Session Six: Leadership Illusions opened with Bill Hybels challenging us to explore our blind spots through in introspection, reflection, taking inventory, recreating, re-creating, being with God. The invitation to this conference was a gift. This is our second day and it is good to be here. Bill invites us to reflect on the illusion that growth in leadership capacity and growth in our souls can be achieved simultaneously and at the same rate, that as the leadership capacity/speed curve swoops upward the curve of growth in our souls will keep pace. The truth is that the growth curve of our souls flattens, perhaps turns downward, as in our broken humanity we neglect the spiritual nourishment practices essential to flourishing.
My pen was poised over the designated page in our Summit Notebook, my first-born perfectionist ready to meet this challenge. Bill promises beautiful music. A saxophone begins playing ... it only takes a few notes for me to recognize the melody ... it your song, the song ... Hallelujah.
I run from the sanctuary and exit the building. I need to be outside in the open, to feel the sunlight, to see the clouds, to breathe fresh air. I sit on the bench outside the entrance and give myself over to the messy snotty cries rising up from deep within me, embracing what is illusive and rare for me – a complete surrender to grief.
Time passes. I open my eyes and look up. I see the tree. I lie down on the bench. The shape of the branches above reminds me of the broom tree in Elijah's story. My tree is mature and young and healthy – flourishing – with rich green leaves and strong limbs. As I kick off my shoes and get more comfortable, I am thankful for the early-morning decision to wear pants instead of a skirt, and find myself embracing the freedom to recline without shocking someone who may walk by – feeling in the moment that even as I dressed this morning God was with me.
Beneath my broom tree I envision the curves on the screen in the sanctuary, my friends continuing on inside the building, my own curves of speed and soul growth. My speed has slowed and flat-lined in the weeks since your death. My soul growth has risen to meet the speed curve then also flat-lined, God weaving the two together for strength and endurance.
In the quiet of surrender I look up and see two large branches that meet, twist – making a knot before separating – one growing toward the sky and the other bowing low to earth. You are the upper branch stretching to understand the universe, eager to learn. I am the lower branch left here on earth, embraced by gravity, caressed by the rain, brushed by the wind, living apart from you.
Abandoning my recent prayers of please take me too, I accept God's call back into creation, here on earth for as long as life endures.