the Traveling Companion: episode 5

I just started my next to last class for my D.Min at Perkins – Spiritual Leadership in Missional Churches. One of our assignments is to keep a journal during the 2 weeks of class. I decided to blog mine…

Swimming Lessons
We made it to the end of week 1 in our class. I’ve really enjoyed this conversations and I’m looking forward to next week. On Monday and Tuesday I’ll have an additional seminar in the mornings as I present and refine my topic proposal for the D. Min. project – I am VERY excited about that. As part of my general research and also just something we’ve been planning to do for a while now, Chris and I are going to be launching the missionalmonks podcast (it will be hosted at where we periodically interview different missional and monastic thinkers and practitioners. Elaine Heath has agreed to be our first experiment…er, I mean, interview. We have the second interview lined up already…how’s that for being on the ball?
Throughout this week we’ve been talking about the power of metaphor for connecting with culture. Anyone who knows me well is aware of my love for metaphors. I drive Rachel crazy because they’re usually much more complex than what I unpack for others…but she gets the unabridged explanation!
Something happened last week that I’ve been thinking about as a great metaphor for leadership development, so I thought I’d share it here tonight.
The boys just finished their two-week stint in swim lessons and I think all three made some great progress. It was pretty amazing to witness the transformation of Josiah from a frightened 2 year old to a water-happy swimming fiend.
The big boys had their swim lessons first – with Conner and his class on one side of the pool and Micah and his class on the other. After the big boys were through, Josiah and Rachel had a “Mommy and Me” class, that only had one other mother-son pair (and they were only there a few days). So typically Jo-Jo received the undivided attention of Rachel AND the swim instructor – who just happened to be Micah’s teacher too.
Once Josiah got comfortable with his little puddle jumpers lifejacket he discovered that he could pretty much swim all over the place on his own. I was shocked on the Saturday after their first week when we went to Ron and Debbie’s to swim and he just took off and jumped in all by himself!
JoJo had a great environment to learn and develop confidence. He had a great life jacket that did most of the hard work for him, and during his lessons, Rachel and the instructor were right there the whole time. But, as can happen, his confidence quickly outdistanced his ability and we had an…event.
One day, as the big boys were preparing for their swim lesson, Josiah saw his instructor in the pool and took off running and jumped right in the swimming pool…with no life jacket. Rachel had seen it coming and was right behind him, but suffice it to say, the life jacket is still very much responsible for Josiah’s buoyancy!
When equipping and developing leaders it is great to have experienced guides “in the pool” with them; teaching in the pool rather than in a classroom. This gives the new leader a chance to immediately try out what they’re learning in a safe and structured, but still very real environment.
All spiritual leaders, new or not, need the buoyancy of a life jacket. It is the power of the Holy Spirit which keeps us afloat and does most of the hard work. Supported by the Spirit the leader is able to kick, paddle and move about with confidence.
Occasionally we take off running toward the pool with our life jacket still tucked away with our towel and goggles and we quickly find ourselves sinking in the same waters which had previously seemed so easy to navigate. What makes matters worse, this same over enthusiasm and confidence can lead us to forget the value of a community of guides and family that watch out for us and even pull us up when we get in over our heads.
Assurance of our freedom and the confidence to jump in make the call to leadership exciting and sometimes even fun. But make no mistake, the fun stops when we are suddenly alone, without a life jacket in deep waters. And we’re a lot like Josiah – in this pool even the shallow end is over our heads.
Josiah learned how much he needs his lifejacket. I hope I have the same wisdom to realize how foolish it would be to rely on my own skill, rather than trust in the tireless flotation that is my most basic and fundamental promise of safety. May we as leaders also remember how much we need a community surrounding us.
Swimming alone is a recipe for disaster.

Posted on June 18, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Beutifully put, my dear….and a bit sobering…

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