Some might say brave, I would say “doing it scared”. As I began a new trip, I was thrown into my own awareness of how challenging it is to leave the comfort of your own home, with the things that are known and feel safe, to venture into the unknown. This can be a challenge when you are doing it with people you love, but none more so than when you are flying solo. These past few years have taught me a lot about myself for sure. As I ventured this time to a new country, I sat in the airport, for the first time wishing I could go back home and filled with self-doubt and questioning, asking myself, “why am I doing this?” To face walking out in another country, at midnight by myself and not sure where to go next, certainly tests all your thinking, feeling and emotions. These adventures sound and feel so exciting as you talk about them in the safety of your own comforts, but when you step out there on your own and the first challenge hits, you realise you are not as brave as you think. And yet, to not venture out, while an option, it is just not the way I want to live. So “solo” it is.
Then to sit in an unknown car, with no wi-fi, little petrol and only a general idea of where I am heading … I felt instant freeze and fear. You bring all that you have ‘done/known’ before to the table, take a deep breath and begin. My inside talk sounded like this:
- “Ok, I know how to drive a car, just haven’t driven this one before.”
- “I know I need petrol, I just don’t know where to get it from.”
- “ I know how to drive on the road, just haven’t driven theses roads before.”
- “I know how to read the road signs, so I have to trust they are taking me the way I want to go.”
- “I don’t know where I will rest my head tonight, but I know that I have enough know how to find somewhere when the time is right.”
- “I know I am in a safe country and I know that I can come back home if it all gets too much or too scary, it must be enough for me to at least give this a try.”
The self-talk is real, the fear is real and yet I simply need to choose to take the next step. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have discovered and experienced this place, (pictured below) which brought me such life and strength for the journey ahead.
Doing it on your own is something many leaders in particular feel a lot. I know, in ministry over the years I have often felt like that. Desiring to try new things, to lead people where they don’t want to go, to test new boundaries and have people look to you when pandemics or disasters hit as if you must have the answers about how to move forward. It a simple reality that most like their comforts and what is known, so to make change is fraught with opposition. The self-doubt is real, the self-talk is real, for narrow is the path and often the way of the cross doesn’t make sense to the world.
As we adventure slowly out of COVID, many simply want to go back to what is comfortable and known. Yet COVID has changed the world on so many levels that even what was known and comfortable is not possible. Many leaders and people might feel like I did in that car:
- I know how to lead a church, but this church feels different!
- I know I need fuel to do this, but where do I get it from?
- I have known how to do ministry before but have never led on these new roads before!
- I know how to read road signs. I have to trust these new signs are taking me the way I need to go or if not, how do I change the direction I am going?
- I am not sure what tomorrow looks like, but I know enough to know I will be alright!
- I know where to run for safety, I know I am not alone, but do I have the strength and bravery to step into the unknown and see where it takes me?
One thing I do know, is that even when we feel alone, this journey was never meant to be taken alone. As Jesus began His ministry, it would have been so much easier for him to do it on his own. Those He gathered clearly had no idea where this new venture was heading, but it didn’t stop Jesus from choosing to do it with them. He knew they all had to flounder together and He was ever so patient with them. I may find myself right now, having to travel ‘solo’, for life throws circumstances at you that are beyond your control, but along the journey we are never meant to do it alone. I wouldn’t have made it through the last 3 years alone, for that I am certain. But, even more so, in ministry and traveling the narrow road of being a faithful servant and leader, we MUST never do this alone.
As I stepped out of the plane that night, I was met in the dark at midnight, by a long-term friend, who sought a way to help me out of a bind. I was given a car and was able to navigate my way to a beautiful place, that I would not have experienced if I simply quit and went back home to my own comforts and safety. In my times of self-doubt and negative self-talk, I have been surrounded by a choir of voices of love and care that continue to tell me I am not alone. Like Jesus did, we need to surround ourselves with people who are on a similar journey. Though all slightly different, we spur each other on.
The adventure is not easy, breaking new grounds and thriving in the constant changes of life is exhausting and often feels too hard. But we are made for so much more than sitting in a safe place and sticking with what we know and only seeing the same point of view our whole life. Those who sojourn with God must understand that there is more than eating, drinking, and staying safe till you die. The community of faithful followers should be the first to venture out there, try new things, rebel against the status quo, question traditions and be brave enough to forge new paths. You can’t do that when you simply stick to what you have always known.
I might be ‘doing it scared’, but I also do it with trust and hope that what and who I discover on the journey is worth stepping out of what is comfortable and known. If we are going to thrive this side of COVID it is going to take a different type of leadership and bravery to face the next frontier, to create new paths and new ways of being together. If the old was working so well, why has it not thrived during this pandemic? When change hits us, either we lie down and give up, shut down and hope it all goes away OR venture out, face it head on and see where it takes us. That’s where I am heading and I look forward to meeting those who choose to come with me.
A great way to begin this tough journey is to come to a day conference near you this July -August and engage with others face to face, sharing how you are heading out of COVID?