Leading Through Anxious Times
Everybody is learning how to lead among anxious congregations, in an anxious world, throughout a global pandemic, amid a hyper-partisan culture with racial injustices boiling over and leading to unrest throughout the country that immersed in an upcoming election. Just writing all that makes me tired! Doing something about it, figuring out how to get through it and discerning our part in it, can hijack the soul.
In this season, I have been drawn over and over to Psalm 23, “yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death.” It is the “shadow of death” that always haunts me. I wonder if King David had that same feeling, as if the shadow of death was following him around?
This year has felt like a shadow of sorts has indeed befallen the whole world. Some have even proclaimed, “end times,” “second coming,” or the “anti-Christ.” I am not going to speculate on “end times” because Jesus said, “Do not be afraid,” or “Fear not.” While we may respond, “Why not be afraid?” Jesus offers a simple and straightforward answer. “I am with you even to the end of times” (Matthew 28:20).
This has always been a broken world. Some seasons seem more broken than others. But the great “I Am” has stood in the gap of brokenness with us, showing bits of grace and purpose with the hope of a new creation. The mountain is always on the side of the valley, the sunrise on the other side of the darkness. The horizon, there is always a horizon, the next! What terms are we living on? Just the here and now? Or are we in touch with a deepening spirit?
I have been thinking, praying and wondering: How do we unearth the new things God is leading us toward? How do we discover what the Spirit is nudging us to become? How do we discern where God’s new creation is emerging?
I think an important scripture to remember is Matthew 14, when Jesus walked on the water. I’ve preached a hundred sermons around the Conference entitled, “Risk Beyond Faithfulness” based on Jesus calling out to Peter to get out of the boat and walk toward him on the water and in the midst of a storm. Read the story.
Initially, Peter stepped out onto the water and walked toward Jesus, but as he looked down and backward to the safety of the boat, he discovered he was sinking. Jesus reached out his hand and said, “Don’t be afraid.” Peter took Jesus’s hand, the storm calmed and the disciples got back to shore with Jesus in the boat.
I suspect that Peter never forgot that dark, stormy night, but neither was he ever the same. Jesus unearthed in Peter a new potential that helped change the world.
We too will get to the shore through this storm. But as we go along, I wonder what is Jesus trying to unearth around and in us? Perhaps we should reach out our hands to Jesus and see where he is taking us through this storm.
Bishop Farr, Missouri Conference
of The United Methodist Church