For months, I wrote like one possessed. At the rate at which I was going, the manuscript would be ready for the publishers within six months. Three months into the project with seventy five percent of the writing done, disaster struck. My mind suddenly went blank. For several days I could barely manage a paragraph, down from a daily output of about two thousand words. Thinking that all I needed to get the juices flowing again was to get away from the project for a week or so, I took a break. When I returned to my computer after a few weeks, I began to panic when after several hours at it all I had written was a line or two.
During a visit with our family, an out of town friend only made it worse.
“You know that book needs to be published” he said.
“It needs to be finished first” I thought to myself.
Several months later I sat at my desk and typed out the first thing that came to my spirit: Leadership. The challenge of leadership. The call to leadership.
That was not the next chapter of the book I was supposed to finish. I followed the thought:
….almost every call to leadership constitutes a detour from the life-path we plan and project for ourselves. It is an interjection, an almost rude disruption of a well-scripted narrative. We hear God’s call to leadership as we hear a heckler; we respond to Him as we would to a heckler. We just want Him to shut up and let us go on.
This book is the result of the detour I took following that thought. Many self-serving books have been written about leadership. The stories contained in those books often center on the protagonists’ genius, their ability to plan and to execute the plan and arrive at the desired outcome. However, a study of God’s great leaders reveals that few of them ever planned for the greatness they achieved. Very few became successful as a result of a well-scripted, step-by-step plan for their lives. Instead, they allowed themselves to be interrupted.
They heard God’s call, which almost always seems to come from left field. They responded to a call that took them away from the course they had charted for themselves. Most were not always willing to detour, learning willingness and obedience as they went along. Greatness came when they stayed the course of the detour, setting aside their own plans to follow God’s.
The Scriptures tell us of Noah who turned away from everything to build an ark according to the instructions of God and to preserve a remnant for Him. His greatness came not out of the execution of a great personal plan, but because he allowed himself to be diverted by God (Genesis 6-7).
Joseph became a great leader in Egypt because he stayed the course of a detour that began with the unpleasantness of being sold by his jealous brothers to Midianite traders (Genesis 37:28-36). Upon arrival in Egypt, the Midianites sold him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers. While serving in Potiphar’s household, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual harassment by his master’s wife, ending up in the prison from which he was elevated to the throne through a miraculous set of circumstances (Genesis 41).
As good as Joseph looked sitting on the throne of Egypt, none of it was accomplished by the effecting of a great personal plan. He owed it all to the detour, to the interruption.
We are set on the path to destiny when our lives run head on into the rushing river of God’s purpose. That encounter is often quite unpleasant. Human nature demands that we build a bridge over the river so we can continue walking on the sure ground of our own plans, but the call of God directs us to step in and be swept away.
Abraham stepped into it and allowed it to carry him to terrae incognitae in obedience to God’s call. It cut into Moses’ contentment in Midian. After fleeing from Egypt, he had found refuge in Midian and comfort in the arms of Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro the priest. He had arrived in Midian a stranger and ended up the son-in-law and steward of the riches of the most important man in the land! The Bible tells us “Moses was content to dwell with the man.” (Exodus 2:21).
Mary encountered it at a most inconvenient time. The journey of her life had brought the reward of marriage within her reach. She was betrothed to Joseph, a God- fearing young man of royal stock (Luke 1:27), when God asked her to accept the working of the Spirit in her womb(Luke 1:26-37/Matthew 1:18-21).
For Gideon the encounter came at the threshing floor in Ophrah while he was doing the responsible thing – making sure that his family was provided for during a time of siege.
“Go in this thy might,” the Lord told him in Judges 6:14, “and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?”
What might? God was talking to the wrong man. With what was he supposed to save Israel? In any case there were more urgent things for him to attend to than going on some presumptuous faith venture. He had to finish threshing and hide the wheat from the marauding Midianites.
The Midianites are coming. Thresh! Thresh!
Choosing the faith road is never easy. Our way often seems more responsible than God’s. In the end we settle on being good and responsible Christians who pray for God’s enabling to be more proficient wheat threshers and experts at hiding the wheat from the Midianites instead of allowing ourselves to be empowered to destroy the armies of the enemy.
God interrupts our lives to bring us into the stream of His power and to line us up with His purpose. Proverbs 19:21 tells us that the plans in a man’s heart are many, but ultimately it’s the Lord’s purpose that will prevail. He interrupts our lives to invite us to what He is committed to, and when we accept the invitation and walk in His will, He prospers our way.
Some will miss the blessing of seeing the fulfillment of His purpose as a result of dismissing the worth of the detour because of the rudeness of the invitation. Paul became one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time after being struck by a lightning bolt from heaven that left him blind for three days (Acts 9:1-9). It is easy to think that he deserved a rude invitation because he was a murderer who needed to encounter the reality of a jealous and powerful God.
Our generation is no less set in their ways than Paul was. Where he had a passion for persecuting those who had converted to the new way, we have as much passion for self-serving lifestyles, and as much need to encounter the reality of a jealous and powerful God as he did.
Our generation’s roots are sunk too deep in the culture of the fall to hear a gentle call, or respond to a gentle nudging. We have drunk from the cup of the harlot, and are in a slumber too deep to wake from a whisper. Because of the lateness of the hour and the intensity of the battle, it would be right for him to forcefully redirect our lives for our sakes and for the sake of the cause.
Yet sometimes He will use a combination of force and gentleness, interrupting us with a forceful experience and calling us with a gentle voice, trusting that we will place enough value in the experience to respond.