“Let His Majesty guide us wherever He will. We are not our own; we belong to Him. His Majesty may do what He likes with the soul. It is His property. The soul no longer belongs to itself. It has been given over wholly to our Lord. Let it, therefore, cast its cares wholly aside forever and ever.” – Saint Teresa of Avila
My current read-on-the-bus book is ‘Leadership Pain,’ by Samuel Chand. In it he talks about the inevitability of pain as a leader, yet notes that, “new insights – ones that couldn’t have been learned another way – become treasures found in the darkness. The person now has more compassion, deeper joy and more love to share with others.”
Indeed, in my own life I can say with all honesty that whilst I would not want to repeat certain desperately painful events; if it was not for that pain, I wouldn’t have discovered the deeper and wider realms of God’s love and mercy for me, nor his delight in me.
And so, as someone who is tentatively moving into ‘Christian leadership’, I’m at times painfully aware of my novice status and my oftentimes crippling sense of inadequacy for what God might be calling me towards. Against that green-shoot backdrop I’ve found myself recently knocked for six by a relational breach which I’ve experienced as confusing, wounding to my already fragile sense of relationship-ability and out-of-the-blue anxiety-generating.
The temptation towards feeling defended, angry and condemned has been uncomfortably close; at times like rancid breath down the back of my neck. But by the grace of God, being kicked into the black pit of the unknown has been faith-enlarging, trust magnifying and God-intimacy growing. Alongside the temptation to allow my heart for relationship and community to develop a ‘squint’, my soul-eyes have been opened all the wider to the expansive and surer reality of God’s goodness and sovereignty. And in this potentially isolating space, God has revealed himself faithful in my being wrapped around and threaded through by a diverse community of people who hold me close and steady and love like family.
One aspect which has been especially difficult to bear has been wanting to be able to express my own hurt, but without doing it in a way that hurts the relationship even more. In ‘holding in’ my own pain I’ve assumed a type-of-silence that has at times felt choking and unjust. Yet as is very often the case when external and expressed silence occurs, you become all too aware of the noise within. Oh, how I wrestled and wrangled and interrogated anything and everything I could in order to understand what might have ‘gone wrong’. Seemingly endless ‘why’ ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions attempted to flood my thoughts and draw my attention away from the One in whom I trust.
And so from wrestling to rest.
A re-reading of Isaiah 40:31 beamed God’s perspective-altering radiance like a shaft of light in the fog.
“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Those who wait for the Lord. In every waiting situation, we have a choice to make about what (or rather who) we are waiting for, and that choice fundamentally changes our perspective in the pain. As I wait, I ask myself, “Am I waiting for a circumstantial outcome that depends on another person?” If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, then it strikes me it would have the potential to induce the opposite effect within me to Isaiah 40:31. It would sap my strength. It would make me tumble-fall like Icarus. I would become woefully weary and leaden-footed. But what if I am ‘waiting for the Lord’? A perspective shift in this ‘waiting space’ leads me to realise what I am expectant of is God’s joy to burst in on the scene. I’m waiting for God to reveal himself.
In all this, I am reminded yet again of God’s immense goodness; abundant enough to cover all of this. And it’s that surety which I want to be both my circumference and my centre in this, despite the uncertainty that remains about the outcome. As ever, The Chronicles of Narnia expresses this feeling so pertinently;
“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he…quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”