Many of my wilderness experiences have been self-imposed. They grew out of drivenness within me; the fruit of selfish ambition, fear, and the anger that created unmet needs in my heart. And those needs should never have been met. That means that many of my wilderness experiences could have been avoided if only . . .
If only I were aware of my drivenness; if only I had realized my ambition—pursued, sincerely I believe in the name of Jesus—was mixed with the slag of my glory even as I sought His glory; if only I had understood that my fear actually was pride and my anger was anger. I carried inner anger without even knowing what it was. I gradually came to understand that these feelings within me were harmful and that prayer alone could bring me release. By then I had been a pastor for probably four or five years and realized I needed help from other leaders to be free. That’s when I asked the elders of our church to meet with me early every Sunday morning to pray because that’s how I gained some deliverance along the way.
So it was that I entered into burnout and edged toward depression for a period of time early in my pastorate. So it was that I struggled with comparison and competition and feelings of failure because I wasn’t as good as others or I hadn’t reached the standard of success I set for myself. Now I realize that that standard of success was self-imposed and not from God or anyone else; now I realize that it doesn’t make any difference whether I’m as good as others; now I realize that those wilderness experiences were self-imposed and unnecessary.
I don’t like to project myself on other leaders, but, as I have talked about these concerns in cultures all over the world, I have found many fellow leaders who identify with me because they’re in the same self-imposed wilderness. I’m just a little bit ahead of them. As I talk about these wilderness experiences, I find them responding, recognizing their own struggles and seeking freedom. So what can leaders do when they find themselves in the self-imposed wilderness?
Find the joy of the wilderness, the rugged beauty, the blooming wild flowers, the cooling shade, and the refreshing oases of flowing, refreshing water. How?
- Stop denying the truth about you and fall on your face before God in prayer, acknowledging that virtually everything you blame on others comes from you.
- Read the Bible in the light of your responsibility and God’s grace and make Christ your life, not only the One you talk about, but the One you depend on to live.
- Find someone you can talk with honestly and tell him/her the truth about you and listen to what you hear back no matter how much it hurts, even if you must travel hours and hours to get to him.
While many, probably most, of my wilderness experiences have been self-imposed and unnecessary, they have been critical to my growth as a man, my sensitivity as a husband and a father, and my impact as a leader. I wish I could have avoided them, but I couldn’t make it without them. So, I encourage you to keep on wandering in your wilderness. Sooner or later you’ll get to an oasis of refreshing rest. But after you’re there a while, you’ll start over again with another season in the wilderness—and that will be the best place you can be if you want to be God’s kind of leader.
Published on Nov 28 @ 9:39 PM CDT