Loneliness, according to Dan Allender in Leading With a Limp, is one of the things that any leader will bump into. He can choose one of two responses: hiding or openness. Hiding is the act of manipulation. We feel alone and solitary. As a result we hide. In our hiding we manipulate the world around us to think that all is well. The next thing you know another pastor has flamed out of ministry or has killed himself. Leaders are alone. I have written previously on the “oneness” of ministry.
The opposite response is openness or as Allender puts it, “Honest Hunger (120ff).” This honest hunger requires us to open ourselves to people. This openness is an authentic listening to others and the willingness to invite others in.
I don’t know if I can explain how hard this is. But maybe using an unrelated illustration will help. I like a good beer. I enjoy evaluating the hoppiness or wheatiness or aroma or smoothness or flavor of a beer. I enjoy the experience of sitting with friends at a watering hole and taking in a pint of something dark and rich. When Amy and I worked with Campus Crusade for Christ at Illinois State University we were located in a small town. We were a part of a small community where people very different opinions about whether someone could drink a beer. Many of these people supported us financially. I was afraid that if they knew or saw me drink a beer they would stop supporting us. Therefore, we did not drink alcohol of any kind in Bloomington-Normal. We hid and manipulated the situation.
You see, this is the situation that leaders find themselves in every aspect of their lives. They evaluate every little thing. “If I say I saw THIS movie or that I watched THAT television show or I think THIS political thought or whatever, what will THEY think?” So we hide. We never really tell anybody what we think about anything. We deflect for the sake of keeping things easy and clean.
At some level that is OK. We are called to respect the weaker brother. This is someone who does not experience the same kind of freedom in Christ that we experience. However, there comes a point where if you never let anyone in, if you never communicate what you really think about something, you go crazy. You go crazy because nobody knows you.
I am struggling with this. I am struggling to learn who those people are that I can be completely open and honest with. I am really struggling with what Allender says though:
“Honest hunger after truth requires us to remain open to everyone, including those with whom we disagree and have conflict. It also requires that we remain open to the fact that we desperately need the very people who challenge and contradict our cherished notions of the truth. We may never agree, nor do we need to do so, but we need others–especially those who challenge us to dig deeper and become more human. The hunger, then, is not so much for agreement on factual accounts, but more for truth that leads to a greater delight in truth.”
Did you catch the “everyone”. That will be hard. That will be hard because peace is often my highest goal and not truth.
Well do you hide? I do and I have never really liked hide and seek. It’s time to call “olly olly oxen free” and end the game and come out of hiding.