A Humble Response

I was mad, hurt, and embarrassed. For no reason at all, she had called me out; disagreeing with my leadership and causing me to question every decision I had made. I wanted to run and hide. I wanted to scream. I wanted to ban this person from my presence forever!

My pride was hurt.

I felt flushed.

Then worry set in. Did I handle the situation correctly? What were the other people in the room thinking about me?

My reaction surprised even myself. How could I get so defensive so quickly? Did I possess any patience at all? What was wrong with me?!

I struggled for several weeks over the situation. I had been leading a committee meeting as Chair, and when I presented my ideas for an event, it seemed that I hit a nerve with another committee member. I was completely taken off guard by her strong response and left feeling like a huge failure.

During the weeks that followed, I wrestled with how to handle her, the situation, and how to move on. I felt guilty, though I had meant no harm and was simply presenting the plans that had been previously approved by those in authority of me. Unfortunately, her reaction left me feeling like a joke; an inept, immature, weak leader not knowing what to do or how to change.

What came next was one of the greatest revelations from the Lord that I have ever experienced as a ministry leader. God is always so faithful and this circumstance was no different.

As I sought the Lord for wisdom, and the words to say to help mend the situation, God brought me to this all too familiar portion of scripture.

I Corinthians chapter 13

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I had read these verses before. In fact, I had even memorized this chapter at one point in my adolescence, but this time the words had a different ring to them.

As I read back through the verses slowly, the Holy Spirit started to work on my heart. I realized that no matter what I did or how well I did it, it really meant nothing if there was no sincere love behind it. I could graduate from seminary with flying colors. I could sing beautiful songs every Sunday. I could give to the poor, rescue the orphan, and care for the widow, but if I didn’t perform these deeds drenched with God’s unconditional love, they would mean nothing.

That really hit me hard. As a person who tends towards being performance based and seeks the approval of others, I realized that I could never be successful as a leader by simply being in charge. I needed to have a sincere, fervent, God-given affection for every person that God placed in my path no matter what.

It was clear that God was calling me to humble myself before this individual. I met with her, read these verses to her, and explained what God had done. It was amazing to see the immediate change in our relationship and the ease in which she listened and calmly responded to the conversation. It was as though, through the scripture, God laid a blanket of peace over the situation.

Photo by Ben White

Photo by Ben White

I have heard I Corinthians 13 so many times, and been taught from it through many sermons, but this time it really hit home.

Without LOVE…true sincere LOVE, I am completely ineffective. It doesn’t matter how clever my ideas are or how beautifully I present them, if I don’t take good care of my team, and respond lovingly even when they disagree with me, it will be difficult to garnish their trust and respect.

I have an executive personality. Anyone else? I just see the plan and I make it happen, but sometimes I forget to be sensitive to people along the way. In the end, the most important thing is our relationship with one other and being a mirror of God’s love in the way we interact with people in any situation.