(Every month I approach a different theme in my weekly newsletter. The first week’s post gets shared here as a “sneak peek.” To receive the weekly emails and get access to the rest of the story, be sure to subscribe to “The Table.”)
Have you ever built a house? Or, to be fair, have you ever built anything? It is no easy task. I for one am not the handiest when it comes to anything home-improvement related.
When my husband and I first got married, I remember attempting to hang a heavy mirror while he was at work. I had no clue about studs, wall anchors, or anything else related to mounting heavy objects on walls. My first attempt failed (of course) and left me with a lovely hole in the wall when the mirror fell. Lucky for me the mirror didn’t break, so I tried again-which led me to failure (and hole) #2. I would go on to repeat this process twice more (I am nothing if not stubborn) before finally giving up and deciding instead to hang a large, and lightweight, picture in place of the mirror-deftly covering up the four chunks of missing drywall that were the casualty of my mirror-hanging debacle. This would be the first- but certainly not the last- time that my husband would hear me say “You see, what had happened was…”
The problem is that I have a tendency to jump into projects, excited about the outcome but grossly unprepared for the process.
When we bought our first house (an adorable 1962 split level) I was excited about the prospect of renovating and updating our new home. Yet I had no clue how much work that would actually entail. On more than one occasion my husband would come home to find a project that I had eagerly started…and then quickly abandoned. Like the one time I decided to “get started” on the bathroom by tearing off the outdated wallpaper. Turns out you can’t just “tear off” wallpaper. I quickly tired of the task, and my husband ended up renovating a bathroom sooner than planned. Or the time I wanted to see what was under the living room carpet so I started (you guessed it) tearing it up, only to realize that removing carpet is HARD work. Yet another project left half-finished until husband got home and spent the rest of the weekend ripping out carpet. As it turns out, there was gorgeous original hardwood flooring underneath so it wasn’t a total loss…right? Needless to say I was eventually banned from any renovations and left instead to the role of decorator. Apparently I’m a much better pastor than I am carpenter. Oh well. I resigned myself to loving the pink bathroom tile and dishwasher-less kitchen, and vowed that “next time” we would purchase a home that was already renovated. “Fixer-Uppers” we are not.
The lesson I learned is that renovating is no easy task, let alone building from the ground up. It’s easy to love and admire the finished product-but what really matters is the process.
When we’re talking about building our leadership, many of the same ideas apply.
All too often we focus on re-decorating, when what’s really needed is a re-model. Just like you don’t begin building a house by picking out paint colors, you don’t begin building your leadership by focusing on practical leadership skills (as counter-intuitive as that may seem).
The real starting point must always be the foundation. As leaders, that equates to our identity. Everything we do comes from the inside out. Whether we’re talking about leading, parenting, creating, dreaming, or simply loving our neighbor-it all starts internally. All the leadership books in the world won’t grow a leader who has a cracked foundation.
After the foundation is set, we can move on to building the main structure. What will the design look like? Will it be an open floor plan, or a more traditional layout? After our foundation, it’s important to lean into our individual makeup. Each one of us has been designed with a unique personality and set of talents and skills. How are we developing and supporting these God-given aspects of who we are?
Finally, we get to what I consider to be the most fun-decorating! This is when its important to read the books, listen to the podcasts, attend the conferences, get the coach, and invest in practical skill development however you feel led.
But it all starts with the foundation. It requires putting in the slow, steady, difficult, and sometimes painful work of healing our identity and growing to maturity.
This month, we’re going to spend time talking about what it looks like to build your calling. What dreams do you have? What leadership do you aspire to? What purpose has God set before you? And will you be willing to begin not with the “decorating,” but with the hidden, un-glamorous work of laying a solid foundation and working through the building process steadily and obediently from there?
I look forward to journeying and building with you!
(Subscribe to The Table here to receive the weekly email newsletter that comes out each Saturday and follow along with the rest of the “Let’s Build Something” series.)