October 31, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 17:3 (MSG)
Go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night—You’ll find I’m just what I say I am. My words don’t run loose.
It is tempting to spend our energy on the flaws of others instead of on our own growth. But the fullness of the work that God calls us to won’t flourish without our own willingness to grow.
“I know someone who needs to learn that lesson.” In graduate school, this was one of my leadership professor’s favorite sayings. He’d recite it as a word of caution whenever our class—struck by a concept—would launch into stories about all the people we knew who desperately needed to learn that lesson. These people were never ourselves, by the way. And it was the professor’s job to show us why that was such a problem.
What I took away from that class was that none of us would-be leaders would make it very far by focusing too much of our energy on other people’s issues. It struck me then, and it stays with me now, just how easy it is to spend our energy on the flaws of others instead of on our own growth. Maybe it’s because growth can be so messy.
Maybe that’s why David’s prayer is both encouraging and also a bit anxiety-producing for me. It’s encouraging because David is willing to examine himself and to let God examine his heart. It’s anxiety-producing because David literally invites God to stop by unannounced! He says to God: Come on in and surprise me—I’d love for you to visit me when my guard is down! I’m totally comfortable with that!
I’ve got one of those houses that’s just clean enough: clean enough that my kids aren’t eating old Cheerios off the floor but not clean enough that I’d feel great about a surprise guest dropping by. I wonder if the fact that David is so comfortable inviting God to come on by and visit him when he least expects it has anything to do with the fact that David is comfortable with God seeing his mess.
My, has this year felt messy. I have talked to so many people for whom this year has felt for them like an invitation to both deal with their stuff and at the same time get comfortable with a bit more mess. A time to think a little less about all the lessons that other people need to learn and a little more about the ways God is inviting us to grow.
And now, as we’re on the cusp of a divisive election, it so tempting to fixate on all the lessons that other people need to learn. It’s in the midst of this that I wonder what it would mean for us to focus wholeheartedly on our own growth—on becoming each day more the kind of person that truly welcomes God to drop into our thoughts unannounced. I wonder what it would mean to get comfortable with the idea of God seeing our mess. I wonder what it would mean for us to lean into the idea that growth is often messy.
God doesn’t demand that David or anyone else be blameless or perfect when God shows up. No, God wants us to be willing to let God drop by unannounced, no matter if our heart is clean or “messy.” Consider the good work that it takes to turn away from finding lessons others need to learn and instead to focus on our own growth. Consider the work it takes to invite God to drop by unannounced.
Where have I been quick to point out the lessons others need to learn?
How does the idea of God dropping by unannounced into my thoughts or day make me feel?
Journal or share with a friend whatever came to mind in your reflection above. Offer it to God.
God, thank you for the way you help me to grow. Thank you that I can share both my growth and my mess with you and that you love me amidst it all. Show me where I might fixate less on the needs that others need to learn and more on the transformation you have for me. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Bringing Our Enemies and Opponents to God (Psalms 4, 6, 7, 17)
Dr. Michaela O’Donnell is the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership where she oversees the center’s vision, strategy, program, and team, all with the goal of helping leaders like you respond faithfully to God in all seasons of your life and leadership.
Michaela’s first book, Make Work Matter: Your Guide to Meaningful Work in a Changing World is due out in October with Baker Books. It’s already getting rave reviews from folks such as Dave Evans, Mark Labberton, Missy Wallace, Luke Bobo, Dee Ann Tuner, Kara Powell, and more. This book is a reflection of Michaela’s heart as both an entrepreneur and a practical theologian. Drawn to the real life working out of big issues, it is a how to for anyone walking the road of calling in a changing world.