leadership lessons when you want to run for the hills

kathyescobar church stuff, healing, leadership, the carnival in my head, the refuge 7 Comments

hey, did i scare everyone off  with that last post?  i hope not!  one of the things you non-bloggers need to know is there’s nothing worse than putting something a little risky out there and not getting very many comments!  and one of the things all you bloggers know is that part of this journey is just letting that be okay.  thanks, conrad, for your courage & beautiful story of redemption.  the reason i feel so compelled to tell these stories is because they are shared by so many people and are often untold, hidden.  my hope has always been that “the church”–the wild and beautiful body of Christ, whatever form it takes–would be a place that can hack the deepest places of our experience so that Christ’s hope & healing can be passed on in really tangible and powerful ways.  anyway, i’m taking a break this week from the interviews to share a bit of what i’m learning right now as a leader in our crazy little eclectic faith community. these thoughts have been on my mind for a while.

the last few months have been the wildest mix of pure joy at what i see God doing in the lives of people i know and in the depth and breadth of our community.  and at the same time, i’ve experienced pure terror at some of the decisions we’ve had to journey through as a team on behalf of our community.  and more than usual, i have found myself looking back and wondering how in the world i ended up here when years ago it wasn’t even remotely on my radar (hey, i was going to be a fast-track corporate executive in my college dreams).  but i know in my heart there’s nowhere else i’d rather be. i’m learning. i’m growing in all kinds of ways. i’m questioning.  i’m becoming more clear.  and God is teaching me scary hard leadership lessons i know i need to practice.  and actually i don’t think these lessons are just about “leadership”, they are about being in relationship with people in real christian community & we all know when we’re really living that out it is messy, unpredictable, hard, and amazingly beautiful.

here are a few lessons i’m learning in the midst of wanting to get in my fantasy red convertible and run for the hills:

when you can’t power up, it makes it 100 times harder. diffused power & shared leadership is definitely not the easiest thing to pull off; it takes so much more time and energy to share, gather input, wait for collective feedback, and make decisions together.  i know why churches & organizations have chosen hierarchical structures because they are way more efficient!  at the same time, what can happen with mutual submission, one to another, feels so right in the long run for the ones who are “in it” but can be so confusing not only to those in the midst of it but also for those who might be not involved as much who are honestly wondering “why is it taking so long and so complicated?”

healing from codependence is mandatory. i believe every person struggles with a bit of codependence & that it’s part of the human condition.  but those of us in ministry probably have an extra dose and it’s why we ended up where we are in the first place.  people pleasing, having “how others are doing” affect how we’re doing, and overly carrying others burdens & keeping the world spinning ’round are always dangers in leadership.    God is doing some good work in me to cut more of these ties, but it is hard on my soul. it’s not new, i have been healing from codependence for a long time now, but in these seasons i am reminded “yeah, there’s much, much more work to be done!” living with disapproval, misunderstanding, and anger and hurt is part of being in relationship and can’t be avoided, no matter how hard i try to outrun it.

God is always up to something bigger that probably has nothing to do with the current circumstance. i have no idea why and how and can’t put my finger on exactly what God is doing through adversity, but i am clear on this:  if we listen and notice, there’s always some really cool (and often painful) spiritual transformation going on, usually individually & corporately.  i do believe that God is in all things and uses all things and that i often can’t get my little head around it and am not even supposed to.   a critical piece is just resting in the journey, trusting the spirit at work, letting things unfold and leaning into the bigger story instead of focusing in on all of the things that aren’t how i want them to be.

what feels big to me isn’t all that big when it comes down to it. this is probably the most important thing i am leaning into right now.  consuming thoughts, anxiety, pressure-to-explain, oh all kinds of other ridiculous peace-robbers can really make us think that what we’re doing is more important than it really is.  sure, our community is very valuable and life-saving in many ways for many people, but it’s not the center of the universe. something that continues to occur to me is the weird tension between “giving it what i can” and “letting it all go” at the same time. part of my ongoing facing-my-fears-in-this-area is stepping out in faith and staying in while recognizing it’s all up in the air most of the time anyway because that’s how all things are; God is big and wild.   there are much critical issues at stake in the kingdom & while i’m not trying to minimize that it feels important, the sun will rise and fall tomorrow no matter what.  there will be mouths to feed and people to love and life to live no matter what.  a little reality check is good for my soul now and then and somehow lightens the load.

all in all life is good. the refuge is good.  i am so grateful for the courageous and humble and amazing people on the journey with me.  they are teaching me more than i bargained for.  and i thank God for what i’m learning about me, Jesus, the kingdom, and what it means to be in the trenches on the journey with other people. yeah, love is hard.

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ps: i wanted to make sure you all know about a new collective that is just launching called communitas collective.  it’s fun to see a dream come true for my friend glenn hager. it’s a resource & support site for people on the journey. there are three sections:  sanctuary, a safe place for wanderers & those somehow displaced from church, verve for those exploring alternative forms of church, and survivor, for recovering church leaders.  i will be contributing to verve, which will be fun for me since you know i love to talk about church in practice, not just in theory!  i hope to share what some of my friends are doing around the world and how “church”  can take so many different & beautiful forms.