“The secret of navigating well is to invite Jesus on board. The rudder of life must be surrendered to him, so that he can steer the route.”
– Pope Francis
A few years ago, I experienced a period of prolonged, intense stress. In the span of less than six months, we had moved homes, welcomed our fourth child, and I had assumed this role as CEO at Catholic Leadership Institute. At that time in my life, I could work all day, even until the early morning hours, and then get up and do it all over again – day after day after day – and most of the time, I would enjoy it. The more things I juggled, the more impressed people were with me (or so I believed), and therefore, I allowed myself to juggle more things. It was an addiction, and every time I added one more ball to the air, I got a tiny “hit” of feeling valued, feeling important, and feeling like I was proving myself to anyone who said in the past that I didn’t have what it took to be whoever I was trying to be. However, as the balls continued to multiply, and as one or two would occasionally drop, I started to get angry, frustrated, and resentful. It was as if I would ask for another ball to juggle, only to then snap at the person who threw it to me.
I had begun working with a new executive coach during that time (because well, that’s just what I should do!), and I will never forget a pivotal moment in our conversations. It was in December, and after running hard for months, I got the flu at the absolute worst time. Even though I could barely get out of bed, I was insistent on keeping appointments, and even planned to get on a plane two days later (this was pre-Covid). I dialed in for my scheduled coaching call and as soon as I spoke, my coach noticed how terrible I sounded and asked why I didn’t just reschedule the call. I told him I was too busy, and that rescheduling would throw off a bunch of different things. My coach continued to ask me some exploratory questions. Despite his patience, I got frustrated and said, “I’m not waving the white flag. It’s too important of a time to let things drop.” I heard him take a deep breath. “Dan, listen to yourself. I would guess there are probably already a few things on the floor. Just wave the white flag.”
This week, I was transported back to that moment as I listened to a colleague share a similar sense of stress and the same desire not to give up. I couldn’t help but wonder what’s behind our unwillingness to surrender? How does the drive, ambition, and passion that can serve me as a leader harm me as a disciple? Are the things I say “yes” to out of a desire to prove something or to be faithful? With all my efforts, am I trying to please God “in the flesh” as St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we heard this week at Mass, or am I leaning on the “Spirit of God which dwells in me?” (ROM 8) What is preventing me from surrendering my doubts, hurts, and fears to the Lord and waving the white flag to have Him rescue me? Can I be strong enough to let others know where I am weak and let the Lord support me through them?
As we move closer to Holy Week, let’s reflect on our ultimate model of strength – a man who chose to hang on a cross and to commend His Spirit to the One who claims every victory. Prayers that you ask for rescue this week.
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