As with our physical bodies, our interior life has a core set of “spiritual muscles” that are shaped by personal disciplines and practices. How we develop or neglect them profoundly affects our life and leadership… Today’s text from the Psalms is a great encouragement for us to give renewed attention to strengthening the interior core of our leadership. How might we go about that?
Scripture regularly associates God with joy, exuberant joy… But joy is not the only emotion connected to our relationship with the living God. Sadness also shows up in Scripture. In Psalm 80:5, for example, the psalmist laments: “You have fed [your people] with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.”
I believe God values coherence (integrity) of his followers as they express God’s goodness in their work and lives. The most logical thing for the Christian is for their leadership to express love for God and love for others, leading to a joyful life that is deeply coherent.
As I noted in a prior reflection, Psalm 3 is a prayer of David from one of the darkest days of his reign as King of Israel. I find it remarkable that in the heart of his prayer, David says, “I lie down and sleep.” Frankly, that seems a bit odd to me. Why would David sleep in a crisis? And, even if he needed to sleep, why would that be important enough for him to work into his prayer? Isn’t sleep a mere necessity that gets in the way of our important work of leadership?
Evidently, it wasn’t for David.
As Christian leaders it is easy to become overwhelmed with the busyness of life. There’s not enough time in a day to accomplish every task. Not enough space in one lifetime to complete the Great Commission. As a Christian, I often feel overcome by the pressures of trying to reveal Christ’s character to the world on a daily basis. Am I fulfilling my call? And do I balance being truly present in the lives of my family members on a consistent basis? How do I accomplish all of my tasks before the 5pm deadline? These thoughts bombard my mind constantly, increasing my anxiety. Most days, time feels like a commodity that constantly eludes my grasp. Yet in the midst of this calamity, I often hear a still small voice that says, “Be still”. When I am feeling pushed to take more action, join more movements, or pursue more ideals, I hear again the quiet whisper to “Be still”.
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of those who paint too rosy a picture of the life of faith. Early in my Christian journey one of the popular evangelical sayings was that God has a “wonderful plan for your life.” Turns out, “wonderful” must have meant something entirely different than what I thought the word meant!
Each of us has a history – personal, familial, organizational. Psalm 78 tells Israel’s history with stark honesty. No attempt is made to “spin” its story to make God’s people look good. The bulk of the psalm is a long litany of Israel’s failures despite God’s mercy and continued faithfulness. If for no other reason, I like this psalm because it reminds me that all my history can be faced. In a contemporary leadership culture that tends to hide its failures and weaknesses, this is refreshingly good news.
The writer of Psalm 79 envisions God’s future activity along the lines of an action movie. The bad guys are the nations who have conquered Israel, defiling God’s temple, destroying Jerusalem, and slaughtering the people. Yet the Israelites will not pay back those who have scorned them. Rather, Psalm 79 calls out for God to be the hero who pours out his wrath on the nations and saves his people.
The complex and nuanced work of a watercolor artist reminds me of the importance of learning how to faithfully engage my work with a skillful use of the “palette of colors” of my vocation.
Psalm 78 focuses mainly on the sad history of Israel’s persistent rebellion against the Lord. Though he showed them mercy time and again, and though he disciplined them for their disobedience, the children of Israel regularly turned away from God and failed to keep his covenant.