I love to lead. Be in charge. LEAD the charge! It really is part of my DNA. I guess that’s why teaching seemed such a natural fit for me. Many years ago, probably back in the early 80’s, I took a personality test developed by Florence Littauer. In her book, Personality Plus, she identifies and describes four different personality temperaments, giving the positive and negative traits of each. The four temperaments are: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, and phlegmatic. My score indicated I was mostly choleric, which means I’m: a born leader, strong-willed (boy, am I ever!), independent, self-sufficient, and often feel the need to correct wrongs. These are some of the strengths, or at least they CAN be strengths. On the flip-side, I can be inflexible, bossy, controlling, impatient, see things as black and white (another way to put it is rigid), and think I can do everything better. Ouch! I don’t like that side of choleric at all!! Who wants to be around someone like that?! The good news? Over the years, God has helped me temper some of those weaknesses (smooth out the rough edges) and helped me use my strengths in a positive way. At least, we’re working on it!
Let’s rewind about 20 years. The setting is Boston Market in Stone Mountain, GA. The time is a Sunday afternoon in 1997. The kids and I are eating Sunday lunch with our good friends, Chris and Vickie Simmons. I vividly remember this day, even though I have no picture, because this is the day my 4-year old son, Kerry, chose to assert his independence and take charge. A guard rail marked the place to stand, where we waited for our turn to order. When our time came to move to the counter, Kerry grabbed the guard rail and would not move. To this day, I have no idea why. No matter how much I tugged on him and tried to persuade him to move, he would not budge. Vickie remembers watching, with great hilarity I might add, as I tried to pry Kerry off the rail. I’m sure everyone else in the restaurant enjoyed the show as well. At one point I grabbed his feet and pulled his legs so that he was completely parallel to the floor! I think he finally let go. Of course he did, because he now lives in Athens, GA, and I live in Indiana!!
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I behave like 4-year old Kerry, hanging on to the rail, afraid to let go, determined not to allow someone else to run the show. Determined to control the outcome. But control is an illusion. I can’t control others and their decisions. (Well, I can try, but that usually doesn’t go well.) I only have control over my choices, my decisions. God controls the outcome. He’s in charge. Whether I like it or not, and sometimes I don’t, He has the final say.
Don’t misunderstand me. God doesn’t control you and me. He is not a puppeteer with strings making your every move for you. Out of love, He gives us free will. If we choose to follow His leading in our lives (and that’s a daily choice), live according to His moral laws and place our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, He gives us an abundant life here and for eternity. I just have to let go.
I’ve had “let go seasons” a number of times in my life. Like when Kevin, my late husband, lost his job and was unemployed for 22 months. When Kerry chose to use drugs to numb his emotional pain. When I buried my first love and became a widow at age 53. When I had to leave Georgia, my home for 32 years, to follow God’s call on Lane’s life. When I had to say goodbye, for now, to my earthly father. Times when I couldn’t change the circumstances or the outcome. I had to accept that I had no control. So, my only recourse was to go to my Heavenly Father and lay it all at His feet. I had to trust Him to work on my behalf and for the good of those I dearly loved. Trust meant opening my hands, relinquishing control and resting in the knowledge that the God of the Universe knew my distress, my anguish and was working on my behalf. So I put into practice the scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Letting go may simply mean releasing the familiar and embracing a new position, new season in life. I’m in a new place of leadership these days. I’m a pastor’s wife, which means I’m really not in a leadership, “lead the charge” kind of role. Now, I’m in a support role. I’m not on staff, just married to a staff member. I have no say in church decisions. Sometimes, this drives me crazy! Just being real here.
God is teaching me, though, that I’m still a leader, just in a different way. I have influence, which is basically what leadership is. John Maxwell, the leadership guru of our time, says, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” I’ve had the opportunity to influence my new women friends here in Indiana, I hope in a positive, God-honoring way. I’ve used my God-given influence to just listen to my husband, Lane, hear his heart, and offer any wisdom I could. God opened up a spot for me to serve at our Club Wednesdays program for kids, and now I have the awesome privilege of sharing God’s love and His Word with kids every week. I’m in a different season, but God is still using my influence to change lives, maybe just one life at a time.
God instilled this leadership quality in me for a reason, a purpose. Which means I should let Him lead me, so I can lead others well. When I let go of my control (or my illusion of control), and give Him full authority in my life, amazing things can happen! There is SO much freedom in letting go! I don’t have to figure it all out. God’s got this!