As a new assistant superintendent, I am in the throws of a steep learning curve as I discover how to lead at a new level. I do not feel I have the expertise and experience to write and encourage you, my fellow sisters in leadership. Yet it is God who uses us as He desires, and in my short time as a new leader in a challenging position, God in His grace is showing me some things I need to dwell on frequently in order to remain healthy and whole in spirit. Perhaps what He is teaching me will help you as well. I am learning to:
Let God Write the List
Feelings of overwhelm can creep up on me quickly. Within minutes, actually. I have always been a list maker, who gets much joy out of crossing off tasks one at a time. But now the very act of making a list feels too daunting. Rather than providing a sense of control and order, the list only serves to remind me that the tasks are incredibly complex and that the list will only grow each day. For me, it has become an act of faith to not constantly consult the list to lead me, but instead to pause, ask God what He wants me to do next, and try to enjoy and learn something from each person, task, or dilemma that comes my way. He is faithful each morning to show me the 2-3 important things to tackle each day, and at the end of the day, He is teaching me to be content with each day’s work. Like the Father declared after each day of Creation, we can pause at the end of each day, look back at the work we completed, and say “it is good” and leave in peace. God will be working while we rest, doing what we are not able to do.
Take a Little Vacation Every Day
Several years ago, I was particularly tired at the end of a school year. I couldn’t wait for summer and the change of pace it represented to begin. So I decided not to wait. Every morning before school started I chose some small way to pretend it was summer, and every day after school I chose another fun activity to wrap up the day. I enjoyed this so much that after the summer was over, I extended it as long as possible by maintaining some of those same daily joys as the school year started.
Every day I have the choice to pick work back up after dinner or work on the weekends, simply to keep up with the incoming emails or attempt to make headway. This kind of work cycle leaves me drained and not fully available or present to anyone. A better option is to lay my completed work at the Lord’s feet at the end of each work day, thank Him for the energy and wisdom He provided to do it, and shift gears to family, home, and the simple joys that refresh me. Yes, there are times when additional work hours are called for and even a blessing, such as when God wakes me up early with a project in mind. Those times I work for the joy of service, and I also check my spirit to make sure I am not working out of a desire to impress or out of fear of not keeping up. I stay much more refreshed by sneaking in a bit of vacation into every day and prioritizing rest and play.
Choose Growth Over Comfort
“Please hear me, Girl: the world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things” (Ann Voscamp).
Hard and holy things. Things like wading into difficult conversations. Things like going toward problems, rather than away from them or hoping they don’t come my way. Things like not taking offense at that harsh email, but rather praying for the heart of the writer and looking for the area I need to grow through it. Comfort is the enemy of growth. God is calling me past the easy, happy, convenient, and comfortable and into the fray. Into the battle. Into the heat. I may not like the process, but I am safe. I am protected by my Father. He is molding me, and I know I’m stronger already. It’s hard, but I choose to trust Him to be daily making me into the person and leader He can use.
Use Conflict to Learn about Myself and Others
I have learned through a course entitled “Emotionally Healthy Relationships” that conflict is a platform for growth. It is a way to get to know God, myself, and others better. I have learned tools for thinking through a hard conversation by exploring my values and needs and seeking to understand those of the other person. I have learned that listening to someone is the same as loving them. Sometimes the simple act of listening without judging and without an agenda is all that is needed to resolve the situation. And I am better equipped to approach a topic very early on, before it escalates into true conflict, with phrases such as:
- “I noticed that you… Can you tell me more about that?” (Rather than coming with a predetermined judgment about someone’s motivations or actions.)
- “I think I have made an assumption about you. Can I share it with you to see if it’s true?”
Though still not easy, a new and healthier perspective on hardship and conflict is freeing.
A more experienced leader recently told me that as a leader, everyone wants you to rush. There are many demands and pressures to get it right, and to get it right quickly. My friends, God is not in a rush, and He does not want you to rush. Instead, He wants to be present with you, pointing things out as you go through challenges, standing side by side to make the decisions, and helping you to find joy in the journey He has uniquely planned for you. Take time to breathe, reflect, and savor all that God is doing in you. You are dearly loved. You have been chosen for this time and place. He’s got you, and because He’s got you, you’ve got this.
Scazzero, P. & Scazzero, G. (2017). Emotionally Healthy Relationships. Zondervan.