All fire

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Vulnerability, she said. That’s what I’ve learned about leadership this year. How to be vulnerable in leadership, to share appropriately my weakness to create a space for others to share theirs.

As I listened to this young leader whom I had mentored over recent months, I nodded. Yes, this the theme of my leadership too. A desire not to be hidden but to share the whole of myself with others that they too might dare to come into the light.

Yet recently I’ve realised that vulnerability in leadership means being open to more than simply those whom we lead. To lead well is also about vulnerability towards God and those whom he sends us to prod us into openness before him. Listen to this lovely paragraph:

Godbearing…ministry requires vulnerable leaders…[whose] outstanding virtue is combustibility. By sheer proximity to God’s word, vulnerable leaders perceive God’s purposes and burst into flame because they allow God to prod them into the center of the fire.

Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life.

Creasy Dean and Foster put it far better than I could. What if our outstanding virtue as leaders were our combustibility? And what would it take to pursue that virtue?

The last twelve months, for me, have been a journey towards combustibility. I have sought quite deliberately a proximity to God in Christ like I’ve never sought it before. No longer willing to live out of a reality forensically declared, I have begun to chase after an intentional living-into of my participation in Christ. In the words of a prophecy given on my baptism many years ago, I am going into him ‘I don’t care where or how deep’.

Vulnerability towards Jesus has, for me, meant a series of choices. Deliberate dismantlings. Costly consequences. There have been a couple of people, in particular, whom he has clearly used to help me hold the space for him. With them, as I have talked or prayed I have been brought into sheer proximity to his Word. In the space which they have helped me hold, I have come face to face with Love. In moments where heaven and earth have seemed to come close, I have seen the one whose eyes are like fire. And when the intensity of his gaze has made me turn, overwhelmed by love’s flame, they have quietly but insistently prodded me back into the centre of the fire. Without them, let it be said, I wouldn’t be as far along this journey to combustion. Without them, I’d have retreated from the fire some time back.

And though this is between him and me, I am coming to know that it is also influencing my leadership. For when a life becoming vulnerable to God’s Spirit, torrent of power and love, is also made vulnerable to those being led, there will be rivers of living water. When leader becomes all fire in him, then sharing in vulnerability with others means fire.

Many moons ago, I asked what kind of leader I wanted to be. I’m still working on the theological answer to that one, dreaming and footnoting like crazy. But the heart answer, the one where he calls and I say yes, is coming clearer now.

I want to be a leader who is all fire.

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