Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Leadership Demands

I came to my job at PCC with relatively low expectations for my role and responsibilities.  After worshiping from the seats for several months as an attender (and crying through the services, just like so many others) I eventually began to serve as a musician.  They needed a piano player, and I played, so there you go.

When a larger need presented itself, I was asked to help with some organizational and administrative stuff for the music team.  That role opened up to an offer to come on staff; I could hardly believe the offer was extended, but there were too many indicators that God was involved.  I left my secure, salaried, benefit-rich position in Chesterfield County and came to work for Powhatan Community Church.

I've never regretted it.

One of the most rewarding parts of my role here is the opportunity to stretch my leadership wings.  I had an early start in that area; growing up, I was always in charge of something.  Class officer, student council officer, president of this and that club, leader of this and that organization.  I was our high school's nominee to the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Seminar as a sophomore.  I was outgoing, outspoken and very involved.  Once I earned my teaching credentials, I was active and inventive and aggressive with new ideas and programs; I loved teaching and was eager to pursue the development of anything and everything we could dream up - especially when somebody said it couldn't be done.

In the midst of all of this activity, circumstances in my life led me to the place where I embraced a real relationship with Jesus for the first time; although the church had a place in my life, up until this point it held no meaning other than what was culturally and traditional important to me and my family.  But around 1987, I met Jesus.  It changed my life.

I became very zealous, very focused and very excited about plugging back into a local church.  I was warmly welcomed into a small, loving church that was rooted in rather basic, fundamental, conservative theology - and culture.  I loved that church and the people, and strove to accept the teachings I heard and those that were modeled, based on my desire to live as a "good Christian" and really understand what it meant to sincerely follow Jesus.  I really wanted to do this right.

In that particular time and place, in a fairly fundamentalist environment, I learned to equate being a "good Christian" with a form of submission that required burying my tendency to lead.  Without ever being sternly instructed in such things, I slowly absorbed the notion that my Christian life could not safely include my past - a past that reeked of leading most everything I got involved in - primarily because of my gender.  So, I fought hard to be somebody completely new - clinging to that "new creature in Christ" idea.  I wanted to be not just a "good Christian", but a "good Christian woman".

I tried.  In doing so, my attempts to be somebody completely different harmed not only me, but those around me.  I know that in an effort to be a "good wife" according to misinterpreted standards, I failed to bring my authentic self to my marriage - and that contributed to its downfall.  I felt like an imposter in my own life.  I never understood how to connect my past - just the simple life I had during high school and college - with the person I felt I was supposed to be, post-Jesus.

Moving out of the Bible belt, experiencing grace, opening my eyes and ears to different, Bible-based teaching - and completely falling on my butt in terms of my pathetic attempts to "be a good Christian" - all these things combined to bring me to a new place.  And the circle began to close, somewhat, in this new place - when I arrived in Powhatan.  I'd begun to hear and understand hints of a richer, more authentic form of grace - a Jesus that was fuller and stronger and more complete than what I'd been taught.  I'd heard it in Cleveland, at Fellowship Bible Church.  I'd heard it from Jamie Rasmussen and Doug Flood.  I'd seen it lived out in women like Sharon Rowland and Tish Lushiano and Sharon Lloyd.

I was able to taste it when I was exposed completely, broken, and forgiven freely.

The circle of grace closed around me here in Powhatan, gathered me towards a new role and responsibility at PCC, and has spun me around, safely inside its walls, only to thrust me out into a new - and yet very familiar - place.  I live in this circle of grace, tethered to its center - my friend, my Lord, my savior - free to go out and work and live and be, all the while welcomed home.  It is such a different thing, this living in grace.  So much safer than being a "good Christian".

What prompts all this?  A post I read tonight on this blog, one titled "What Leadership Demands".  You see, between the faithful, patient friendship and encouragement of Brian Hughes, the partnership of Kevin Salyer, the kind, steadfast example of Angie Frame, the passion for the Word of Sammy Frame, the gentle spirit of Lori Wheeler, the quiet strength of Susan Hughes, the strong, steady hand of Chauncey Starkey, the unyielding can-do attitude of John Starkey, the honest, fiery indenpendence of Kim Meza and the kind, listening ear of Dennis Green, I have been held up, prayed for, pushed toward, yelled at, convicted of and loved into the sweet spot of life.

I am a leader.  God made me that way, years ago.  Even now, it seems presumptuous to type those words.  It frightens me, seems like I'm "getting too big for my britches".  I'm afraid somebody might hear me, and cut me back down to size.

"You're a leader?  Ha.  Who do you think you are?  You're just a girl...just a piano player...just a teacher...that's all.  Who do you think you are?"

But over and over again, it comes back.  I see it, I feel it, I experience it.  And I have finally learned to accept it, to marry my history with my present tense.  I feel that I am becoming, through the grace of God, all that He has intended me to be.  He has molded the broken, battered, sometimes unwilling clay of my life into a ragged pot - but I have finally learned the joy of yielding to the pressure of his direction, rather than fighting it.  For even with the purest of motives, fighting God makes you sweat.  It's exhausting and draining.

I am a leader.  

And for you, for the Kingdom, for all who have invested in me and loved me and fought with me and pushed me - I want to be the very best leader I can be.  I read this post and cry, recognizing a few things, longing for others, knowing that God placed something inside of me that fits who I am with who I want to be, exactly where I am.

I simply cannot imagine anything better.

6 comments:

WhatAboutNovember said...

Amen.

Tommy said...

Thanks for sharing Beth. I'm praying for you and the staff of PCC. You guys rock!

Connie K. said...

I know I should say something flowery and encouraging, because this is one of the best, more inspiring posts you have ever written. You've given me insight to a side of you that I only kinda sorta knew about you, and that is refreshing to get more of the story.

But, as your friend, and someone who has known you for 4 years, all I can say is,

Duh!

I knew you were a leader the first time I ever heard you talk, at a soccer practice way back when... When you were still that teacher in Chesterfield. When you had only recently moved here. When I really didn't even know you yet and you were talking to some other parents about some issues you were facing in your life. I can't remember if you even the pie-ana player at PCC yet. You were just another soccer mom hanging around while our daughters practiced.

But you had "it" and I could tell.

We may conform ourselves to a certain lifestyle. We may find ourselves struggling through life n non-leadership positions for whatever reasons. The world around us may tell us we are not leaders. That we aren't allowed to be. But leadership leaks. God makes it known. You cannot hide it. And He WILL use it. If you aren't able to use it where you are, He WILL move you to where you can use that gift. And he did. And many many many people in this neck of the woods are blessed immeasurably by this reality in your life.

vicki said...

Beth, I have to totally agree with Connie. You have always displayed the spiritual gift of leadership. It is who you are and you can't do anything else but be a leader. Even back in the "Fundy" days of TX. You lead by example. Many of us appreciated the way you were a devoted student of the Bible and journaled. I loved listening to the way you taught my children in piano lessons. The play that you wrote and directed was such a wonderful learning experience for me. I am grateful to God for giving you a place of leadership at your church. I continue to pray for you as a mom and leader.

kimbontrager said...

what a great post, Beth! Thanks for sharing your story and saying it outloud! You are inspiring. I'm forwarding this link to several of my leader friends.

Patty P said...

You were certainly born to lead.

I knew it from the first practice.

You inspire others to follow your examples.

Thanks