Floods that Wash Our Soul

When I was practicing criminal defense law, my job and responsibility was to ensure justice. As a zealous advocate, I worked to ensure that the government operated within the boundaries of freedom in the case of my client. Case by case, the protection of freedom for one ensures freedom for all.

In some cases, I would ask the court for mercy. The facts and due process led to a likely if not certain guilty finding and the only thing left as an advocate were arguments for measures of mercy. What I saw then and see more clearly now is that justice and mercy can operate simultaneously.

Mercy does not come at the sacrifice of justice nor does justice come at the expense of mercy. They are compatible vengeance doesn’t trump restraint and compassion isn’t given precedence over order. The balance of each ensures the other and the result can have consequences without the sacrifice of empathy.

Truthfully, while I would zealously attempt to represent my client within legal boundaries, I also realized that some clients were better off in jail. It would be in their best interests to have to deal with consequences with hopes that those consequences would propel them towards a greater destiny than their current trajectory. It was, at times, merciful for a criminal defendant to be found guilty and sentenced to jail.

Check out this passage in Nahum 1:6-7: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.”

The Lord is good but He will bring discipline. He loves people and will destroy things that are within them which stand against His goodness and prevent trust in Him. It is merciful for Him to provide consequences where we are not given completely over to His goodness. The net result of the interaction is that we can get to the end of ourselves and rest in a new-found faith in Him.

I had clients that needed to face consequences, but they are not unique. We all have areas of self-reliance that deserve the merciful response of restored order even when that appears to come at our expense. In those times where our flesh and soul are pressed, His Spirit is given territory within us that previously was reserved for us.

I’ve Found an Enemy I Can Kill

One of my favorite television shows ever is “The West Wing.” In one episode of that series, Admiral Fitzwallace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is arguing with Leo McGarry, the President’s Chief of Staff. The argument is over a foreign leader that has planned a terrorist attack against the United States and what they are going to do about it. Fitzwallace tells Leo, “I’ve been a soldier for thirty-eight years, and I’ve found an enemy I can kill.”

Well, I’ve found an enemy that I can kill and I need to kill it. The enemy that I’ve identified is my love for the distraction I find in electronics. It has become an enemy to my soul.

Increasingly, I’ve preferred the satisfaction I’ve perceived in the busyness of typing, swiping, scrolling and posting. It’s cost me my solitude and that has cost me relationship.

Practically, it costs that depth of relationship the comes in the nuance. The opportunities that are available waiting for someone else to arrive. Even discomfort in those times is valuable as the tension requires effort.

Spiritually, it costs the depth of intimacy available with an invisible God waiting on me to draw near. Jesus simply won’t post, text, email or provide any competition to those that do. The choice is mine.

The times that I’ve set aside to meet with Him have all too often been compromised by my inattention and distraction. Lately, I’ve been intentional about changing that. I’ve been intentional about killing my enemy, which is within me.

I’ve started to leave my phone in my office or car when I am at meetings or lunches. I’ve started limiting the times that I’m interested in checking for and responding to emails, phone calls, texts, etc. Most importantly, I’ve started walking past my phone in the morning as I head into my office to spend time seeking the Lord. The return on the investment has been sweet. The life that I am finding in the wake of what I am killing is tangible.

There is discipline in this and there has been temptation. I’ve literally had to pray, “Lord, I want to go type something or check something right now; will You help me?” He has and He will because He is faithful. I’m saying it out loud because I’ve found a treasure that I want to share and also because I know that I am tempted to go back to the distraction. Declaring that helps to defeat that.

 

The Cost of Abandon

In my mid-30s, I was working in corporate America and becoming increasingly dissatisfied.  Some of the dissatisfaction was from corporate politics and compromise; some was simply revelation of the way I’m “hardwired.”  In the midst of my dissatisfaction, I read Half Time: Moving from Success to Significance, by Bob Buford.  That book, along with some other things that happened about that time, changed everything for me.

It changed the lens through which I viewed opportunity and purpose and was the mechanism that most singlehandedly gave permission to my “want to.”  Most significantly, it gave me permission to explore endeavors that were more about making a difference than about personal achievement.  It was an invitation into life’s adventure.  I accepted.

The desire to achieve great and glorious things is part of our royal DNA.  It draws us beyond our natural limitations to be part of something larger than life.  It’s the call of Jesus into the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  It’s agreeing with Him in the advancement of His purposes and plans in our lives and the lives of others.

As partakers of the benefits of grace, we’re invited into this epic journey.  It costs everything and is much more difficult than paths of the status quo.  The shaping of credentials for involvement in the Kingdom comes at the expense of our soul, which we crucify to allow His Spirit to live in places previously reserved for us.  Transformation comes from the inside out as we increasingly learn to let go of everything we otherwise squeeze for comfort and security.  He has to be our only Source.

Jesus transforms you and includes you.  You go places and do things you never dreamed of when you jump off the cliff of the predictable and into the unknown of a journey with Holy Spirit.  I haven’t arrived and I don’t have it all figured out. At the same time, I’ve seen enough and know from experience that He is faithful.

Catching a glimpse of the vision for our destiny tempts us to believe the distance between where we are and where we’re going somehow has been eliminated.  Thoroughbred racehorses may see the finish line as they round the final curve, but it’s up to the jockey to pace the horse until he knows it can run uninhibited for the final distance.  The revelation of our God-breathed gifts and abilities tempts us to forget there’s a process necessary to position us to handle the manifestation of those gifts and abilities.  Just because you see it, doesn’t mean you’re ready for it.

Changes are necessary to realize the “what’s next” in life.  Dissatisfaction with compromise comes at the cost of abandon.  Put another way, the only way you take hold of the future is to let go of the present.  That idea as a concept is easy; the practical realities of leaving the familiar are challenging.  It hurts to let go, and setting out on a quest into uncharted territory is scary.

– From Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace

Movement Affords Traction and Traction Facilitates Momentum

When I was in my mid-30’s, I was stuck in a corporate position that didn’t seem to matter at all. My salary and bonuses kept going up as I managed my career, but satisfaction with how I was spending 40+ hours per week kept going down. I increasingly focused on time out of the office in whatever form I could arrange it.

I began to shift my focus, bought and business and started a ride that has been wild, as well as satisfying. There is nothing easy about the choices my wife and I have made since 2005 regarding businesses, ministry, jobs, etc., but we have been living. We seek God and His direction, come into agreement with Him as a couple and offer our “yes” before we have it all figured out. We try to live on and for purpose. We believe in purpose over position and significance over success.

What I have seen lately is instances where others, particularly young people, are attempting to live in a similar manner but get stuck waiting for the next thing that offers purpose. In other words, they are driven by purpose and passion at the expense of the practical. They are frustrated and stuck, not to mention broke. It’s concerned me as I’ve counseled with them and often I’ll offer the following:

  • You can’t enjoy any momentum in the pursuit of your purpose/destiny without traction. Something in motion tends to stay in motion. Satisfaction of purpose comes with the ever-increasing unveiling, not a singular realization of accomplishment.
  • Traction only comes with action. Over the past 12 years as we’ve given our lives over to Greater purpose, we’ve had to make choices that were not our ultimate target, but provided traction (and money) for advancing. Action provides opportunities.

When I was training as a 2d Lieutenant, we would be encouraged, “You’d better do something, Lieutenant; do anything, but you have to do something!” We couldn’t develop a situation that wasn’t in motion, and waiting typically only produced defensive and/or negative scenarios.

Living a life grounded in purpose is good and right, but not at the cost of practical in most cases. One step leads to the next and provides along the way. Said another way; you have to work to eat. Those that ground their convictions in Biblical truth can’t forget that we are called to work; it is part of the blessing. Our hands have to stay on the plow even if it isn’t the field we will ultimately own.

Take the Fight to the Bullies

One of my first felony clients had been bullied in school and he finally retaliated. His reaction got him charged by the school resource officer and his parents filed counter-charges against the instigator prior to my involvement. The net result was that I was going to court against a prosecutor and a 30 year criminal defense attorney retained to represent the bully.

Remember, this was one of my first cases of this magnitude and I was still learning. Then, we came out swinging. I believe the prosecutor and seasoned attorney were shocked at the defense that we put on that day. Things went well for us.

The key to any success in that case and in most cases isn’t too magical. I was simply better prepared. The prosecutor had hundreds of cases, the older attorney of greater experience had more difficult cases. For me, this was one of a few and it was the biggest one I had. I had poured into the preparation of a defense. I was more ready than they were.

You can’t wait until you get to the trial to get ready. Preparedness comes morning by morning (Isaiah 50:4). Once the bullets start flying, it’s too late to fumble around in the confusion and try to get your armor on. Get suited up in the quiet before the storm and you never know when the storm is coming; but it always is.

First and foremost, day by day, seek the Truth. Within the Truth is the reality of your identity. When you work from the security of who you are, you stare down giants. Not out of arrogance that is puffed up to hide the insecurity of doubt, but in the confidence that God’s favor is given to His kids.

From the Truth and the security of who you are by His design, you will be unleashed into the passions of your life. You will increasingly be released to run like the thoroughbred you are intended to be.

I was anxious as I headed into court; not out of fear, but anticipation. I believed in what I was doing that day and knew that I was called to do it. I was walking in the purpose of my identity and two other lawyers were doing a job. They were better trial attorneys than me based on experience and maybe even ability. But the favor that comes through agreement with God’s plans and purposes overtakes and overcomes the hurdles that otherwise might prevail.

The Slow Drift of Entitlement

We will absolutely lie to ourselves, but not on purpose. We don’t set out to get off course; it’s a slow drift and the slow drift is certain unless there are navigational safeguards in place to stay the course.

We will practically always operate in ways that are in our best interests. Therefore, with no intentional safeguards, those interests will become our compass over time. Nothing wrong with that other than it is, by definition, selfish. Selfishness breeds entitlement. This is particularly problematic if/when we lead others.

Legitimate leadership is sacrificial. That is, unless you are leading for the benefit of those that are choosing to submit, then you are a positional leader, at best. Positional leaders have no lasting legacy as they inspire no depth of dedication. Others will follow only for as long as it is in their best interests (e.g. a paycheck, an opportunity), but they will not multiply the vision of the leader. They will not perpetuate the purpose of the cause.

Entitled leaders are making choices in their own best interests even when they are believing it’s in the best interests of the organization. They increasing isolate themselves from meaningful counsel and collaboration that might challenge the underlying selfishness of their motives and it’s all very gradual and typically subconscious.

Entitlement can be defeated and selfless, sacrificial leadership can be fostered but only on purpose. If the leader will intentionally choose to battle the drift, others will give their time and treasures to the efforts of the leader driven by the purity of the call.

Two techniques to defeat entitlement are continuous improvement and collaboration. They may not be the only two, but these two are powerful in defeating the drift.

  • Continuous Improvement – I have a friend who has a doctorate in leadership. He describes himself, even on this side of his PhD as  “a student of leadership.” His point is that anyone who is not continuously learning leadership is no longer legitimately leading. Learning is admission of incompletion; and that’s good. There is no finish line to the art of leadership and the humility that comes with that realization positions the soul to serve others and be open to collaboration.
  • Collaboration – Even gifted leaders have the gifts of a single leader. In other words, we are all contained by our uniqueness; there are others that are unique in different ways. The collaboration of gifts multiples the value and impact of the gifts within us. When we are willing to submit ourselves, even from a position of authority, the power of our influence is exponentially multiplied.

Be intentional as you lead your business, your community organization, your family, your small group or whatever other opportunities you have to impact and multiply. Always be improving; thus posturing your ego in such a way that collaboration invites the multiplying effect of collaboration.