At the beginning of 2020, I chose, in cooperation with Angela and a good friend & mentor, a word to mark my year. Due to some extenuating circumstances and unlike my word-choosing partners, I drug my feet. I had a feeling in my gut at what I was thinking and how I felt the Lord was leading, but it took me until February to choose my word.
My word was “clear.” I wanted to settle into the new role I had stepped into in 2019. I wanted to clarify some personal leadership direction and management. I sought to clarify just what the next step in my work was. I sought clarity in areas of my personal life and in my work.
As I solidified my word for the year and leaned into the process of gaining insight from the Lord, a virus shut down the globe and seemed to alter life as we knew it. I began a pattern, like many if not most everyone else, of sprinting headlong into a wall and turning circles until I rolled past the wall and ran hard into the next wall where I found myself spinning again. Plans changing weekly, daily, hourly, or maybe multiple times within the hour. It was dizzying. It could be frustrating. I was tired, discouraged at times, yet hopeful. Our family, like many others, experienced extreme highs and lows. I felt on my heels and off-balance much of the time, and, even in small, quickly changing seams of momentum, steps were cautious.
Clear. You laugh. I chuckle as well, as 2020 provided plenty of moments that were anything but clear.
But, I don’t want to let the curtain drop on 2020 without processing and making some sense of this idea that I feel strongly the Lord impressed upon my heart at the beginning of the year. I want to put my leadership lenses on and really have a clear picture in the rearview so I can apply what I have learned, whether new or by way of refreshed perspective, in the year ahead.
Looking back, here are some things that are clear:
-I am to be a devoted follower of Jesus.
What am I left with when the rest of the things I build pause, change, or dissipate. What if the patterns I have developed, habits I have formed, and plans I have laid are interrupted?
-I am not to waste moments now that can matter later.
When faced with a difficulty like what was presented to us this spring, we can either give up or retreat or we can stand firm and fight the fight. Am I making the most of the opportunities with which I am presented?
Looking back, I was refreshed with a new view of family time, personal health and well-being, re-focused ministry, and altered pace. I may not have always noticed that in the moment.
In many ways, we experienced aspects of life we do not typically get to enjoy because of the nature of work and ministry. We actually noticed seasons passing. Understand, workdays were busy and full, but we spent them differently. New rhythms and in a different setting than what is typical for a quarter of our year. We had time to feel the time pass.
-I am called to minister the Gospel.
Preaching, teaching, serving, creating, encouraging, equipping. These are things I am to be about.
-I am to be a loving neighbor.
I have learned that the simplest gestures and sacrifices communicate love. When I set aside pride, preference, pettiness that is so knit in me, I am a much more loving neighbor.
-I am to serve the church.
I cannot thrive as a believer if not plugged into and serving the body of Christ.
-I am to make disciples.
Making disciples is pandemic proof when we look past place and paradigm and practice reproducible behaviors that multiply faith in others.
-I am to develop leaders.
Development without walls is possible. Whether simple presence through phone calls, hand-written correspondence, or text messages, messaging apps, or more involved conference calls and video meetings, investment doesn’t have to stop. I will take advantage of those opportunities in 2021. I am to invest in others. There is value and impact in a life reproduced.
-I am to be more ready for and comfortable with frequent change. Contingencies are no longer a what-if. They are an integral part of planning. I have learned to no longer be caught unready.
We have had to cancel plenty. Everything has been altered. Our world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. *The past 9 months have proven that. I should operate in a way that acknowledges that reality. Contingencies should be second nature and part of my initial planning. I should be less tied to my strategy and structure than to the Savior’s message and mission.
-I am to advance the Gospel.
God has given me a mandate. I am to fulfill that mandate to make The Gospel of Jesus known.
These are a few of the lessons I learned and I am sure I could go on, but I think I have taken enough of your time. You know, yeah, 2020 stunk in so many, ugh “unprecedented,” ways. Loss, pain, fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, hesitation, discouragement, confusion, anger, discontent, disunity, argument, instability. But 2020 was also rich with valuable takeaways.
Clarity often comes when you step through the cloud, the fog fading with every step forward. I hope and pray 2021 provides ever-increasingly visibility.
What about you? What had the Lord made clear to you in 2020?
What will you do in the new year with what you learned in 2020? What will you jettison? What remains?
Don’t let the tough experiences and lessons of 2020 go unused. Make them work for you. Can’t wait to see you and serve you in 2021!
*VUCA concept borrowed from Army Corp of Engineers