Here is a powerful and intimate story from my friend Tim. I greatly admire him for sharing it and the lessons God taught him through it. I had the privilge of being one of those friends to whom Tim "screamed." This is the kind of stuff that Christ uses to shape those who become Level Five leaders. (Brian)
Leading in Pain
Anyone who has accidently grabbed or bumped into anything hot resulting in a burn will understand what I say next. The other day I accidently poured boiling water on my hand. Although it was not a severe burn, it hurt. Even though the boiling water splashed only on my hand, it affected my entire body. That horrible sting that doesn’t seem to ever stop radiating through my whole body. I am distracted from everything else around me. Pain is a major distraction.
Several years ago, this principle hit my family hard. Here are some things that happened in a three year period. First: My wife almost died in Ethiopia. That story is so complex and painful I can’t begin to tell you the details. She is thousands of miles away and I can do nothing! By God’s grace and miraculous intervention she lived. But the side effects of that event lasted two more years.
Then: My mother and niece were in a car accident resulting in my niece being permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Next: My son faced such a traumatic event in his life, it required quitting college for a period of time. I do not remember ever crying as much as I did during those years. I sit here today and cringe as I remember the pain. But, I am also very grateful to God. His grace was and is sufficient.
During this time I was the pastor of a strong, thriving church. There were all sorts of wonderful things happening in those years. On one hand, these good things gave me something to look forward to. However, all these things required my leadership attention. I certainly had quality people around me, who kept things going, but I was the senior leader and hundreds of people were looking to me to lead them where God was taking us.
The problem: I was severely distracted. My heart was crushed with pain. I cried for and with my wife. I cried for and with my niece and her family. I cried for and with my son. I never knew the human body and soul had so many tears in it. In the midst of all this crying the phone never stopped ringing, the appointments never came to an end, the church problems continued to come across my desk, and the staff continued to want input and counsel. The pain was so intense I was distracted from all else, and yet, there was no choice. I had to continue to lead.
The question is how do we lead when the distraction of pain is so strong? There are 2 lessons I learned during that season.
It’s ok to complain to God. Don’t walk the painful path alone.
It’s ok to complain to God.
Don’t walk the painful path alone.
About the first lesson:
Jack Hayford once said, “Aim your hard questions at God.” Jesus is the greatest example. In the garden He is in the pain of anticipation and says to the Father, “Remove this cup from me.” Tim Adour’s translation is, “There has to be another way. I don’t want this, I don’t like this, I want it to stop NOW!” Then, after the garden experience Jesus is on the cross and He cries, “Why have you forsaken me?” Again, I translate, “Where are You?” If Jesus can talk to the Father that way, why can’t we?
During those dark days, there were times all I could do is say to God, why are doing this…stop it, now…heal, now…change the situation, now. I am a firm believer in being absolutely transparent with God. He knows our thoughts anyway; so, why not say what is in our heart? Bottling up the frustration, even anger, with God accomplishes nothing. God has big shoulders, He can handle our honesty. Remember, our humanity is His gift. What good does it do to deny our pain and our feelings?
About the second lesson:
Adam Walsh was the little boy who was kidnapped and beheaded by his molester. The movie, Adam, was his story. In the movie, Adam’s father is mourning the loss of his son. As he is talking to a friend the friend says, “You did all you could, it wasn’t your fault.” Adam’s father replies, the one thing I didn’t do “was teach my son to scream.” If Adam had screamed, as he was being carried away, maybe someone would have heard him and he would still be alive.
I have never forgotten that scene because it is a powerful lesson for all of us. We need to learn to scream. We need to learn to call on our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to yell at the top of our lungs, HELP! When pain is so intense that it is distracting, we need to call out to God, but also to each other.
It is not bravery to suffer alone. It is not spiritual to hide our struggles from those who can pray for us. It is not healthy to be the tough guy, who can handle it. If God intended us to go it alone, we wouldn’t need the church. David had Jonathan. Paul had Silas. Who do you have? If you don’t have an answer, then it is time to cultivate a “screaming relationship” with someone.