The Myth of Ascent

The year was 1974, my brother JoJo and I had set out on a two day motorcycle camping trip, determined to follow the old railway line through northern New Jersey and up to the Delaware Water Gap. The abandoned line cut across farmland, under mountains, and was in a way our rite into adolescence. The anticipation and crazy antics of that trip are a surreal memory that defined an era. One moment stands above the rest….

“Look at the mound of dirt over there, it’s perfect for doing wheelies.”

Off to our right, JoJo had spotted, by his standards, a perfect jump off point to get some air under his wheels. “Come on, let’s take it…” I came to a stop, a little leery of the shape of this ramp he was heading for. As he worked his way through the gears, increasing velocity to get the most air, I thought my eyes betrayed me. Instead of going up the ramp, he seemed to go through it. What he thought was a wheelie ramp turned out to be a pile of fresh manure! He hit it doing about 35, and kept moving into the center, until finally the bike conked out. I crept over and killed my engine, not sure what to do, and watched as his disbelieving eyes took it all in. Green molten manure oozed out around his belly. He pleaded to me for help.

This story brings to mind a principle I’ve learned about leadership. When we think leader, we think position, a kind of ramp of promotion, when more often it’s the place God wants us; an ingenious development for growing our hearts.

If you or someone you know is in the manure pile, keep the following in mind.

Perspective: God creates the pile, and gives us a sense of adventure. If you’re a leader worth your salt, then sooner or later these two will collide. Leaders scan the horizon, they see what others don’t, and they head for the toughest looking obstacle. Caleb remembered the hill country, and asked God to give it him. We don’t know how tough it was to take, or how long it took, but my guess is he was in the pile until God made him into the man He had in mind.

Priority: When you’re in a pile, don’t fight to get out. Perhaps you’re asking hard questions about your abilities, or future, or fairness in watching others advance while hip high in muck. Don’t run away, follow the questions formulating in your mind, and don’t back away for fear of what you find. These are the pivotal time frames that will create a path for God to lead your steps. Erwin McManus has said, ‘spiritual leadership is not the ability to define everything the future holds. It is the willingness to move forward when all you know is God.’

Position: When we look in the Bible we see a story of reduction rather than promotion, descent above ascent, a crucifixion not a corporation. Paul said, “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.” The strongest leaders rise out of identity, not qualification.

Pardon: When you’re in the manure pile, it affords time to look within, and what you find can shock and dismay you. It’s all stinky in the flesh tissue. Sink into the cross, and believe redemption exchanged your sin for His righteousness; let it rub the sharp edges away of your command gifts. The best leaders are approachable, and sacrificial because they know they are no higher than the feet of God nailed to a cross.

Pleading: Finally, remember prayer can make the difference between fleshly attempts and spiritual surrender. God loves to watch his children open their hands, raise their arms, and wait for Him to rescue, and reassure and realign our hearts.

Once he got it out of the manure, JoJo’s bike miraculously started on the first kick. He looked at me furiously, and sped off, but in his eyes I detected something I’ve never forgotten. He knew, I knew that he needed to get out of that mess himself.

Leaders, when you see your fellow men-in-arms struggling to get out of the pile, fight the urge to come to the rescue!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Benton Hall III says:

    All set to rise up below the ranks


    Benton Hall Cru Dallas 214 334 3884

    “A Charge to Keep” W.H.D. Koerner

  2. Michelle Beckman says:

    I’ve missed these! This one was so powerful. I’m passing it on.

    Sincerely, Michelle Beckman 321-297-2221

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. daylerogers says:

    Amazing word picture. And love those P’s! It’s God’s patience and presence that moves us to be able to lead. Thanks, Kev.

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