The Greatest Leadership Challenge: Waiting
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days
When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god z who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!”
21 Then Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them into such a grave sin?” 22 “Don’t be enraged, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil. Exodus 32:1, 21-22 HCSB
What is truly great grows outside the limelight; and stillness at the right time is more fruitful than constant busyness, which degenerates all too easily into mindless busywork. All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of time is being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mystery of time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same in the area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do; where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoid facing the true mystery of inner growth toward God. And yet, in the area of religion, what we receive is at least as important as what we do. (1)
Every leader, whether secular or religious has felt the pressure that Aaron felt in the passage above in red. Taken from the Old Testament, this is one of the first times that he has had to act on his own as high priest. Prior to this, he served as Moses spokesman, he said and did what he was told to say and do in the Old Testament Liturgy.
But now, in the absence of Moses, the people urged him to act, they urged him to make a decision, for that is what they thought a leader should do. They couldn’t wait! It is restlessness that Benedict XVI calls “Americanized”, the idea of resting and being still cannot be profitable, it cannot provide what we need. In our mixed up world, waiting and resting has no benefit, no importance, no sense of progress.
Instead of helping his people wait on God, Aaron submitted to their desires (and then lied about it!) As do too many of us. We run around, keeping busy, unable to find those moments where we simply wait on God, where we breathe deeply and find in that stillness that He is here!
I find this is even true among myself and my peers in the Lutheran Church, who replace doing with learning or at least acquiring knowledge and passing it on, whether we are able to wisely apply it or not. We move from one guru of the past to another, from one theologian to another, constantly seeking and yet, I wonder if we can ever be satisfied with what we know.
We see this even in a church service, where a long silent pause is even painful. When we struggle to take a moment to give to God the sins He longs to remove from our hearts and souls, when we struggle to be silent as we commune, unable to wait the time it takes to let our mind run out of the things it would use to distract us, unable to wait for the moment where peace and serenity and the rest that comes from being in His presence happens.
We need to learn to face the true mystery of our inner growth toward God, a growth that isn’t measured in pages read or written, a growth that isn’t measured with watches and calendars, a growth that is simply found, like Martha’s sister, sitting with Jesus, and being in awe of Him and His love for us. Or like Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, who sat and pondered in her heart the message of God.
Aaron would not be removed from the priesthood, for God was patient with him. The people would sin more often, and they would wander the wilderness for a generation. God would forgive them, as He promised, as He will forgive us of our sins, including our lack of patience, our lack of trust, or lack of conversion. Then again, that conversion is His work, for as Benedict reminds us, what we receive is at least ( I would say significantly more) than what we do.
Rest in God’s presence, dwell in His love and peace… for this is God’s will for you – and for everyone you know. May God help to desire this and to see it happen. Amen!
(1) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Posted on December 8, 2017, in Devotions, Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, Theology in Practice and tagged Leadership, Pastoral Care, patience, practicing the presence of God, silence, waiting. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.