This I believe…

Years ago I had the privilege of designing and facilitating a series of excursions called leadership journeys for new and emerging leaders in education. We’d travel to communities rich in history and the legacy of civil rights leaders who’d found clarity in the crucible of their own leadership crisis. We would meet with some of these leaders, now on the other side of their mountains, yet rich with wisdom for those just beginning their climb. We would walk through communities, spending time eating and drinking with one another, and make new friends. But, most importantly we would rediscover who we were as leaders in that moment, and find ourselves on our own trajectory.

It usually was about a week long trip, with each day having a specific theme. While I’d done numerous trips to different places as the designer and facilitator, each journey felt different. Each time I learned something new about myself. It was also amazing to see participants themselves move through their own arc of learning. The first day there was usually a lot of resistance, particularly from more established leaders. They wanted to question everything, particularly the unorthodox process (little did they know that not only was this by design, but it was about to get immediately weirder!). By the third day, not only had we’d established a community among the fellow travelers, but we were starting to understand our roles as leaders in the communities around us.

But my favorite part of each trip was the final activity on the last day. That’s where we compiled our lessons learned thus far into a reflection that we shared with the group. By now we’d laughed, sang, and cried together numerous times so we were pretty tight. As you can imagine, this was an intimate moment, one not to be interrupted with unnecessary words, so I would play soft music while everyone did a gallery walk around a room reading the words folks had written.

Having done this trip several times, you would think that I might use the same reflection, but each one was new, fresh, inspired by the lessons learned in that particular season of my life. Even as a guide, I was engaged in the journey right alongside them.

As I approach my 38th birthday I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase, this I believe, and what the process of reflecting on my journey has yielded me over the years. With that in mind, I’d like to share a version of my own updated 2021 edition of this I believe. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to create your own! My hope is that as my own girls grow up, they too will be able to reflect on the moments that made them, and also remember what they made of those moments.

This I believe… (inspired by a series of quotes that have anchored my journey over the past year)

Know your worth. Then add tax. I love this quote . I purchased a poster of a strong black woman with this quote underneath last year and gave it to my wife (and my sisters). But it really also was a reminder for me of everything I’ve been trying to un-learn over the past year. My existence is evidence of my worth. I’ve got nothing to prove.

I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. —F. Scott Fitzgerald. Life is really more about the journey than the destination isn’t it? And one of the things that makes the journey worth taking, are the people you get to journey with. And oh by the way, if you find that you mess up, or fail, or need to change course, that’s totally ok too. What a gift! One of my favorite quotes by Shauna Niequist: What do you need to burn down in your life, to make space for a new way of living? What commitments, expectations, roles, structures seem immovable until you start to move them, and find that when you do, everything changes?

Each moment is full of goodness, why are we in such a hurry to rush on to the next one? John Mark Comer. More than anything, at this stage in my life I’m embracing the gift of being present and mindful in each moment. In one of my favorite scriptures, Jesus says (paraphrasing), what I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so pre-occupied with getting that you can respond to what God is giving. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now…

All life has an inner rhythm, that when we pay attention, tells us where we are, where we’re going. When we stop and return to rest, our natural rhythm reasserts itself. It’s one of the reasons why meditating and practicing a weekly Sabbath has become my ritual since 2020.

I believe that we were created, on purpose, with a purpose; we don’t simply exist by accident.  So much of life points to intelligent design.  We spend so much of our time trying to figure out how life works, we don’t often ask why it works the way it does. I believe that Jesus points us to a lot of why life works the way it works.  That’s what compels me and so many others to follow him.  But I also believe that there are an as many paths to greater spiritual awareness as there are people.

We see things not as they are, but as we are. I believe that we need a higher level of discourse, dialogue not debate. We’re missing each other because we’re not really seeing each other. Perhaps many of us never have been willing to really see others, their perspectives, their experiences. Samantha and I are working to raise 4 daughters who understand the limitations of their perspectives, while also embracing who they are in this world. That’s a tricky balance, but a necessary one if they’re going to become people capable of practicing empathy, demonstrating love, and becoming leaders.

Because ultimately, that’s what I believe this world needs more than anything: people who know who they are, and who are willing to journey alongside others as they discover themselves.

SDW3

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