Saturday, January 26, 2013

Leaders and Followers

"to lead them on the road"
Nehemiah 9:19

I dated the Apple of my Eye for five years before we got married.  We started dating in high school, so you can see that it wasn't really appropriate to get married too quickly.   So we waited until we were (nearly) done with college to begin our lives together.

And for all the time we dated, we were each living with our parents.  Now, we were blessed to go to a private school, so it was not like we were both attending the school closest to us.  So our homes were about 30 minutes apart.

Side note:  I've heard it said you can tell someone is from California when they measure distances not in miles, but in the time it takes to get from point A to point B.  I don't know if that's true, but I do know that I haven't the faintest idea how many miles it was between my parents' house and his parents' house... 

Anyhow, because we lived rather far from each other, he didn't generally pick me up for dates.  Sometimes if we were going to a movie or dinner near my house he would, but if we were meeting friends, or going miniature golfing or something, we would take our own cars, and either meet at our destination, or meet someplace in between, and then caravan to our destination.

Now, as I might have mentioned in the past, I'm not a great navigator.  I get lost easily.  I have no sense of direction.  Stuff like that.  So anytime I'm caravaning (yes, that's a real word) with someone, I'm the follower.

So I became very comfortable with the role of follower.  And, if I may say, I'm very good at it.  There's a talent to it.  You have to be focused, but flexible, as traffic and lights sometimes seem to work against you.   You have to follow closely enough to avoid being separated by interlopers or red lights, but not so close that you increase the likelihood of an accident if there's a sudden stop.

And you have to be ready for something unexpected.  If your understanding is that you're going to be on the freeway for 12 miles, but the leader takes an off-ramp after only four, you have to follow.  Maybe engine trouble?  Maybe he needs to double-check his directions?  Maybe a sudden need for the bathroom? 

Point is:  you gotta follow.  If you're the follower, you can't see the person get off, and think, "well, they'll figure it out," and just continue past them.  Followers gotta follow.

And while I was learning how to be a good follower, the Apple of my Eye learned how to be a wonderful leader.  Also not easy.  The leader has to drive ~ eyes forward ~ while still keeping a watch on the follower, to make sure the follower hasn't had to exit the freeway because of engine trouble or a sudden need for the bathroom.   The leader also has to look ahead enough to anticipate tricky lane changes or possible red light separations.  And if a red light separation does occur, the leader needs to pull over, watch for the follower to reappear, then pull back out in front of them, flawlessly resuming the leader/follower relationship. 

It's not an easy role.  Neither one is.  But both have to be done for the partnership to work.  We joked about it when we were visiting family over Christmas, because there was caravaning that needed to be done, and not everyone was good at it.  Some leaders have a tendency to sail on ahead; some followers have a tendency to drift.  Worst of all, some followers have a desire to lead.  That can't work.  More than one leader is just competition.

Not that that's not fun, too.  But only in controlled circumstances.

The hard part is, I think, knowing what's called for in different circumstances.  Some of us are leaders by nature, and some of us are followers.  And it's a comfortable blessing when that's the role we are called to.  But He's also going to call us out of our comfort zone.  For born leaders, that's going to mean humility.  For born followers, that's going to mean courage.   We simply can't always default to the role we prefer.

But no matter which one you're doing, if it's what you've been called by God to do, it's going to take faith.  It's going to mean following Him.  No matter what.

~ "all of you be submissive to one another,
and be clothed with humility, 
for 'God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.' " ~
1 Peter 5:5

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