We all have opportunities to lead and to follow, and in both cases, our spiritual formation makes a difference in how we treat one another in those roles.
The Bible says that God knew us while we were in our mother’s womb and that He knows our days—including every experience we’ve had. So, often with gaping wounds, we limp into positions of leadership. We want to present ourselves to everyone as a whole person, and we hope that they won’t notice our bandages and scars. Yet the more we try to hide our wounds, the more we expose them.
How does this relate to spiritual formation? In the words of Dr. Noel Forlini, “Spiritual formation is a process of presenting our whole selves to God in order to experience the love of God, so that we can love God, others, and ourselves.”
The whole self includes everything—even the parts that we’ve worked so hard to forget about. Our hidden wounds are actually an important part of our spiritual formation. If we present them to God, we will find ourselves more able to love God, others, and ourselves.
Our spiritual formation occurs as we journey with God, and our understanding of how to lead well should be transformed simultaneously. In fact, in Upside-Down Leadership, author Taylor Field challenges us to rethink influence and success. In the book, Field states, “True leadership must be critically suspicious of its own goals. Once we begin to listen to God, even the idea of leadership starts to undermine itself." Could it be that to lead well, we must be great followers? Could it be that as we give our whole selves to God, our leadership is transformed into servanthood?
Then, what of the wounds we are hiding? In the course Spiritual Formation as a Leader, Dr. Forlini guides us to contrast Simon and an unnamed woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. Simon has led what he and his neighbors consider a godly life, yet the unnamed and sinful woman has more capacity to love, because she not only accepts that she has many wounds, but also presents them to Jesus.
Whether leading or following, we need to both walk in the way of peace and allow others to “go in peace.” In order to find that path of peace, we’ll need to know who we are, as wounded children of God, and present those wounds to the One who is able to heal us.
Are we willing to do some introspection in order to present ourselves wholly to God? Are we willing to consider a new leadership style which may seem a bit upside-down? Join us on a four-week journey in the course, Spiritual Formation as a Leader, where we’ll consider both questions.
Claudia Johnson, CWLC Leadership Consultant