I love waterskiing. From the moment I give a thumbs up to the point when I’ve exhausted myself, it’s a thrill. The only problem is the time before and after because the fact is, to the degree that I love waterskiing, I hate swimming in lakes.
Why? Because I don’t know what is under the water, and therefore do not know what I am sinking into. So when I let go of the tow rope, slide to a stop, and begin that slow drop into the water, I dread it. I like to stay above the unknown.
As leaders, it is so easy to operate this way. We’re good on top of the water, making things happen, pushing the limits, seeing what we can accomplish, enjoying the ride. But underneath the surface of our lives, there’s a lot going on. Fear, confusion, loneliness, uncertainty, emptiness, lies, wrong motivations. These we would like to avoid.
This past June, I took a sabbatical from our ministry. The first three or four days, I took long walks in the morning with my dog, talking with the Lord. Those days were my gliding to a stop, sinking into the unknown time. What I encountered, to my surprise, was a great deal of anxiety, more than I even suspected I had.
I spent time those days treading water in emotion longer than I usually do. I was able to turn my anxiety around and look at it from different angles, examining its source, discovering the lies that fuel it, taking it to God for truth and perspective.
During that month, I became aware of the many undercurrents of emotion that can float past me as I go about my busy life, and how disinclined I am to slow down enough to experience them fully. I tried to give myself space to linger. Rather than registering my emotions as a dark object under the water I’d rather not face, I took periodic time to listen, ponder, and process what I was feeling.
As I did, I felt an increased capacity in my spirit to engage well with others. It was like all that was beneath the surface was pulling me down, making it harder to ski, and I hadn’t realized it. Taking the time to untangle my emotions gave me freedom to live more fully.
It’s imperative as leaders that we are willing to listen to what lies beneath the surface because they can take us down. They will drain us. They will come out as anger or depression. We may not have the freedom to take several days to slow down and process, but it is imperative that we have a habit of slowing down enough periodically to examine our hearts. What is driving us? Is there sin holding us captive? Are there lies that fuel our behavior? Is there unchecked emotion surrounding those lies? What’s holding us back from loving others, walking in faith, trusting God?
The fact is, there’s nothing under the surface that is greater than God’s grace. He wants us to love and lead freely, without the entanglement of what lies in darkness. Be willing to slow down, sink into the depths of your heart, and meet God there.
Guest author Gina Butz has served in full time ministry for over 20 years. She and her husband planned to spend three or four of those years overseas, but stayed for 13 instead. They are currently raising two third culture kids and an imported dog in the exotic land of Orlando, Florida, where they serve in global leadership for Cru. She blogs about being wholehearted at www.ginabutz.com and you can follow her on twitter @gina_butz