By Your Wounds

 
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Leadership wears many different faces. It can look like the hero, charging forward with a vision and calling people to follow. It can look like the intellectual, being on a stage saying something profound that will change the way people think. It can even sometimes look like a jerk, bossing everyone around to get a job done. It looks like so many things: fixing a problem, getting a project started, organizing an event, building a team, or encouraging someone. These are all forms of leadership.

But I’ve come to see that no matter what face or form leadership takes, there’s one thing it’s always doing. At its heart, its essential core, leadership is bearing pain.

A dream, if left alone, will slowly deteriorate and fade away into nothing. But to bring what is unseen, what has yet to be, into reality, there needs to be a vessel that will bear the pain of its birth, just like a mother carries her child until it is born. For any goal to be accomplished, for any change to occur, for any progress to be made, for any fruit to be produced, someone must bear the pain. This is a spiritual principle, true for any vision, idea, or dream that God has given.

And this principle is truest of all for people. Each person has treasure hidden within them—it is their true self, their God-given identity, their destiny—and it has yet to be realized. It takes someone willing to be with them, to hold them safely so they can incubate, to recognize them as a masterpiece in process and steward them faithfully. Only then can that treasure begin to truly emerge. It isn’t an easy process—it can be uncomfortable, draining, and frustrating. And at times, it will hurt. But this is what it means to be called to lead and care for people: to bear this pain. That is true ministry.

I once spoke at a small youth retreat where on the first night, all the students came to kneel at the altar, pouring out their hearts to love God in complete surrender. I felt pleased with myself; I had done a good job. But then I saw, in the back of the room, a middle-aged lady on her knees, weeping more deeply than anyone at the altar. She was the youth coordinator, the one who had invited me to speak. She wasn’t a pastor, wasn’t particularly gifted or talented, and wasn’t exactly “cool”, despite her best efforts. She was just the lady who the students saw as an over-eager church mom. But she had been with these youth kids for over ten years. She stuck with them through heart-wrenching church splits, keeping them together even when everything else seemed to fall apart. Even when people complained, kids stopped showing up, and other leaders said it was hopeless, she stayed. And when I saw her crying in the back, I saw tears of joy. In that moment, God spoke to me, revealing that what I saw in front of me—all these kids experiencing a powerful outpouring from God—was not my victory. I couldn’t take any credit, because I didn’t suffer for it. I just dropped in and spoke. But her, this woman in the back, as overlooked and unimportant as always, was the vessel—she bore the pain.

Pain is being scared. Pain is feeling powerless. Pain is making a decision in uncertainty. Pain is listening, even when they’re yelling. Pain is being unfairly accused. Pain is taking the blame. Pain is being unappreciated. Pain is being disrespected. Pain is being ignored. Pain is looking stupid. Pain is feeling forgotten. Pain is still showing up. Pain is still trying. Pain is still serving. Pain is still caring. Pain is still believing in the dream.

When Jesus walked the earth, the Kingdom was just a dream. The cross was its vessel, and he carried it with tears. And in His death, the Spirit comes to us, and the broken are restored. We become all we were meant to be: we orphans become sons and daughters of the Kingdom. By His wounds we are healed. It’s the dream, now reality. But this Kingdom would have remained just a dream until someone was willing to shed tears for it, to bear the burden of its birth, to suffer.

And this is the way Jesus showed us. This is how we bring healing to others and good into this world—this is leadership. It hurts, but there is no way more beautiful, more powerful, more divine, or more wretchedly human than the way of the cross.

Andrew Min is the Next Steps Coordinator at Newsong Church in Santa Ana, CA. He studied Biblical Studies at Biola University.

 
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