Permission to Breathe
So how are you doing today?
I ask that because yesterday I enjoyed the company of our Associates here at Living Leadership, and we discussed the mood amongst church leaders. Among us, we’re connected to a lot of leaders. The news wasn’t good. Many of us spoke of the overwhelming tiredness among leaders, as well as the ongoing struggle to lead well during the pandemic.
One of us used this phrase: ‘they’re being buffeted.’
Buffeted. A very evocative word. Almost onomatopoeic.
Wind buffets. So do the storms of life.
I remember an occasion when sailing on my father’s boat, that a sheet (rope) became unhooked from the genoa (large sail at the front of the boat). There was a cleat on the end which started flicking about violently in the wind. It was quite dangerous. Everyone began shouting at each other, demanding that someone else catch hold of the sheet. We were too slow. It eventually flicked into the sail and sliced it like a knife. Sail ruined.
Buffeting like that causes damage.
The sail needed to be anchored, tied down, so that it could function properly. And that’s what all leaders need – to be anchored, to be connected to God when the wind is blowing hard. During the pandemic, the wind is blowing very hard. Some are finding it hard to stay on their feet.
As I listened to some of the Associates yesterday, I heard some words of wisdom which I’d like to share with you today. They were words to help you, as a leader, to remain connected to God, to encourage you as you lead.
I set aside the post I’d originally written, because I believe that God was speaking, and he desires for you to hear his voice. I hope the following words will bless you.
Permission to Breathe – One person told us that in counselling a leader recently, they used this phrase, ‘you have permission to breathe.’* Right now, some leaders feel like they’re suffocating. Or drowning. Or crumbling. Pick your own metaphor.
Burdened by all the demands, many leaders are struggling to cope. So here’s what my friend was saying. He’s saying this to all those who would hear:
You have permission to stop and spend time with God.
Stop all the activity. Stop all the people pleasing. Stop the meetings, if you have to, and spend time with God. Don’t talk about it. Do it.
In Genesis, God breathes life into Adam. The Hebrew term ‘ruach’ is a powerful one meaning spirit, wind or mind. In Genesis, it is God’s ‘ruach,’ his Spirit, which is breathed into the earth. A human being in God’s image emerges.
So when my friend counsels, ‘you have permission to breathe,’ he’s saying, your primary purpose in life is to live in God. In Christ, to use another phrase. To live empowered by the Spirit. Filled with his breath. John 15 immediately comes to mind. He is the Vine; we are the branches.
During this pandemic, you have the opportunity to spend time with God. During our meeting, two phrases/words jumped out at me. One was ‘content creator’; the other was ‘character.’
Leaders sometimes see themselves as ‘content creators.’ It’s a consumerist view of the leader’s role. Leaders spend a lot of time talking about God, but with the busyness, they don’t always spend enough time talking TO God. Sermons yes. Meetings, yes. Decision-making, yes. But what about the time you spend with God?
If this is a word for you, receive it. Take some time – a half day, a whole day or more – to sit before God and enjoy him. Let me assure you that your character has a far greater impact on your church members than your content. They watch how you live, and running, running, running may be your custom, but it’s not worth anything if you’re not centred upon your God. That’s how your character is formed. (Gal. 4.19b – until Christ is formed in you.)
And that takes time. So don’t put it off. You have permission to breathe.
Listen to the Spirit – This word came from a lady with decades of experience in the mission field. She told us that among the persecuted church, they listen to the Spirit and they do what he tells them to do. They are courageous, with hearts fully committed to their God.
Leaders can sometimes feel like they’re carrying their church body. It’s quite likely that they know the right theology – that Christ is the Head of the Church – but they don’t live it. This is especially true if you’re a people pleaser. (See blog posts on this topic, here, here, and here.)
I truly believe that these two words from our Associates are for you, dear reader.
They are, of course, connected.
You have permission to breathe. You are filled with God’s Spirit. You have permission to spend time with your God. As much as you desire. If that means you need to stop doing other things, then so be it. Be courageous and do it. Spend time with your Saviour.
Then listen to God’s Spirit. His Spirit never strays from the revealed Word of God. Our Three-in-One God is consistent in what he says. Yet he can and does speak today to those who listen.
But only if you take the time to sit in his presence.
Remember, you have permission to breathe.
To drive the point home, consider this. One day, the pandemic will be over. When you look back, will you say to yourself, ‘I managed to work out how to put everything on Zoom?’ Or ‘At least I didn’t pass out?’
Or will you say, ‘The pandemic was a period when I learned how to pray, when I drew close to my Saviour in a way I had never done before?’
May I entreat you right now to stop and pray? What is the Lord saying to you?
How will you respond?
Our God is faithful and good. He will speak to you.
I believe it.
*Just to be clear, our team members don't share specifics of what people say to them in our meetings - we maintain our commitment to confidentiality as stated in our working documents (available on request)
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