I wish my mom were here so I could ask questions that I never thought about while she was alive. I do remember a few of the stories she told me about the depression, but today I wish I had listened better.
My mother was born in Ft. Worth. She was the oldest of 5 children. (My Aunt Nancy died as an infant.) The story that I remember the most is the story about what happened when my grandparents made the difficult decision that if they were going to survive the depression, grandmother and the kids would have to go live with family, while granddad stayed in Ft. Worth to try to find a job. Granddad put everyone in the car and drove as far west as he could, which wasn’t very far. He stopped, let his wife and children out of the car. Then he watched as his family headed toward Big Spring on foot. Their hope was to find someone who would pick them up and drive them the rest of the way. Ft. Worth to Big Spring is about a 3 ½ hour drive today. How long would it take to walk? How does a mother manage 4 little kids, and their pillow case luggage during that long of a walk?
When mom told me this story, the thing she remembered the most was that she had no idea the family was suffering. Grandmother made hitchhiking an adventure, a game. The family had lost everything except what they could carry, and my grandmother made hitchhiking a positive experience. I wished mom and I had talked more about this, but what I do believe, is that my grandmother was a strong woman of faith, who knew the power of Christ-shaped leadership.
Inspired by 2nd Corinthians 4:8-16 we see a bit about what Christ-shaped leadership looks like:
- Verses 8 & 9 – “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” Christ-shaped leadership is seen when you acknowledge that the journey is difficult, but it does not have the ability to destroy your heart, your ability to be creative, you ability to dream new dreams.
- Verse 14 – “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence.” Christ-shaped leadership trusts that God is present and is able to work in and through you, finding the positive in the negative, seeing the good, even as you carry your belongings on a long journey from what is known to something very different.
- Verse 16 – “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” It’s easy to become angry, easily offended, or even violent when trials last longer than you want. Christ-shaped leadership grows in grace and love even when things are difficult.
This pandemic has gone on far too long. I get that. We all would like to resume life as normal again. Yet the questions before us are these; how has this time shaped you to be more Christ-like than you were before? Are you better able to handle disagreements with love rather than a sense of “I’m right”? Are your actions guided by more by grace rather than hidden agendas? Are you able to face a long, difficult walk and make it a joy for those who walk with you?
As we prepare for church conference season 2020, I ask you to reflect on what you have learned through this very different year. Have you become more Christ-like in your thinking, in your words, or in what you do? How have others experienced that reality? Have you discovered something about God’s sustaining presence? How has that sustained you?
I wish I knew more about how my grandmother turned a difficult journey into fond memories for my mom. What I do know is that God is with you, and with all of us. What I do know is that we may be afflicted in every way, but we are not destroyed. With all of the things that are beyond our control right now, how you go through this time rests firmly in your hands. It’s your choice.
God is with you, each and every day.