During the global pandemic, Dr. Carson Pue has been speaking with Christian leaders around the globe. In doing so, he has made some observations helpful to all. These are their stories.
Pre COVID I was staying at a beautiful wee home in Northern Ireland. One of the features that I enjoyed was the garden off the kitchen. Beyond that, through the garage and across the lane, was a secret garden. This hideaway had a weaving mowed pathway back towards a grove of trees with benches situated to catch the sun at various points of the day.
The secret garden also concealed a small green house for starting plants and in it two chairs which proved delightful for relaxing and reading as it rained every day while I was there.
On one of my visits to the greenhouse, a bee followed me in through the door. After a short buzz around small glasshouse, it seemed confused about how to get out. I kept the door open and wanted to help the bee but instead of retracing its path, the bee insisted on pounding itself on the ceiling. Over and over again the bee would bounce off the clear glass. I imagined it wondering what on earth was happening when it could see through to the plants and trees beyond – a much more friendly place.
Finally, the bee slid over to the open vent and I was excited to anticipate its escape through the gap. However, the bee didn’t escape and went back to practising the same behaviour as the previous four minutes. Over and over again the bee banging itself against the clear glass as seemingly ignoring the large gap that would provide freedom.
After numerous attempts, the bee collapsed on the frame of the window and stayed still acting like an exhausted runner catching its breath. I was worried about the poor things life but after a few minutes, there was movement again. No flying this time, the bee was just crawling along the frame. Finally, the frame led it to the opening and spreading his wings he flew off into the world of trees, flowers and freedom.
Getting grounded was the path to the answer.
This image has stayed with me for months. I believe that the first thing a leader must do to make decisions is to get grounded. That is true at least for making the ‘right’ decisions. So in a time like the pandemic, many leaders feel like their feet have been knocked out from under them. They are no longer grounded and a form of panic can set in making you bump your head against the glass that prevents you from finding the answer.
The majority of leaders I have spoken to since the pandemic started have experienced this. The global crisis has hit us in waves, and each time a new wave comes, leaders have to pivot and change. This impacts us personally and organizationally. If we respond by symbolically hitting ourselves against the ceiling we will upset our team as they are looking to you for leadership in these times. Personally, it can induce fear and uncertainty that shakes you to your core. As a result, many feel like quitting or saying to me that they sense “God is moving them on”.
The leaders I am mentoring are by all measure successful. They are used to living with complex decision making and seemingly unending demands. As the frequency of decisions has intensified, throughout the pandemic many have not been prepared to deal with this.
Even though we have been in isolation, time seems to be absorbed with all there is to do, because the world keeps changing daily applying even greater demands on you. People speak about the world having stopped, but not so for leaders. We struggle to stay grounded in all aspects of life – our job, family and friends, our broader community and our faith life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs as Andy Stanley describes in his book called “Choosing to Cheat”. You may see Andy speak about this here.
Staying grounded is important
Mature and seasoned leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. It is what keeps them from riding the roller coaster of emotions between “I am so great and have got this!” to “I am such a loser, and I think God is calling me on or right out of this ministry thing. What do they say they do to stay grounded? Here are some typical responses:
- Spend time with family
- Draw close to your best friends
- Get some exercise
- Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, solitude, worship
- Have an attitude of gratitude and thank God daily for your blessings
- Serve others
- Go to your spot, where you feel God’s calming presence
It is in practicing these that leaders can return to a stated of being grounded, and being grounded is essential to you being productive, authentic and integrated. This grounding is vital to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.
So let me ask you this. Are you letting frenetic activity dominate your days and weeks? It happens easily, but let me encourage you to stay grounded. Do what works for you. Rest on that window frame and walk along with it slowly. Doing so will eventually reveal the opening that you need, just like that bee in the greenhouse.