God purposed for us to be. As our personal relationship with Him grows and becomes more rooted, He will increase, and we will decrease. Then … and only then … can we ever hope to lead like Jesus – with just the right words, the right mindset, the right decision-making, the right questions and the right answers.

I realize that we all handle anxiety, worry and hardship differently, but if we will discipline ourselves to spend time abiding and engaging in an intimate, personal relationship with the one who loves us most, He will show us the way forward. In turn, we can serve, love and lead the people He has entrusted to us, so that His light shines forth. May God be glorified in all we do!!!

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