Listening to my CEO doing a training I was suddenly struck with this fact — he is leading from his strengths.
Of course, hopefully this is true for all of us in life, but I imagine many of us are not leading from our strengths but wishing we had different strengths.
The only reason I thought about his strengths was because of a conversation I had had with a couple of pastors (Chad and Kevin) at the Clackamas Pastors’ Prayer Group I had attended the previous morning. It is a cool group of pastors and other servants in the Kingdom who meet to pray. Afterward, Chad spoke of the strengths he saw in Kevin. We then spoke together about understanding our own strengths, which prompted me to again look at my own.
My CEO is a cool guy, deeply committed to us and to bringing peace to the world. As he taught about scheduling and strategically planning a day at our staff meeting, I glanced at his strengths. His top five from Gallup’s strength-finders are Activator, Strategic, Input, Intellection, and Self-Assurance. Four of these are in the “Strategic Thinking” quadrant and one in the “Influencing” quadrant. Is it any surprise he would emphasize strategy in his leadership?
My strengths are in the areas of Relationship Building and Executing: Positivity, Connectedness, Belief, Harmony and Arranger. While I plan my days, I can never do so as my CEO would. His planning from the strategic direction is unique to him. I need to plan my days emphasizing my relational strengths. This thought was freeing. “No wonder!” I said to myself. “No wonder he approaches his thinking from this direction! No wonder I feel as if I could never measure up to this plan, while he speaks of how easy it is to live in this way.”
It is easy in my life to give into feelings and narratives that flow through my head and not “take them captive.” I may not be able to keep the birds from flying over my head but I can keep them from nesting in my hair, as Martin Luther used to quip. But even with my attention to strengths, still, I kept hitting the comparison wall. On Friday morning as I sat and listened in my morning time, I got this clear word from God:
I received it. “Thanks, God.” I heard it. But I did not realize God had spoken this to prepare me for what the day held. God had given me the word to equip my heart.
During the day, looking back, many things flowed into the day which left me feeling discouraged. Changed and canceled appointments. Fretful thoughts about money.
At one point, I sent a Marco Polo to Bradley, my good brother written of here. He sent a message back in which he prayed for me. Listening to his prayer, I heard him thank God for giving me the earlier message about not giving place to discouragement to prepare me for the day.
I laughed as I heard his prayer thinking how I had missed this. I had not thought “God is preparing my heart.” It helped that evening.
Not registering behind all this sense of discouragement was an emotional factor — our oldest daughter had a miscarriage the same week. This multi-day event was emotional, from her text to us when no heartbeat was detected, to the text after the ultrasound, to the text about the late-night emergency room visit, to the text describing this little grandson’s spontaneous arrival at home the next morning, to the text about the D&C on Monday this week. It was painful for her and our son-in-law, painful for us remembering our own little boy’s early departure also around the 4th month of pregnancy years ago.
Like I said, I was not even registering that this loss of this little guy was also part of what I awoke under on Saturday morning. I awoke and felt like this interior darkness had descended around me. Tears were brimming my eyes as I hugged my wife goodbye. “You okay?” she asked. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I listed out a few things and then said, “And, our little guy! I’m sad he’s gone.” Karen hugged me again and I left for an all-day conference I really did not want to go to.
I walked into a conference tears still brimming my eyes. I greeted my good friend Andrew when I arrived, put my things behind our table in the networking area and looked at the schedule. I was grateful, the conference began with half an hour of worship, meaning a few incredible songs and prayers.
As the band sang, I sang along, tears rolling down my cheeks. I kept wiping them away, but they flowed all the more. Then, 15 minutes later, during another song, Graves to Gardens by Elevation, the words penetrated my heart:
When I began singing those words, nothing had changed. But during them, quite suddenly, it was as if God reached down and wiped my tears. God literally reached in and rescued me from the darkness, the utter darkness of my own soul. All those thoughts made darker by the grief of loss felt the salve of his balm. In a moment, the tears stopped and I felt alive once more.
I was surprised by this. What felt impossible had become possible in a moment. After that, the conference was enlightening. I met some amazing people and learned much.
But mostly, I learned how God sees me, sees us, no matter how dark the dark may feel to us. God sees and is with us in the middle of it. God can reach into anything, even the lies of our own heads and rescue.
Perhaps you too need to “give no place to discouragement.” Or you need to let God in to rescue you.
This was an incredible experience. Then, to top it I got a text from one of my clients soon afterward saying, “I was praying for you this morning and saw you in a bubble of protection and I was impressed to remind you, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.'”
And I received this incredibly uplifting message from Bradley: