It’s common in the business world to hear about aiming high. Usually that’s just another way of saying we should keep moving ahead, setting goals for ourselves and then meeting those goals. However, rarely does aiming high involve a significant risk. Instead, it tends to be incremental. It’s like looking at the top of a staircase and saying you’re “aiming high”—then getting there one step at a time. But here’s a story from scripture that puts “aim high” in a new light.
Brave spaces are transformational. Brave spaces draw a person out and give them the opportunity to be transformed. Alternatively, safe spaces often make it safe for me to stay the way I am. Brave spaces invite vulnerability, while safe spaces often keep me shielded from growth. David’s brothers and the rest of Saul’s army chose safety when facing Goliath. But God calls us out of hiding and into the light, where we are invited to partner with God in miraculous acts that bring a new way of living.
Leaders do not only regularly disappoint those we lead, we can also disappoint ourselves. When we don’t hit benchmarks, when we let down a parishioner, or when we fail to reach a goal, we not only have to contend with the swarm of people disappointed in our leadership but also with our own self-criticism. Often, we are our own worst critics.
In my twenty-plus years as a leader in the non-profit sector, I’ve found that much of leadership involves disappointing people. When I got into church leadership, I assumed I would spend the majority of my time inspiring people with my vision, comforting people with my pastoral skills, and instilling God’s Word through my preaching. Little did I know that in every one of those areas (and more) I would disappoint people.
All too often, prayer has been utilized as a time where we drop off our wish list to God and quickly exit stage left. To be clear, we do have the privilege of taking our burdens and requests to our God, who is always attentive to our cry. However, prayer is a dialogue where we talk and listen. Just as we desire God’s ear, God also desires to be heard. The key to hearing God’s voice is to learn how to be an active listener.
In yesterday’s devotion we acknowledged the possibility of dysfunctional mentoring relationships, like the one between Saul and David. Though Saul should have been empowering David, instead he acted like a jealous enemy who sought to undermine David instead of blessing him. There is a slang word for such a person: frenemy. This is the type of “friend” whose words or actions bring you down. (Whether you realize it as intentional or not). Frenemies make terrible mentors and can have lasting negative impact on leaders.
In its simplest form, mentoring is supposed to be a process when a mentor with more experience and knowledge helps a mentee with less experience and knowledge. But sometimes a mentoring relationship fails to meet this basic expectation and can become a scarring experience altogether, affecting your leadership for years to come.
The name “Ebenezer” is not original to the English language. In fact, it is an Anglicized version of a Hebrew noun, which is itself composed of two Hebrew words. In 1 Samuel 4:1, for example, the Israelites camped at a place called Ebenezer.