My Son, Myself and Fire

When I was about three or four years old, my mom and dad were smokers. One day I picked up a book of matches. I played with them on the coffee table by batting around, flipping it here and there. Finally, I got around to opening it. And I fingered the little red matches long enough and one came out. I finally figured out how to light the match, and was mesmerized by the flame burning brightly… until it hit my fingers and I screamed! Bad experience. However, it didn’t deter my love of the flame. I’ve always liked fire. I’ve always played with fire.

Fast-forward ___ years….

My one year old son really, really likes fire too. When I start the wood stove in the morning (a near daily affair), he loves to come and watch. He’s learning to stay back, but we do have a fence up to remind him not to get too close. He likes to test us. He wants to make sure we really mean no. He thinks his way is best. Did I already say, he’s one…?

But I realized his nature: fire intrigues him. I realized that watching the fire was in his very core of who he is. He just wants to touch it. He loves to watch when I start the fire. He loves to lay in front of it when he gets his diaper changed – and will lay still while I change him, if he can just watch the fire. I love to watch fire too. It feels good. It’s relaxing. It’s mesmerizing.

So? Should I let him?

A few nights ago, we decided to open the doors of the fireplace/wood stove and roast hot dogs (should’ve done marshmallows, but didn’t think of it until now). As 4 of my kids crowded around the fireplace with the metal sticks and hotdogs a-roasting, my son crowded in behind them. He wanted to get close too. But he couldn’t. He was like Zacheus – He was too short to see over the crowd. But he JUST HAD TO SEE IT AND GET CLOSE AND TOUCH IT. I mean, it’s in his very nature. He is attracted to fire. (He’s not attracted to cold – go figure….) Then he saw a way around the girls and went for it. He ran beside them and was going to get in close. Fortunately the 12 year old saw him and stopped him. He screamed, he cried, he really wanted in to touch that brightly colored fire.

I know what he was saying. I don’t speak in tongues, but I still knew – I could see it in his eyes and read his facial expressions. “You don’t love me, or you’d let me!” “You must not care for me, you are telling me no!” “It’s who I am! I want that!” I could see it. I could hear it. Believe me, I could hear it!

Should I let him, because he wants to? Because it’s in his nature? Because he was born that way?

Of course not! The most loving thing any parent can do at that point is to say no. Love doesn’t mean agreement. Love doesn’t mean acceptance of everything, but it does mean acceptance of everyONE. I did the most loving thing I could do – I provided a safe place for my son because I told him no and put the fence back up after the hotdogs…. And one day, when he realizes what could have happened to him, he’ll thank me. I’m sure of it.

It ought to be the same at church. I would hope that when I’m headed down a faulty way, someone (ANYONE!) would tell me to stop. I’m not talking about people outside the church. I’m talking about people inside the church. We help and support each other. Church should be a safe place. And a safe place isn’t where I’ll get burned. A safe place is where I choose to follow the “law of liberty” the Bible talks about. Any help along that path, I’m grateful for.

3 Things Everyone Wants to Know from a Leader

There are three things every person wants to know from a leader. If you can’t answer them, no one will follow you. If you can answer them all satisfactorily, they will follow you almost anywhere.

I once had a boss who related this to me about a fellow pastor. One of Bob’s (not his real name) people had told my boss, “I love Bob a lot. I love the way he does church. I love his vision. I love where he wants to go. I would follow him anywhere. But this vision is his, and I don’t want to do it.” Hmmm…. This is a classic case of someone not answering these three questions:

  1. The first thing is: Can we trust you? If you cannot be trusted, don’t even bother trying to answer the next two questions. If people don’t trust you, they will not follow you anywhere, anytime, anyhow. But if you can satisfactorily answer this question, they will easily move on to the next question.
  2. The second question is: Do you know where you are going? Once you have answered the trust question, then people want to know if you have a pretty good idea of where you want to go. If you are going to take them, they want to know where that is. Do you, as a leader, have a clear picture of where you want to go. If you do, if you can paint that picture for your people, then they will move on to the next question. If you can’t, they will never even ask it.
  3. That third question is: Can you get us there?  Ah! This is where the rubber meets the road. The first one asks about your character. The second one asks about direction. Getting to this last question says, we like you and your character. We want to go where you want to go. But this last question says, “Are you the person?” If you cannot show them that you have the capabilities to do it, then you have failed your followers.

My friend the fellow pastor in the story above had answered the first two questions, but he couldn’t get over the hurdle of the third. His people didn’t feel he had the capacity or capabilities to get the job done.

Answering these three questions should motivate you and stir you to find those answers soon, if you don’t already have them figured out. If God has gifted and called you to leadership, then you must continually come back to these questions and continue to answer them on a regular basis.

Otherwise, as John Maxwell says about leaders without followers: “You are just out for a walk.”