Friday, October 11, 2013

standing on his shoulders

One summer night at Greenwoods a former youth intern, now a good friend, envisioned leadership for me using John Maxwell's image of a leader allowing others to stand on her shoulders.  A leader, my friend shared, is someone who recognizes the gifts and abilities of others and empowers those people to go further than he could.

{{I'm not much for books about leadership--save the one course I took in Richmond's Jepson School of Leadership Studies--so I love when other people read this stuff and give me the CliffsNotes recap.}}

As I thought about how desperately I want to be that kind of leader, I recalled hearing Sandra McCracken relate the heart-wrenching story on which her chilling song "Age After Age" is based.  It was the night of the Live Under Lights and Wires release party in Nashville, a magical night at a hip East Nashville venue where Sandra and Derek played the songs and shared the stories of her then-current album.  I wept right there at the party when she told the tale of two young brothers who were swept up in quicksand in the Mississippi River.  When they pulled the younger one out of the sand alive, they found that he was standing on the shoulders of his older brother.

On the edge of the river, the mighty Mississippi
Two boys spent their summers on the banks of the levy
When the waters burst and broke the dam
they were swallowed in a wave of sand
they pulled the younger one out by the hand
from standing on his brother's shoulders.

One nation under God, young and proud she stumbled
With a trail of tears left by those who were outnumbered
She said, "This land is your land, this land is mine, unless you are an Indian"
But a higher ground we have tried to find"
standing on their shoulders.

Age after age

of heroes and soldiers
it gives me sight and makes me brave,
standing on their shoulders
  One man in the shadow of the white-washed cathedrals
He tried to pull the system through the eye of the needle
To his conscience bound he would not recant for the freedom of the Saints
And truth is truth is truth
and we are standing on his shoulders

To the ones left behind who are picking up the pieces
of planes, bombs, and buildings of innocence and evil
'Cause when the news and noise and flowers die,
and you still wake up alone
There is a God who knows every tear you cry
and this world is on his shoulders

In the last year and a half as my role at Walnut Hill has evolved, I have reflected on this image often.  I am not naturally good at delegation.  I struggle to prioritize.  Like generations of Kingstons before me, I hold tightly to my responsibilities, thinking it's easier to do them myself than to give them away.  I have been begging God to help me let go, to delegate, to empower those around me.

I am a young church leader with a lot to learn.  But there is one thing I know, and it's that the church will not grow until we shepherds of the flock follow Jesus into this work of empowering others.  We are after all, standing on his shoulders.

...And the government will be upon his shoulders {Isaiah 9:6}
 ...And the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him {Isaiah 53:5}