Leadership is a funny thing. It’s a title, a job, a characteristic, an educational course, an ability, a reason to be admired, a reason to make good choices, a reason to be held at a higher accountability, vulnerability…it is so many things.
Being a leader, or having to be in leadership, is something I’ve never really wanted to take on willingly. The idea that others look to you to make decisions, or for a model to live their life after, is not the most appealing idea to me. I’m not a great role model, I’ve hardly ever made the right decision in the history of my life, and the only reason I even know what to do now is because I didn’t do it right the first time and I’m working through a do-over as a result of FAIL. But for some reason I have willingly taken on a role of leadership at my church in the youth group. I still can’t even figure out why, because I was a horrible teenager. I couldn’t stand up for myself when I was one, and even as an adult I’m too sissy to stand up for myself (most of the time). I don’t like to rock the boat. I don’t like to call people out and ask them to think about their actions or their decisions and encourage them to think things through. So why? Why do I put myself in a position that requires responsibility, commitment, accountability, and growth?
You see, a few years ago I was living this double edged life. I was living with my boyfriend, drinking a lot, and then going to church on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what I wanted, if that makes any sense. I thought that if I kept living the way that felt good to me, but still proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ, I was doing alright. I can remember telling people that I was the epitomy of a hypocrite, because I knew the real and true God, but that I didn’t want Him to have control of my life, I just wasn’t ready yet. I thought that if I spoke it out loud, God would hear my spoken lies clearer than He heard the truth floating around in my head. What a fool. Nothing horrible ever happened to me. I never had a bad experience, I was never arrested, no one ever lost their life, and I never payed any consequences for my decisions. Not the kind of consequences they advertise on commercials anyway. It took me essentially losing myself to realize the cost of my decisions.
When things finally came to an end, and I finally realized that the fantasty world I was living in had turned out to be my worst nightmare (in the most cliche way possible), I hardly recognized myself. I had become a hollow shell of a human being trying so hard to convince everyone around me that I was happy and living the life I wanted. What a lie. And now, after everything has happened and turned around, I realized that I truly was the only one being deceived by myself. See, that’s the thing with the people that love you and care about you; when your head is so far up where the sun don’t shine…you can count on them to tell you what is on the outside. When you are sitting in the dark alone, cold, and behind a locked door, they barge in with a flashlight, and if even for just a moment, you are no longer alone. Those moments, when the people around me invaded the space I desperately fought to keep, were the moments that kept my head above water. That is what kept me from drowning.
So why do I choose leadership? It’s not because I want a title. It’s certainly not because I want the extra commitment or accountability. It is simply because not everyone has the family that I have, not everyone has a safe haven, not everyone has a reality to come back to when they are tired of the fantasy-turned-nightmare. What I want is to be a flashlight holder. I want to kick those doors in and be there for someone. I want to be warm open arms. I want to be those non-judgemental ears, with that compassion that surpasses every bad mistake. I want to offer someone reality, and the hope that all is not lost. And I don’t want it be blind words, blind advice, blind compassion. I want my bad decisions to count for something, to benefit someone, to be worth it. I want to be instrumental in saving someone’s life, for their benefit. Helping lead youth at my church is MY way of thanking every single individual that took the time and energy to hold my hand and to believe that my true character was inside of me somewhere.
I know that I’m finally okay enough to be in this position of leadership. The reason I know? Because right now I feel empowered by my words, and not weak. There are no tears accompanying these words, only the feeling of hope and the realization that leaders are not born…leaders are people that have learned and grown and are confident enough to share that knowledge for the benefit of others.