His comment about me was flattering. Once he said it, I sat back and let my mind wander as to what it would be like if it were the case. The problem was, it simply wasn’t true, and unfortunately I was going to have to tell him.
I was meeting with a young leader, husband, and father of a couple of great kids. He had asked if we could sit down a few times before I move to talk about life. I jumped at the opportunity.
So it was over a couple of soft drinks – Big Red, to be exact – that his question came out. He said this: “Kevin, I’ve watched you over the years in multiple leadership positions, and it seems you always have a good idea of what to do in stressful or emergency situations. How did you learn that?”
Yeah, I know. It was flattering.
All of us have situations that make us scratch our heads. It might be as a husband when we just said the absolute wrong thing to our wife, as a dad when our children say or do the weirdest things, or even in the marketplace when people are expecting us to lead through the confusion.
What do you do when you find yourself smack dab in the middle of one of those situations? All the books you’ve read, the sermons you’ve heard preached, the seminars you’ve attended, none of them provide crystal clarity in the moment.
Of course, prayer is a given. When I’m in over my head, I recognize I need the Spirit’s wisdom in and through me. Whether it be in difficult phone conversations with mad people, or simply encounters with the unexpected, I bow my head in humility asking for God to provide.
But all too often, the path forward is still unclear.
I admitted to this young dad that I didn’t have all the answers and that there were plenty of times that I felt in over my head. Life isn’t as easy as following steps 1,2, and 3 to get the preferred outcome. There is something that I think is valuable to remember, though, in that time of uncertainty. It is what I would recommend to do when you don’t know what to do.
Ask more questions.
As a leader:
It’s easy to sit back and be an “armchair quarterback” for presidents, football coaches, and school teachers. At least in our minds if we were “in the game,” we’d make such better decisions. But leading people is tough. There is no science to it.
Years ago I was waffling on a decision to release a staff person from their current position. They had made a mistake that could have had huge repercussions. In spite of multiple warnings, they still chose to act improperly.
I remember sitting with 3 or 4 others as we confronted this young man. As the conversation went on, the case against him didn’t seem so cut and dry. One misunderstanding led to another. With each answer he gave, I felt more and more unsure of what to do. Instead of making a rash decision just so I could appear to be a solid leader who can lead through those scenarios, I simply asked more questions.
Sure enough, after an additional 5 or 6 questions asking from different angles, we were able to uncover something that made us all confident of the direction we should take.
As a parent:
My goal as a dad is not to always address the outward problems. It is to deal with the hearts of my children. That is what I care most about. If – in an effort to appear in control or dominant or the “king of the castle” – I make hasty decisions, I’ve missed a huge opportunity.
Why did your child do what they did? What was their motivation? Did they know it was wrong before they did it? Did they think it through? Are they repentant? Do you think their sorrow is Godly sorrow or worldly sorrow?
Take the time to let the situation unfold in front of you. By doing so, you show your kids that compliance to rules is not your goal; healthy, connected hearts is.
What other advise would you give someone about leading people or your family through uncertainty?
Wonderful blog post. It brings me back to a scenario my sweet husband had with our son and the question that prompted a life long lesson for the heart.
Blake had made the decision to trust Jesus at 5. He was around 7 or 8 when he and his Dad worked together in the evenings for a week to build a fort in our back yard. They had added a shiny new slide from the top level to the ground especially for his little sister who was three at the time. Shortly after the fort was completed, Blake and a neighborhood friend were out in the back yard with their sling shots. Our home was built in an area that used to be part of a pecan orchard and it was the season for the large pecan pods to be on the ground. One of the boys loaded a pecan, aimed for the shiny slide and sent it flying for a direct hit. Despite the fact that the hit made a slight dent or pock mark in the metal, it also made the neatest “ping” sound. The little guys thought that sound was the coolest thing ever – so fun to aim for the target and hear the confirmation of the medal pinging. They must have flown 50 missels into the medal, comparing the change of pitch of the resulting ping they got depending on distance of the shot and laughing with each confirming sound. By the time the pinging got old, they had ruined the slide.
The obvious question of “what were you thinking?” would be demeaning to even ask. We had heard the phrase, “one boy, one brain; two boys, no brain” and it seemed to apply in this case. I let Blake know that he would need to inform his Dad what had transpired once he was home for work – and I gave Newt a (behind the scene) heads up so he would have some time to think things over before he came home and saw the slide. When I phoned Newt at work, he couldn’t believe that Blake had destroyed his own property and something he’d just spent wonderful time and a great deal of hard work with his dad building.
Of course we knew the boys would need to help on the repairs and perhaps work off some extra chores to make restitution, but Newt wanted to reach the heart of the issue. By the evening, Blake was dreading the conversation he was going to have to have with his dad. There was remorse, confession, discussion of restitution and restoration for both their relationship and the damaged property, but as the boys talked, my sweet, calm, even keeled husband posed the wisest question. “At anytime in the process of firing off the pecans did you have a fleeting thought or hear in your mind a small voice that was telling you this was not the right thing to do?” Blake gave the perfect answer, “Well yes, right at first; but after that, I didn’t hear anything at all”.
Thank you, God! What a perfect answer. Newt was able to explain that the small, quiet voice is not only the voice of our conscience letting us know right from wrong, but it’s often how God speaks to us. And if we’re not paying attention the first time we hear it, our hearts are hardened and ears are closed to what God is saying and we’re just caught up in the noise we hear from the world around us; the moment, the fun, excitement, the thrill of what we’re in. But then it’s over and we’re left with dread, damage & brokenness. (something Blake had had the opportunity to experience for a very long day).
The slide could be fixed, the chores could be arranged to earn money for it’s replacement, but Newt explained the discipline that was to come was to impart to him that the most important thing to learn from this and never forget; a young man must recognize and act on God’s voice the first time he hears it.
Once the discipline (and rare for Blake, so it made a huge impact) was over, the restoration of relationship was incredible. The chores scheduled, money earned and slide was replaced with enthusiasm and good cheer.
But many incredible scenarios were discussed between father and son in the years to follow as they worked on recognizing the voice of God with the first prompting of the Holy Spirit.
What an excellent example, Lorie. Thanks for taking the time to share it.
It would be easy for a dad like Newt to just blow up and scold his son in this scenario. The only forward progress that might make is Newt feeling release because he just blasted his son for such a childish mistake.
Glad to read how you worked together to turn a metal slide (I’m sure that is long gone and forgotten about) into a teachable moment of what it is like to hear the Spirit’s prompting and to follow his lead. I love it.