"I'm a guy who's never captained a ship". It's both literal and figurative. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I have never actually captained a ship, in fact I don't even enjoy being on the water. I don't own a boat, I've never even driven a boat, with the exception of a paddle boat which I generally allow someone else to steer so as to conserve all of my energy for the burning sensation in my legs as we attempt to propel ourselves around the lake. So quite literally, I have never captained a ship.
In the figurative sense, I have also never captained a ship. For the last 15 years of full-time ministry I have led from the second chair. I've never been the lead pastor, I've never been the final decision for a church wide endeavor, I've never had to be the, "buck stops here" guy in the church. Now don't get me wrong, over the years I have made plenty of decisions, some good, some bad, some slowly and some too fast. God has certainly allowed me to grow in my leadership abilities over the years, but still, I have never had the chance to figuratively "captain the ship". I know, I know, God is really the Captain and the Holy Spirit is the wind in the sails and Jesus is the first mate, etc., etc., but you get what I'm saying.
Regardless of my lack of captaining experience, I have recently been thinking about some leadership lessons that I have learned along the way and for whatever reason those have come to my mind in the form of boat analogies. It's weird right? I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Don't rock the boat". It's the go-to phrase for those who are satisfied with how things are, people who are comfortable with the status quo and sometimes they're the people who are uncomfortable with what happens when the boat starts rocking.
Like most captains, I am happiest when the waters are calm. Blue skies, nice and sunny. Little to no wind. Mild waves. Easy sailing. That's the "happy place" for most captains. Everyone is happy and the ship is moving in the right direction. But what's a captain to do when something arises that needs to be addressed? A crew member isn't pulling their weight? Some aspect of the ship isn't functioning as it should? Several of the crew are becoming disgruntled and begin commiserating togeth....I mean praying together? What's the captain supposed to do then? For the most part the waters are still calm and the ship is still sailing in roughly the same direction so maybe there's some wisdom in, "letting the sleeping dog lie"...maybe. This is the point when the phrase, "Don't rock the boat" usually surfaces because the other option can jeopardize the captain's "happy place".
Here's the problem with choosing not to rock the boat. In a closed environment like a ship where there is no where to run, no where to hide and no where to sneak off to, a disease that starts with one can spread like wildfire. What starts as a single issue can quickly evolve into a much larger problem that has the potential to jeopardize the health of the entire ship and crew. The reality is that sometimes the desire to not rock the boat ends up rocking the boat in a greater way and usually at a much more critical part of the journey.
Do you ever stop and actually listen to yourself? I can't tell you the number of times in my 15 years of working with students that I have been caught "unaware". Half way through a sentence that was designed to pierce the depths of a teenager's soul I'm suddenly left speechless. I'm suddenly smacked in the face with the realization that what I just spoke wasn't for anyone else, it was for me. I find myself completely caught off guard as to who that sentence or idea or principle was designed for and more importantly who it was designed by. I'm beginning to realize that sometimes God uses me...to reach me.
Like most normal people I don't always wake up feeling 100%. Sometimes I'm crabby, sometimes I'm discouraged, sometimes I'm impatient and sometimes, like today, I'm all three of those things. As I was scrolling through these pages this afternoon I happened on a post from a few months ago that God used to remind me that my crabbiness, my discouragement and my impatience are all working against we He wants to do in and through me.
I speak with my mouth that I want God to use me to reach people for His glory but no one ever came to know Christ in a greater way through the admiration of anyone's crabbiness and impatience. I speak with my mouth that I want to encourage people and build others up but I allow my own discouragement to bleed through my empty words of encouragement to those in need.
Romans 8 says, "...those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace."
God makes plain how we are to live. As a person who has consciously made the choice to pattern my life after the person and the teachings of Jesus, it simple. Live according to the Spirit. The Spirit isn't crabbiness. The Spirit isn't discouragement. The Spirit isn't impatience. The Spirit is life and peace.
So maybe like me, God is using you to reach you. Think about the advice and the counsel that you have given others in their time of need. Think about the counsel and direction you have given your kids or your friends or your co-workers and then...do it for yourself. In other words, "Practice what you preach".