And the sense of the meeting is that you want to hear about the insights I’m having lately into my psyche…why, I’m not so sure, but here we go.
I’ve been reminded again that our self-perceptions are often formed very early in life, and they persist, even though we change. As much progress as I think I might make, I still have some of the same root dysfunctions. Reality is rearing its ugly head, but the good part is, I think it’s helping me actually change some behaviors.
A friend (and frequent reader of this blog) said several weeks ago that I am a reluctant leader. I didn’t really like that, nor did I think it was true, because I know me. I’m the kindergartner who rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically in class when the teacher called on someone who gave the wrong answer, launching my mom and Miss Teel on a yearlong quest to help the little butthead boy with a brain not think he’s better than everyone else. I’m the college student who had to be told by a friend that if I would just shut up every once in awhile, somebody else might be able to get a word in and give some leadership, too. In other words, I know me. I’m an impatient, smart, condescending know-it-all who talks all the time, so how could I be a reluctant leader?
Never mind that I’ve had almost two decades of time for God to work on me since college. Never mind that I actually have learned to listen to people. Never mind all that. I know me, and I’m not a reluctant leader, I run roughshod over people…right?
And then there are just the patterns that were set early in life, things I’ve realized long ago and tried to work on, but that will probably always be a constant battle. There’s the voice inside my head that can always find fault in what I’ve done, and rarely accepts the good I’ve accomplished. There’s the pattern of taking the world’s weight of responsibility on my shoulders. There’s the intuitive ability to know what others want and desire, coupled with an almost insatiable need to give them what they need and win their approval. There’s the paralyzing tension that comes when I discover that different people I want to please desire opposing things.
I’ve had many people that I respect and care about and trust in the last few months go out of their way to affirm my giftedness and my calling as a leader and a pastor. It’s been an amazing and humbling gift to have people give me the freedom and even the encouragement to voice my opinion and lead, to have even our elders ask me to remove the reluctant out of me, the reluctant leader.
When I was thinking about writing this blog this evening, I remembered a little event that I really am quite proud of, one that I think could serve as a model for how I move forward at NFC. It was the beginning of my senior baseball season in high school, in those weeks of practice before the first game when everyone, freshman to senior, is practicing together. By this point, I was established as the starting third baseman, after beginning my high school career at shortstop. My coach had given me “the talk” months before, asking me to be a leader on our team. I got to where I was as a baseball player through a lot of hard work. I paid attention, and I worked my butt off, in practice and out.
So in one of these early practices, we’re all on the field running through drills. There are 4 or 5 guys at each position, and I was in my rightful place at third. Our coach was focusing on the shortstops, but our varsity starter, Derrick Cooper, wasn’t there. It was the sophomore blind leading the freshman blind. Coach was hitting Texas leaguer fly balls to short left field, right on the foul line. And they were supposed to be working on running their butts over there and making the catch, but none of them were doing it. He’s yelling at them louder and louder, and they’re doing the same thing over and over again, nobody turning tail and sprinting to the line. Right at coach’s exasperation point, I said, “Want me to show them how to do it?”
Not my place. I was supposed to be doing third baseman drills. I hadn’t worked out at shortstop since my freshman year. He stopped mid-shout, looked surprised, and then got this little smile on his face. “Yeah,” he said.
So I marched over to the front of the line of these young bucks at short, and at the crack of the bat, I turned and sprinted to the line, called off the left fielder, and made the catch. And then I sprinted back to the front of the line, and said, “Again.” I made three catches in a row, tossed the ball back to coach, and went back to lead the drills at third base. After practice, my coach said, “Today you became our leader.”
When there’s a need I can meet, I want to again have the confidence to move to the front of the line, work my butt off, and say, “This is how it’s done”.