Leading From the Inside Out: Part 2

22 May

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Turning the Lights On

Imagine: You lie in bed, a small child. You’ve become petrified of what hides in the dark, of monsters under your bed. You curl up, and in an act of self-protection pull the covers over your head.

But then you hear something. Footsteps in the hallway. It must be mom or dad. You can call out to them to chase away the monsters, to turn on the light. So in one colossally courageous move, you come out from your hiding place under the covers where your voice can be heard, and call out into the darkness for help.

In our last look at the monsters within — the often-ignored realities of our interior life — we were challenged to take off the covers that we hide beneath, the activities that keep us distracted and safe from what’s not going right inside.

Today, through the lens and experience of CRM staff Travis Collins, we will look at how God wants to come into that world and turn on the light. We will explore the depths of intimacy and influence that result when we are willing to go there.

SEEING WHAT GOD SEES

Connection, or intimacy with God, is arguably one of the main purposes of the Christian life. One poignant definition of intimacy is “in-to-me-see.” We know from scripture that God has night-vision super powers (look at Psalm 139) and nothing is hidden from him. God sees it all. But for us to experience that intimacy, of being known and loved by God, we have to be willing to see what God already sees.

We have to let him turn on the light.

Sounds simple, right? But as Travis points out, it’s often easier said than done.

“Authentic growth in God is knowledge of both yourself and of God, and it often is going to feel like spiritual backsliding. This is because God is love fully pursuing us, and he wants to pursue those deepest, darkest places in our hearts that our culture and our shame has covered up and said, ‘No, nobody can see this.’ So part of this intimacy [with God] means revealing this stuff, looking face to face at what is actually true about the depths of my soul. That does not feel good, and it threatens me.”

Unlike our childhood imaginings, when the lights come on in this scenario, we clearly see that the monsters are there.

LIVING WITH LIGHT

Asking God to turn the light on in our soul and reveal the monsters within is not an easy or pain-free process.

So why go there?

We go there because facing up to ourselves with God is the only way to live an authentic life, where the inside and outside of us are connected. We go there because the cost of ignoring our monsters is that they can literally devour us—our energy, our motivation, our love, and our influence—leaving us burned out and wretched. We go there because it’s where we can deeply know the love of Jesus in ways we never have before.

Travis found that living with the lights on brought him back to what was truly important in life, and gave him the ability to call out counterfeit pursuits and masters that had tried to control his Christian life. He can now emphatically declare,

“I care more about my own life, connecting with Jesus, than I do about the outcomes of my life. I want to lay on my deathbed more in love with Jesus than I am today... I don’t want to lay on my deathbed being entirely disconnected from Jesus but having ‘fruit.’ That intimacy with God means more than the fruit does. Fruit is really important. I want to give my life to fruit. But the moment it comes at the cost of my soul, it’s no longer fruit.”

The pressure to pursue fruit at any cost is one monster many in leadership face. It’s also nothing new. Jesus called the church out on this in Revelation 4: “You’re doing great things, but you’ve forsaken and lost your first love.”

Referencing that, Travis shared, “I can do really good things at the cost of forsaking and losing my first love, and so my sabbatical pulled me back. My greatest contribution to the Kingdom is going to be my life of deep connection with Jesus.

While Travis is still learning this in his own life, he’s experienced enough to become passionate about other leaders discovering it for themselves. There is so much pressure for leaders to stay disconnected, stay hidden, produce today and self-destruct tomorrow. For the good of both their souls and their impact on the world, Travis is championing a different way.

LEADERSHIP WITH THE LIGHTS ON

Living with the lights on in your internal world is not just good for your growth in God and your spiritual health, but good for your ministry efforts. Far from minimizing opportunities to serve God, Travis has seen honesty about internal challenges increase his impact.

“My personal experience is that every time I’ve been honest, I’ve had somebody else who I was leading at the time come to me and say, ‘Thank you, I’m struggling with the exact same thing. I don’t know what to do.’ So it’s created greater levels of influence, greater levels of leadership, greater levels of depth and transformation, when I’ve chosen to take that risk and be honest.”

TAKING THE NEXT STEP

Where do you find yourself today? Are you living with the covers over your head? Have you begun to face your monsters? Is God commissioning you to lead others with the lights on?

If you’re not sure where to begin, Travis suggests reading books that give words to the internal life. Having language to express what we discover can help us in our pursuit of honesty and congruence. Try Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love or The Way of the Heart.

Wherever you find yourself today, take heart. God isn’t afraid of our monsters, and no matter how ugly and powerful they may appear, we don’t need to be afraid of them either. He’s ready to face them with us.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Megan Beehler lives in Long Beach, California, where she recently completed an apprenticeship with :Beta: Communities.