Amen, Dr. Jones. I recently watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time, and I shuddered on the couch as I watched through the gaps in my fingers while Indy waded through all those snakes. Safe to say that, was it me that had to go into the Well of Souls to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant, well…the Nazis can have it. There’s not enough money in the world to get me to go into a pit full of snakes. Shoot. There’s not enough money in the world to get me to go into pit with ONE snake.
I can’t even begin to describe to you just how much I don’t like snakes. I’m deathly afraid of them, and I have been for as long as I can remember. Still to this day, at age 26, I have nightmares about snakes. People try to say, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” NOPE. You know when schools used to have assemblies where people would bring in all their cool animals, and, without fail, there was always some gigantic snake that they wanted you to come pet? No thank you. Reptile house at the zoo? Pass. Recently, someone told me of a house infested with snakes, and the people living there caught over 400 snakes IN the house. Worst nightmare.
So you can imagine my excitement to see this sign by the walking path at a retreat center in Florida:
I mean, thanks for the warning, I guess.
I did end up walking the path a few times during my time there. It ended up being a really great cardio workout, because my heart rate was elevated before I even started moving, but it also gave me a sense of accomplishment. Of course it didn’t “cure” me of my fears, but I had two choices. Option One: Avoid the path and, therefore, avoid anything that might be on it or around it. Option Two: Suck it up, put on my big girl pants, and go for a walk. Neither option is 100% safe. I’m quite sure that the snakes don’t see the sign and turn around, like “Oh, we can’t go past there,” so avoiding the path isn’t guaranteed to keep me away from snakes. On the other hand, walking straight in, knowing the possibility of what could be ahead, well…that’s not guaranteed snake free either. So how do you choose? For me, it’s which option has the greatest reward.
I was facing this (minor) dilemma while attending the first session of Emergent Leader Training in Oviedo, Florida, where I spent a lot of time learning about myself, and reflecting on how who I am affects the way I lead in life and in ministry.
What I learned is that I often face a similar dilemma in life and ministry. I have to make a choice. Do I do what’s comfortable and appears safe, or do I take the risk? I realized through the first part of this training that I like to be comfortable. I don’t like to shake things up. I don’t like to disagree with people. I don’t like to create or confront conflict. In fact, all of those things kind of scare me.
The majority of this first session was focused on what the trainers have dubbed “The Leader’s Crucial Work.” Daryl Pichan, the main facilitator of this session, laid this information out in the context of what he calls “The Arena of Crucial Work,” the balance between Clarity, Connection, and Courage. As we worked through the material, we were directed to keep thinking about how what we were discovering about ourselves affects our ability to be clear, our ability to connect with others, and our ability to act with courage. It was not hard for me to identify “courage” as the piece that I need to work at the most. Like I said, I like to be comfortable.
Being courageous requires that our actions are consistent with our determined goals and values, and that they have everyone’s best interests at heart. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on that, and what exactly that means. It raises questions that have uncomfortable answers. Is it courageous of me, as a leader, to keep my mouth shut when I don’t agree? Am I acting with courage when I avoid difficult conversations? Pichan even raised the question of whether or not it’s even Christian to just “roll over and be nice.”
Just like with the snakes, choosing what appears to be safe won’t always guarantee comfort, so which choice has the greater reward? Maybe the one that pushes me to grow as a person and confront the very things that challenge me most.
Katie Ott0, 2017 Emergent Leader Participant
Hear more from Katie at www.makingitinministry.com