Growing older, releasing leadership to a younger generation, even shutting down the doors long held open for investment of time and resources, provide enormous opportunities for mishap for this one whose life goal has always been to finish strong; a more difficult time than I had planned for. One of the plethora of things I am now learning is how beneficial and grounding it must be to follow a generation or two of leadership at or above the station in life to which one is called.
Being a cusp leader, a transitional being, a change agent is no easy road. No one likes a prophet and even admitting to a sense of that calling, draws ire from those less visionary or worse yet unwelcome entry to those who at times seem to be at least one brick short of a load!
I must admit however, that I seem able to see down the road, whether it is a natural intuition, an ability to connect the dots strategically or a calling with deep spiritual context, such has been my lot for now 40 years. Sometimes that has been beneficial to organizations that seem to be stuck in terms of mission. Other times, it invites chaos when status quo resists those who attempt to pioneer a better day, though self-aware of the dangers and daggers that await the scout who dares go before.
That sense of voice and the vocation that has followed was certainly not because of personal righteousness, neither a bloodline of genteel leaders before me. Again, I admire those who stand on the shoulders of a long genealogy of public leadership. However, all my mentors have been grassroots people, perhaps trying to pull themselves up by some boot strap, rather than being duly raised up by the establishment, or others already having trod the road sufficiently. That can provide a hurdle of self-doubt, and quite often, when hard calls have to be made. Honestly speaking, that self-doubt only compounds itself in the aftermath, when lurking character deficits surface, and bad calls are made.
Dangerously accompanying such a calling is a deep sense of heart, and a responsibility to “say what needs to be said.” On top of all that, living into that call in an age of indecision, when one’s own nation waffles on long held beliefs, a day when even church leaders are recanting the truths once held dear, especially around biblical validity, only heightens one vulnerability. Some of this softening is beneficial, a turning from rank religion and nationalism, a transformation perhaps long waited by the Lord?
Yet, when I read the pages of The Book, I am evermore convinced of its inspiration and awed by the mystery of the Spirit, which I find so alive within its “white spaces.”
This morning as I read from Numbers, struggling with the words of instruction that called for so much religious bloodshed, I found myself needing the relief that comes only from the New Testament, and the life of Christ; which by the way so contrasts with the God of Moses. As I often do in my annual discipline of reading through the Bible, I turned to the New Testament and settled within the revealing words of John 10. Herein are so beautifully captured, the words of Jesus regarding the Good Sheppard, the Gate, and the Door.
Three truths seemed to leap from these scriptures: Not everyone who professes to be worthy of follow-ship is legitimate; Christ alone is the door to salvation; and, that there are sheep yet to be gated, sheep that would not seem to fit the requirements of those already inside the sheep gate. All three concepts are controversial.
Perhaps the writer is speaking to the religious establishment of that day and as well, prophetically to our own, given the struggle within today’s institutional church. Christ alone, a mainstay of Christianity for all these centuries is now in question as our nation becomes more and more pluralistic.
Could the Messiah, whom Christ professed to be, have been speaking of the nature of God to not only provide a door but even raise up a new system of faith; in their day it would be Christianity. Now perhaps in another moment of transition, new sheep, not always welcomed before, are once more coming through the gate; made so evident to me in my recent trip to the Middle East, and as well, locally in my work with interfaith groups. There I go again into places where one should leave well enough alone; the struggle of Elijah, as discussed in my last post.
As I age, the narrow door widens and yet my heart remains loyal to the One whom I believe best represents the heart of the God Jehovah, a God who is love.