Meditations: Remembering Who We Are
The 1980’s spy thriller, The Bourne Identity opens with a mysterious man being plucked from the Mediterranean ocean by a fishing boat. He’s suffered several bullet wounds and a head trauma. The man is an amnesiac and doesn’t know his name or his history. He struggles to learn his identity, sifts through the evidence and concludes that he was an assassin. Over the course of three novels, Bourne faces countless dangers only to discover things were not what they seemed. He was not an assassin, but a government agent who had assumed a secret identity in order to hunt an assassin.
Bourne’s accident caused him to lose touch with who he really was and the results were costly.
I identify with Bourne’s character. I’m not a killing machine, or a spy, or particularly heroic. In recent months, I have lost touch with who I am—and like Bourne— I’ve paid a price. Let me explain.
A handful of weeks ago, my boss took me out to lunch and asked me if I was ready for a “small shift” in my job description. The last time my job “shifted” I took on the supervision of the youth and college ministries in addition to the children’s ministry. This time, Derek asked me to take on Sunday morning adult education. The ministry, in a plain speech, is in a state of disrepair: There are few teachers, no job descriptions, no policies, no training materials—and oh, just a handful of weeks before the Fall launch. Gratefully, Derek had already recruited a brilliant high capacity volunteer leader to be the point person for the ministry. Diane and I have been meeting weekly, racing against the clock so we could have a respectable Fall launch.
Supervising the youth ministry has taken more time than normal this Summer. And we’re migrating to a new database this Fall which meant extra training hours and prep time.
This Summer I’ve been doing children’s ministry on the back stroke. And if I’m going to be perfectly honest, it’s shown. Not having adequate time to recruit, we’ve gone into most weekends a few volunteers shy of a full complement. My “coaches” have borne the brunt of the burden and have spent too much time putting out fires.
And this week, it caught up with me. I began to wake up feeling high levels of anxiety. I found myself waking up on the edge of tears and fearful. A few evenings ago, Amy and I were having a disagreement and I completely over reacted. My anxiety levels were simply too high to work through a low grade conflict with any measure of emotional intelligence.
My blow up was enough to motivate me to call a college friend of mine who makes a living as a life coach. Lee asked me what the source of my fear was. I responded that I feared disappointing my coworkers and volunteers.
Lee probed deeper. Why did I fear that?
My answer surprised me. I’m afraid that apart from my performance that I have no value to my teams.
As soon as the words escaped my mouth I knew what my problem was. I had forgotten who I was. For a number of reasons, some healthy, some not, I’m a competitive, performance oriented person. It wasn’t until my college years that the light bulb clicked and I realized that my religious achievement didn’t impress God. God loved me… because he loved me. Grace is a tough concept for a type-A knucklehead to embrace.
And recently, in all my busyness, I forgot—again—who I was. I am not acceptable to God, and my community, because of my ability to perform as a good worker bee. My worth comes from being God’s creation and his child.
I’m immediately took a few action steps. I stopped by a coworker’s office and laid out all my cards on the table, even though I hate being weak. I did the same thing over lunch with one of my best friends and key volunteers. I also sat down in front of my calendar and protected key hours to be with God.
Immediately the fear and anxiety levels lowered. Sure, the Fall is still bearing down on me and I’m behind. But the fear of failure has lost some of its power.
I’m learning that the best Christian leaders, at their core, know who they are. They are children, God’s children. This knowledge drains much of the fear out of leadership. When I anchor my identify to my performance, I’ll actually play things a little safer. I can’t take real ministry risks because if I fall short, I lose (in my warped mind) personal value).
A “child leader” actually has the freedom to risk more. A leader who remembers that he or she is a child of God has the freedom to take real risk—Their Heavenly Father will catch them when they fall. Their peers love this leader, not for the achievement, but for whom God made them to be.
My prayer for you, and I, whether we are leading our own lives, or others, is to remember our identity in Christ, and to have the freedom to serve without fear.
"Our Father, Who art in Heaven..."