It didn’t surprise me that you asked my advice during our final meeting. You’re teachable, which I pray you never lose. While I mulled your question, I looked into your eyes. Some call them windows, and if so then God has used a squeegee on yours. I saw nothing but clarity, nothing but expectation and even a bit of chutzpah. You looked beyond me in that moment, as though this meeting was important, but not so much as in the past. I couldn’t help smiling.
I have only a scrap of wisdom I’ll share with you, but it’s not new, novel or anything I haven’t harped on for years. “Step out of the routine, and take a personal retreat, kneel in prayer, and don’t get up until you know you’ve heard from Him.” Jack Taylor said, “no leader can rise to stay above the level of his, or her prayer life.”
Prayer begins and ends the conversation surrounding intimacy with God. It’s not an exchange of pleasantries, nor is it a child’s innocent pillow talk—furthest thing from it.
What then, but a love affair?
Prayer describes the union of our spirit with God, on a human level analogous to marriage, where two become one. It’s how we love God. In our pleading, questioning, demanding, fears, innocent outbursts, and endless waiting, we become melted wax, which in love He holds and forms into a mirror likeness. Prayer leads to that, not simply by talking with God, but through obeying what you hear Him tell you. The crucible of love is obedience. It brings a union of our spirits, literally creates oneness, which is our birthright. Andrew Murray said, “Joy is the sign that God is everything to you.” You will know if your spirits have become one, when through obedience, love pours in, and joy rests as the afterglow, the residue of Divine entanglement, which is prayer.
Along with prayer, a leader needs a prophet’s voice. In love preach an uncompromised gospel, and expect hate returned. Jesus said, “the world will hate you, because of Me.” That is the only direction hate should run, because he told us it would. Don’t be surprised when it happens. A great challenge exists, to get the true gospel into the hearts of this generation, while demonstrating loyal love. To some the aroma of Christ is damning and repulsive, and they will view you as a hater. However, we can’t afford to compromise for fear of this.
Do you remember speaking to those two young men at Marie Hernandez Park? They were sitting down on a bench when we approached, and began to wax eloquent about their philosophies of life. I think my response to their notions surprised everyone, you included. I shot straight: “That was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” The young man’s jaw slackened, you whipped your head in my direction. My eyes never left him, who now had a sheepish look on his face. What came next took us both by surprise. “Then what do you believe?” Love is not a soft accommodating friendship, but a humble courage to the truth, a wisdom to know when to share that truth, and a sacrifice that in the end shows it stripes through a long, long commitment, which is the true face of love.
Incidentally, there’s another who will hate you more than any other, and he fishes with bait tailored to your deepest hungers. After our coffee was gone, you told me you would in fact take my advice and get away with God. Yet, I knew that every facet of temptation unique to your bent would assail you after we parted. That before you got home a good reason not to get away could have formed in your thoughts, and begun to speak much louder than my words. That’s why I continue to pray, that out of the rich texture of intimacy with God, convictions form like tungsten steel, that will hem you in, and shape and direct you to walk in step with the Spirit. Irwin McManus 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.” Prayer brings clarity to the unknown. It will steer you around the hardest hits coming from an angry adversary. It will bring integrity to your post; for how can a leader point others in a direction God has not first pointed him?
Recently I came across this poem, which sums up my heart’s prayer for you and all those who follow your train.
“In the morning
When I began to wake
It happened again
That you, Beloved
Had stood over me all night
Keeping watch, that feeling
That as soon as I began
To stir you put your lips
On my forehead and lit a
Holy Lamp inside my heart.”
I pray you feel the kiss of God each morning you awake.