Young, passionate for Jesus and wanting to make a kingdom difference with her life is how I would describe her. I know her mother, and her grandmother and I also knew her great grand-mother; very well as it happens. Getting old has some advantages. She had served a mission agency overseas. She came back burnt out and a bit disillusioned, but now, after 18 months or so, the same, wonderful, chirpy, servant-hearted and restored young lady was back. She wanted to speak about her devotional life and motivation. It was an absolute pleasure to chat.
I asked her did she ever review those missional years she spent overseas, and why she came back so weary in spirit? Not so much, she said. She had done some journaling whilst overseas, but didn’t want to go back and read those past posts, because they were negative. When she wrote them, she felt she was having a bit of a whinge. She is a remarkably positive person, who looks for the opportunity rather than the negative. “Move on – that’s done with,” was her approach. Generally that’s not a bad approach, and I smiled.
“So describe for me what working overseas was like”, I asked her. She thought for a moment, then described it with precision and clarity: lack of freedom, constant pressure, always asked to do a bit more, not working to my gifts. I jotted the words down, then read them back to her. “How does that sound, hearing it now coming back at you?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Suck it up, princess. Get over it,” was what she said. “So what did you learn from that?” I asked. Again, she shrugged her shoulders. I got the message. That’s in the past. Her motivation was about being positive.
The conversation moved on to her work, and other dimensions of her leadership role, what was working well and what wasn’t. It meandered into how she dealt with difference and conflict. Like most of us, she didn’t like conflict, didn’t like confrontation, didn’t like having to deal with difficult people issues and didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings. She didn’t like the feelings of discomfort – not for herself, not for others. Avoid the negative. “So what do you do when things like that emerge?” I asked. “You run a small group. There’s lots of people at your work, and they’re not all easy people – what do you do then?”
She smiled, and with touching honesty she said, “I just sweep it under the carpet.” When I asked her who she was hiding it from, the penny finally dropped. “From myself, I guess.” As we explored the “what” and the “how” of her behaviour, I painted some pictures from her family, and how they had responded to uncomfortable issues. Leadership was in the first place about leading yourself, and ignoring or hiding things from ourselves wasn’t going to bring growth and maturity. The reality was it would limit our capacity to lead and our ability to grow.
Our attempts to hide from ourselves and to hide from others are fig leaves. In the process we hide from the one thing that can liberate us and empower us – truth. My young friend left with a number of things she was going to do over the next month. One was to re-visit those past journal entries, and find out what there was to learn. Another was to ponder the alternatives about “sweeping things under the carpet,” and doing some journaling around that. She was actually quite pumped when she left – something, and Someone, had moved within her.