Leading in a Dynamic Environment
As I write this, I’m looking out the window of my small room in the Nicholas Center at the Diocese of Chicago, immersed for two and a half days in a disorienting and unfamiliar world, following someone else’s schedule and direction, learning new things every minute and stretching myself in every way possible. Leading in a Dynamic Environment is the name of my continuing education course, but the name doesn’t readily suggest the wet reality of the experience, most of which actually takes place in kayaks on Lake Michigan.
While I indicated that much of my time is in kayaks, it is equally true that a significant amount of time has been falling out of my kayak, learning to be comfortable even as I’m way outside of my comfort zone. I’m amazed at how much I’ve already learned, a process that very often resulted in tipping over, which became surprisingly ordinary. Slowly I realized the point isn’t simply to stay in the boat, but to become comfortable in and around my kayak, finding joy and even comfort in a new environment. Despite a bit of muscle fatigue, I’m eager to get back out and continue building on what I’m learning.
Why, you ask? Good question! There are, as it turns out, significant parallels between leading a parish and leading kayak excursions. For example, in addition to basic kayaking skills, we’ve spent considerable time understanding a kayaking leadership framework, C.L.A.P., an acronym for communication, line of sight, avoidance/assessment, point of maximum effectiveness. Exploring these ideas not only theoretically but actually, in boats on the water, shifts them from a concept to a powerful physical reality. I’m eager to bring these insights back.
We are, all of us, moving from one place to another in our lives sometimes through rough and turbulent waters, other times through peaceful eddies where we can catch our breath and rest awhile. But the periods of rest are always brief, briefer than most of us want. Movement, and therefore change, are our reality—our bodies change, our minds change, our circumstances change. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, ‘stay where you are.’ Jesus says, ‘follow me.’ Wherever we find ourselves in this moment in our lives, Jesus is inviting us to keep our focus on him, on love, on what is truly essential and life giving.
Part of why I’m having fun as well as being challenged, is that I trust our leaders completely. I know that they will be there for me should something go wrong, as it inevitably does. Do we trust God? Not to keep bad things from happening, but to sustain us in the midst of the messiness of life? Where are you in your life in this moment? Do you feel disorientated, stretched by a new development welcome or not? Or perhaps you are in an eddy, but you can see the white water stretching out ahead of you.
The question for us as Christians is not how do we stay still or hold onto what is familiar. The question is how do I follow Jesus in this moment, how do I find my strength, my courage, my nourishment, my direction, my orientation in the midst of chaos, in the One who created me, sustains me and loves me more than I love myself?
How do you, and I, listen to the still small voice who is always trustworthy, always present, always leading us? And how do we help and support one another in doing so?
I’m off to get wet . . . hope to see you Sunday!