Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us… Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world.
A child’s vulnerability is their inability to hide behind any kind of facade that can control others. But we adults learn quickly that we must hide our true selves in order to manage others, pursue our goals, and avoid things we fear. This refusal to be authentically vulnerable and insistence to put on the appearance of strength and control is what Jesus warns may ruin our relationship with God. As leaders, we know that this inclination to not be our true selves damages our relationships with others as well.
Jesus contrasts two very familiar first-century characters: a Pharisee and a tax-collector. Perhaps Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Jesus challenge the smugness of the Pharisee, but to praise a tax-collector would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus raises up the value of a person’s honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness when it comes to one’s relationship with God. And he implies that his true followers will embrace an authenticity that will be noticed by God and others.
Jesus was attentive… Attention-giving can be especially difficult in a culture where attention-getting is so highly valued. Being attentive can be hard amidst Facebook posts, work deadlines, and endless emails. But numerous opportunities to join God in his kingdom work abound daily for those who cultivate a lifestyle of attentiveness to God’s will, to self-care, and to others’ needs.
In Luke 14, Jesus begins to discourse with the people about the cost of discipleship. During this dialogue, he presents the idea of someone building a tower without counting the cost—drafting a detailed plan and accurately assessing what it would take to complete the task… While Jesus was talking about counting the cost in following Christ, the same principle applies to leadership.
Joy is not so much meant for the good times as it is for the tumultuous times. This genuine joy does not deny the existence of pain, heartache, and loss, but it also acknowledges the strength of our God to heal, mend, and restore. Joy must be engaged and actively adopted. The season of Advent is about the arrival of the Savior and the joy he brings to the nations in the midst of our darkest hours.
Christmas has a lot to do with bodies, if you stop to think about it. The nativity narrative in Luke begins with the news that the aged body of Elizabeth will soon bear a son. Then, a virgin named Mary learns that her body will soon contain the very Son of God. When God’s Son is born, he has a real body, one that starts out life in weakness and dependency. If you take away the bodies, you really don’t have Christmas at all.
When the rules always seem to go in someone else’s favor, when you feel pushed to the margins, when you can’t seem to find your way and people keep telling you, “You best move on,” I pray you hear the soft cries of the holy infant and remember he has gone to prepare a place for you… and there is always room.
Jesus arrived in the world, just as planned from the foundation of the world. His arrival defies both good old-fashioned logic and our twenty-first century imaginations. His humble birth made the Kingdom of God accessible to all, even (especially?) those our traditions and customs and comforts and preferences can find no room to accommodate.
The time between the initial glimpse of a promise and God’s fulfillment of that promise can be agonizing. We often wonder, “what is God doing?” and, “why does it take God so long to fulfill what he said?” We may not mind waiting days or weeks, but months or years seem unfathomable. Transformational leadership is rarely about today and almost always about tomorrow.