Wednesday, May 15, 2019
I was taught an incredible lesson in humble leadership by my dad when I was 15 years old. He modeled the kind of humility it takes to turn over the responsibility for an important task to someone less experienced. I was 15 years old, and we were on our way to Colorado for a family vacation in conjunction with the national conference for the denomination in which my dad was a pastor. We were going to be camping, so there was a big travel trailer hooked up behind the car. We had made good progress from St. Paul into Nebraska when dad looked in the rearview mirror and said, “John, do you want to drive?”
I only had my learner’s permit, but I was ready, except for that big camper behind us. I had driven the car plenty of times, but now there was an added difficulty with which I had no experience. Dad stopped the car, got out, and gave me the keys. WOW! He trusted me with the car and the camper and the lives of the family. He knew that the only way to become qualified for a task was to be allowed to do the task and gain experience. He was still the qualified driver. He was not unable to perform the task of driving, yet he humbly surrendered his rights for the sake of training the next generation of drivers. He knew that I would need those skills when I got out on my own in the future. Thanks, Dad!
Numbers 27:12-17 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.) Moses said to the LORD, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’S people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
Moses knew his leadership of the nation was coming to an end. God sent him up to the top of a mountain to get a view of the Promised Land, a land that he would never be allowed to enter because of his sin. But before he goes, Moses asks God to reveal to him who the next leader of the Israelites would be. I think if I were in that situation, the first thought I my mind would have been to ask God to forgive me and remove the consequence of my sin so that I could go into the land. Maybe I would make excuses for why the sin wasn’t really all that bad and the consequence was unfair. It would certainly be a priority to try to maintain some control and to “stay in the driver’s seat.”
But not Moses. He was a humble man, as God had described him in Numbers 12:3 – Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. His immediate attitude was one of humble submission to the plan of God and of concern for the ongoing leadership of the people. That speaks volumes about the attitude of his heart.
Then God takes it one step further. God says to Moses, “Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.” It’s one thing to be willing to step aside for someone else, but it is something much more humbling to be asked to take part in the training of that new person.
Think of the applications of this lesson to our lives today. If you are a parent your whole experience in raising your children is just like this. We watch as they drop dishes on the floor trying to carry them; leave the blankets crooked on a bed they were trying to make; leave tools laying around the garage after using them (I still do this); miss whole sections of lawn as they use the mower for the first time; and on and on goes the list. We seem to be able to humbly accept our responsibility to develop leaders in our families, so what has happened in our jobs and in our churches? Why do we have so many people greedily hanging on to positions of leadership when there is a whole generation of new leaders just waiting to use their skills and dreams to take us to new places of promise?
Right now I am on a four-month sabbatical. God is using this time to refresh my spirit for ongoing ministry. He is also using this time to further the training of those who will take over when I am gone as they use their leadership training to develop their skills. I am so thankful that God has helped to humble me so that I can be a part of that transition and not a control freak that stops the growth.
How about you? In your job, or in your church, are you a humble and willing participant in developing the next wave of leaders, even if that means not accomplishing a personal goal? Is our purpose self-fulfilling or Kingdom fulfilling? Let’s be the facilitators of growth by letting someone else drive for a while.