Tag Archives: Development

Quick Review: The Coaching Habit

As I continue to read various things on coaching, I read Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.  The book is a fairly concise toolkit for coaching conversations along with helpful insights as to why coaching is the most effective way to come alongside others.

At the heart of the book are 7 questions that can provide a basic questions roadmap to a lot o coaching conversations. Here they are…

Stanier’s Seven Essential Coaching Questions:

  1. “What’s on your mind?” (The Kickstart Question)
  2. “And what else? (The AWE Question)
  3. “What’s the real challenge here for you?” (The Focus Question)
  4. “What do you want?” (The Foundation Question)
  5. “How can I help?” (The Lazy Question)
  6. “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” (The Strategic Question)
  7. “What was most useful to you about this conversation?” (The Learning Question)

The key for all of these questions is the coach exercising self-control and not offering advice to short-circuit the learning by discovery Stanier calls it taming the advice monster.

There was a helpful chapter here talking about the dynamics of “helping” that was helpful. He demonstrates through his “Drama Triangle” how there are 3 typical roles people find themselves in – victim, perpetrator, and rescuer. All of these work against adulthood and flourishing. Questions like the above questions help pull people out of any of those 3 roles they might be in and push them towards responsibility.

This was definitely worth the money as there’s great nuggets throughout and it’s overly heady or verbose. It’s practical wisdom and insight that can really help someone become a better coach, leader, or supervisor. I recommend it if you haven’t done read much on coaching.

 

Quick Review: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

It’s one of my commitments every year, while I’m in the small kid stage of parenting to read a parenting book. I have tended to satisfy this goal of mine through general books that “somehow relate” to parenting, but I have felt the need now that our kids are a little older to actually read some parenting books that are more specific and targeted towards parents with our kids’ ages in mind.

So before 2016 came to a close, I got in a parenting book by reading Kristen Welch’s Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.  Genre-wise, this is a mom blogger book. The author is a blogger and she quotes a lot of bloggers. But it’s well done and is rich in illustrations that resonate well if you have kids in the same age brackets. Where we are at in parenting fit the insights of the book to a tee.

Each chapter covers some significant area for parenting in today’s world. And by today’s world – the context is primarily western and more or less affluent. Living in Manila, our kids are spared from some of the materialism and excess discussed in the book.  But in other ways, being westerners living in a developing nation we have more resources and can live comfortably compared to many others. Entitlement can grow even in the developing world.

Topics include discipline, setting limits, social media best practices for parenting, financial systems to promote stewardship and selflessness, and how to cultivate servant’s hearts among others.  Each chapter includes some suggestions and best practices for developing children organized by different age groups – there were a lot of helpful ideas in them.

Our kids are just starting to learn to use the internet, but we’ve been holding them off from social media. But it was just helpful to get a primer on social media issues and dangers and possible parameters to help us empower and protect our kids.  This was one of the more helpful chapters for me to listen to.

But in general – the message is consistent and clear and helpful, that for kids to abandon entitlement, parents must abandon it first. And I couldn’t agree with that more.  We just don’t often assess our own hearts first and realize how we often are the source of some of the problems we are frustrated by. This value of the book is how it can help parents check their own hearts first and then think through how best come alongside children in a way that is helping them learn to live in reality and with a grateful and others focused, serving posture.

It gave me some new conviction to engage some things I have been getting softer on without realizing it. I’m refreshed and motivated to be as intentional as needed to guard against entitlement and to help our kids grow and develop into people who can love and serve in the true reality of this world – and not in an escapist or fantasy world that they are expecting to rescue them from challenge or struggle.

It’s a pretty fun read with a lot of humor in it, but the substance is solid.

 

Self-Leadership: The Adventure of Spoon Collecting

If your self-leadership development efforts were illustrated through spoons on a wall, what would it look like? Would you have many spoons…or two…or maybe just one?

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My mom has always had a collection of spoons – those little souvenir spoons that you can find while you are traveling. She has spoons from most countries in Europe and other places she has visited in her lifetime and they have been on the wall of her living room since I can remember.

That’s what I think our self-leadership development should look like–having a lot of spoons on the wall. Those spoons to me symbolize various takeaways, wisdom, insights, and experiences from a variety of different places and people and times in our life. Looking at the collection, I can’t help but appreciate the diversity of the spoons as well as the personal stories behind them.

It’s so easy to fall into the mindset that your development should be provided to you from whoever is leading you or through your immediate context. Should your leaders be seeking to provide development for you and those they lead?    Absolutely.

Should you expect them to provide all, or even the majority, of your development or what you need to increase your leadership capacity and grow?    Absolutely not!

Waiting for someone who is supervising you to provide all of what would help you as a leader is foolish, passive, and can be at times even childlike. You’re putting your own development completely at the mercy of one other person’s strengths, limitations, motivation, and capacity to develop you. And you know what – they aren’t you! Chances are you need, and even want, different types of development than your leader because you are a different person and a different leader. Even the greatest leader can only give you so much.

So let’s own our development and continue our journeys towards learning, growing, changing, and increasing our capacity to serve and lead others. Here’s what I recommend:

Go get some spoons!

1. VISIT!

Go visit the people and places that have the spoons you want or you feel like you really need right now as a leader. My mom wouldn’t have all those spoons if she never went anywhere. Waiting for your leader to do all the work for your development is like waiting for a spoon to show up at your front door. That’s anti-adventure, anti-adult, and anti-leaderlike.

2. COLLECT!

What’s the point in going somewhere or visiting someone for the sake of development and learning if you don’t actually take something away that can help you be a better person or leader or even help you execute your responsibilities better. So find spoons that help you refine your strengths and growth areas. Find spoons that help challenge your thinking and paradigms. Find spoons that will speak into your life, inspire you, help you dream big, gain new skills. Find spoons that help you in your personal and emotional life as well as in your personal and leadership relationships. There’s a lot of spoons out there that can help you grow into the person and leader you want to be. Don’t wait for people to drop them off at your door. GO GET ‘EM!

3. POLISH!

One of my chores growing up was polishing my mom’s spoons. It was fun to dip a spoon into a cleaning solution so half of the spoon was dirty and the other half was perfectly clean. When polishing a spoon, it would became so shiny that it was like I was seeing it the first time.

The task of polishing all the spoons also served the purpose of reminding me of all the places and types of spoons that my mom had collected. When they were hanging on the wall they were easily forgotten, but taking them down to polish them would evoke memories and a renewed appreciation for what they looked like along with the backstory behind it. You can go and get a lot of “spoons” over time, but if you forget those insights and takeaways
they won’t transform your leadership much over time. Find ways to remind yourself of those great insights and transformational experiences that you already have on your wall!

One of the best developmental “spoons” I’ve picked up over the years is that when it comes to your development as a leader, you have to own your leadership development LIKE a leader. That means it’s no one else’s job to make sure you have a good spoon collection. It’s your job, your calling, your journey. And spoon collecting should become a passion! I’ve picked up spoons from my leaders over the years, from seminary, from reading books, from friends, from my teams, from countries I’ve been in, from media, from church, from social media, from conferences, from blogs, and a host of other places and experiences too.

There’s a lot of spoons out there to be collected!

So figure out where you want more spoons, where you really need more spoons, and maybe check out what kind of spoons others around you have for ideas about what kind of spoons can best help you. It’s also good to remember that we don’t collect spoons like we collect data or information. We collect the spoons of leadership development for our own transformation and so we can serve others and ultimately help them learn how to start spoon collections on their own.

But whatever you do, don’t settle for a wall with one or two spoons on it. You just end up looking like you’ve not really visited that many places. The people we lead and influence deserve more than one or two spoon’s worth of leadership!

Where are you going to get your spoons? What advice do you have?

How are you managing to remember and consistently apply insights
and takeaways you’ve gained in the past? Any suggestions?

 

Originally Posted March 24, 2011

Why and How I Celebrated the 4th: Reflections on an Imperfect Union

The fourth of July is fun.  Since becoming a parent it’s become a fun holiday because there’s parades and fireworks and it’s fun family time. This year I found it interesting to consistently be seeing things from two extreme perspectives.

One, being those that equate America as being a Christian nation and argue that everything would be great if we just went back to our roots, spiritual and traditional.  The other extreme is the increasing percentage of folks, who in reaction to the Christian Americanism fanaticism end up choosing to meditate and dwell on all the ways this nation has failed to live up to his professed standards for all people and the ways in which we have an integrity problem.

I’m not here to tell people what they should do.  Do I throw up in my mouth a little when I see “The American Patriot’s Bible” or “God’s Promises for the American Patriot” on sale at the Christian bookstore?  YES.  But I don’t go so far as to say that this country’s legacy is only that of hypocrisy, oppression, and marginalization.  Though there’s been plenty of those things to go around along with untold pain and suffering through the generations.  I just felt like expressing why I celebrated and why I feel good about how and why I celebrated. In every story there is a beginning.

Origin stories or myths are important.  Within them, significant values are embedded that shape what is to come.  The history of a nation is no different.  The origins of our country were unique, fascinating, and incredible and that generation’s investment, blood, and labor set the stage for a new world power of sorts.   I LOVE American Revolutionary War history.  When I’ve been in places like Independence Hall in Philadelphia or at various monuments in D.C. or other places that are landmarks or places of great historical significance, things slow down for me in a weird way and I start to connect with the larger story and it feels quite spiritual to me.

As a history major I’ve always found meaningful connections with places where great and significant events have taken place. But I’ve also studied the ethics of war and just wars and one could also find plenty of arguments to make as to the self-serving and elitist motivations for rebelling against Britain.  It’s not black or white as we consider the morality.  It gets even more gray when we consider the dynamics with the Native American populations and the slavery issues.  In short – it wasn’t a completely pure and holy endeavor.

But one thing I believe to be true is that despite the imperfections and moral limitations of some of these men involved, as they were bound to the some of the norms of their time, they did something that I have great respect for.

They served.

In retrospect, it’s clear that they didn’t serve everyone nor did they serve all in equal fashion.  Our country paid the price for that and continues to until this day in many ways.  Yet they created a new reality for a new time and new generation.  They used the means and wisdom at their disposal to create a better world (for most at that time), one that allowed for personal freedoms. Over time, origins which are seldom perfect, become opportunities for myth making by majority cultures that want to anchor society in the memories and values that have shaped its story (though often to the neglect of the stories of the marginalized).  The fourth of July for me is not about wholeheartedly immersing myself in myth, especially that one that argues that we were founded as a Christian nation.  But I most definitely will celebrate the historic events that led to the founding of this country that has been blessed in its range of freedoms and liberties and prosperity.

Reading the accounts of all that went into the forming of this nation is nothing less than inspiring.  It’s incredible.  And I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in many of the proceedings. I believe God was at work in ways I may not understand. But the fourth of July should also be a time of grieving – a time of entering into the ways in which our celebrated values and hopes and dreams have gone and are going unfulfilled for millions of people.  It’s at the heart of hypocrisy to celebrate our country as being great and full of virtue, yet refuse to consider the ways in which that’s just not fully true. The founders of our country sought out to “make a more perfect union.” I think the fourth of July is a great opportunity to celebrate the ways in which they did just that.  Because in many ways they very much did that along with many who followed in their footsteps.  But today we should not celebrate “a perfect union” as if we are stuck in a refrain of “We’re #1! We’re #1!” as if we’re at a team sporting event at the Olympics.  We should celebrate and consider the example which that generation provided us about what is required  to create “a more perfect union.”

Our awesomeness as a country is not something that was set in stone or written in the sky once and for all.  It was connected to the spirit that existed to invest in a new reality that witnessed greater freedom and opportunities for all (well – most anyway).  We should follow this example and be attentive to, act on, and pray for those things which need an infusion of those very values that we say makes our country great.  In short, we should rededicate ourselves to what does contribute to a more perfect union in recognition that there is great need of love, mercy, and justice.

The fourth of July should be an integrative experience of sorts – celebrating the good, grieving the shortcomings, and reconnecting to a new vision of hope in which God can use faithful men to create a new and alternative reality for so many that are not free in so many different ways.  It kind of mirrors many of our own stories too.  We all have different origin stories, but we’ve had moments of triumph and moments of failure.  We call them fools who only celebrate their own goodness because we see the whole picture.  Yet to fall into despair at our failures is to lose hope with the promise with which our stories begin. I feel like this country in some ways on fourth of July.

This year I found myself wishing for my country for that same thing that I pray for myself and others.  I rest in God’s goodness and provision for me with great thankfulness for what He’s done, yet I am sobered by my own failings and ways I don’t measure up to what I claim and intend to be.  Yet what energizes the soul more than a vision of a new reality in which new possibilities and real hope is cultivated and fostered?  This is what I wish more would connect with on July 4th both for themselves and for their country – that God specializes in new realities that honor Him and that lift people up out of slavery and darkness.  Yet those realities aren’t usually brought about when we are looking to the past to reclaim our identity or hope with a sense of entitlement or superiority.

This may or may not resonate with you – but the fourth of July for me has become a time to consider how we can continue to re-write our story as a country moving forward, and maybe how we can be a part of re-writing many stories that need an alternative plot and ending.  That our country has a legacy of heroism and valor in attempts to make a more perfect union is something to be celebrated, but not to be worshiped.

Worship is what happens when we take seriously the opportunities we have to steward what we’ve been given for a both a still more perfect union and for the sake of a love and concern for our fellow mankind. So I celebrated my country as a Christian – and I’m glad I did.  And you know what?  I’m excited to do it again next year 🙂    In the meantime, there are stories being written and I have opportunities to be a part of them. *Originally Posted July 4th, 2011

Family Hug!

SAMSUNG

Had a fun moment last week.  As our family was leaving my parent’s place and our kids were saying good-bye to their cousins (close in age to our youngest – in the 2 year old range), they were starting to give each other hugs.  That is cute in and of itself – watching 2 year olds hug each other.  But then my little one (2 yrs 3 months) was clearly feeling the moment and yelled “Family Hug!” and initiated a big family hug with all family members who were in sight.

It was amazing to me that at her age, our little one already has a paradigm, a construct of what “Family” is.  It’s been nurtured for sure by her context – the environment she has lived in and who her world consists of.  Even though recently turning two, she associates family with closeness, togetherness, hugs, and touch.  It’s part of how she understands the world, it’s even part of how she sees herself. She sees herself as part of something – even at a young two.

We’re thankful that she has had such an experience where she has such a view of what Family is.  But it’s sobering too that as Kaelyn is internalizing certain truths about what Family is or should be, many her age are forming very different constructs about family that do not include closeness, connection, or healthy loving touch – like hugs.

Family is part of our identity. It informs so much about how we see the world and ourselves.  We are forever marked by our origins. Yet if those origins are painful or dark, we need not be enslaved by them.  I’m thankful that in God’s grace he aims to provide children tangible expressions of his love and grace through the family.  I’m also thankful that through his Spirit and through His people, His body that our incomplete or broken constructs of love and family can be redeemed and built up.

As I watch my little girl, one thing is crystal clear – she was created for family, just as we all are.  God wants all His human creations to know and experience family. It’s the language of the New Testament. He’s constantly inviting people to a promise of family where all of our limited and earthly notions of what family is or is not can be transformed and re-ordered so that holy love is the foundation of how we come to see and relate to one another.

Gatherings of the body ought to be in many ways, “Family Hugs.” That’s very touchy feely language I’m not typically associated with, but gatherings of the body ought to be expressions and celebrations of our common identity as the family of God as well as our uniquenesses as individuals within that family.

So maybe “Family Hugs” need to become part of your tradition!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carvers Do Not Faces Make

When reading the poem “The Cross” by 17th century British poet John Donne, I was struck especially by the following lines….

“As perchance, carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take”   (lines 33-34)

As I think about leadership development (and discipleship if you will) this reflects vital truths about the spirituality of leadership and developing other leaders.

As leaders, we can often think ourselves as “carvers” or sculptors. And as such, we can think we are the ones who are shaping “faces.”  This is a presumptuous assumption indeed!

Any theology of leadership must include a theology of personhood.  Donne highlights the truth that God has made the “face” of each person.  We are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image and as a reflection of His creative love.  True faces are not created by external artists.  They are discovered.

As I think about our true faces though, it’s quite an appropriate metaphor to liken ourselves to blocks of rock from which a masterpiece is uncovered.  For though our face is waiting to be discovered, we sure have a lot of stuff in the way from expressing that beauty to the world.  Pain, cultural baggage, theological baggage, family baggage and societal issues all start building up pretty dense obstacles to the unveiling of the masterpiece.

As I think of servant leadership and developing leaders, we must start our thinking first and foremost with this conviction that “carvers do not faces make.”  Today a more industrial approach to leadership development has been widely adopted – the perspective that you can mass produce leaders to execute your objectives on a larger scale through getting alignment to different programs or philosophies or strategies of leading or task management.

We often “train” with the result being that our trainees take on the face of our organization or our own face (sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not!).

There are always the basic skills or critical capacities people need to steward their responsibilities and place in a community.  There are things that need to be learned, skills that need to be added.  But in your context, are people’s faces —their true faces emerging and becoming more evident through the built up rock and debris that threaten to shield them off from becoming known?

I think this is an essential part of what it means to be a servant leader in the role of trainer or developer or team leader or culture shaper.  We are indeed carvers. We are sculptors with various degrees of skill.  But we are not creating or shaping faces.   We are exercising our influence, power, and skill in consistently removing those barriers that keep those faces hidden.

While we also seek to pass on skills, if we confuse what is our greatest impact upon those we develop then we will have to live with the sad reality that we are leaving masterpieces embedded in rock…or worse – we are adding to the debris.

A key part of ethical and empowering leadership is taking away “that which hid them there.”  To do that, we must be able to have eyes to look beyond just what people can do for us to see the greater story.

The hammer and chisel of a sculptor are akin to the power and influence of a leader.  We can allow beauty to emerge or we can do damage to that beauty. And maybe worse, as beauty emerges we can take credit for it.  But the carver remembers in his or her humility that while there is a part to play in removing debris, the face they did not make.

How are you working to create the space for true faces to emerge with greater clarity around you?

Stats Lie Pt 5: Stats, Shine, & Speed

This entry is part 5 of 14 in the series Stats Lie

We’re all attracted to shiny objects.  Some things just draw attention because they stand out and are a bit more flashy than others.  This phenomenon shows up in measurements too – some metrics have a real flash to them and carry an initial wow factor to them and in fact, the “shinyness” of some metrics or numbers can lead us to give something much more weight than we should when assessing overall effectiveness.

When you are evaluating talent or leadership potential, does one particular skill set get you more excited than other things?

About a year ago ESPN the Magazine ran an entire issue to “Speed” in Athletics.  One of the articles within that issue started off with the following quote:

“Speed always impresses, but few can outrun mediocrity.”
(Peter Keating, Feb 21, 2011)

The gist of the article was the way in which the recent use of statistical analysis (i.e. what was illustrated in moneyball) was illuminating the ways in which speed by itself was a very misleading quality or talent in assessing overall effectiveness and contribution to the team. One example was the surprising effectiveness of Chris Snyder, Pirates catcher and slowest man in the big leagues. Another example was the surprising overall lack of effectiveness of Vince Coleman, one of the baseball speedsters of my generation.

Coleman and Snyder provide a good contrast.  Coleman makes me think of a lot of the way organizations and ministries see leadership development and do leadership selection.  We sometimes can see one skill set that is producing immediate results and we can start to convince ourselves that they are the next go to people for the job.

In my world, those that can speak or teach up front are the ones that are seen as shiny objects. There’s plenty of people out there that have been promoted based on a surface level impressiveness.  As a result, we have a lot of leadership and ministry “Vince Coleman’s.” Not infrequently, once those people get in their new jobs that one skill set often isn’t enough and the other areas of deficiency sooner or later catch up to them if they’ve been leaning on one or two main talents to get by.  It’s a time honored problem in a lot of places where leaders get hired for a bigger job based on the success they had in another job that required a totally different skill set.  Success at one level doesn’t always translate to success on another.

Snyder reminds me of those leaders who don’t look flashy and don’t immediately impress, but the whole package is solid and results in long term impact.  While initial impressions might dismiss him as an impact player, a deeper and more reflective assessment reveals the true story.

Keating finished his piece observing, “Speed is cool. But sports don’t just reward inherent abilities; they reward the intelligent application of those abilities on the field of play.”

So context matters as does the maximization of skills and gifts within those contexts.

In leadership selection and development – let’s focus on overall impact and not just the flashy skill set and first impressions.

There’s something in this discussion that hearkens back to King David’s anointing as King when he was still a youngest child tending flock.  Samuel was drawn to the “shiny” thinking the more impressive looking men were the ones that God must want.  The Lord reminds him that while men look at the external, the Lord looks at the heart.  There was nothing “shiny” about David at that time, but there was a bigger story that made him the right person for what God was about to do.

What skill sets do you think are most deceiving?  How do you assess impact players at larger levels in the ways that lead to long-term fruit and effectiveness?

*This was initially posted on October 12, 2011, but it deserves a home in this “Stats Lie” series.

Why Self-forgetfulness is a Poor Paradigm of Sanctification

I read an article recently that framed sanctification in the paradigm of self-forgetfulness.  See post here for the full article:   http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/12/05/the-gift-of-self-forgetfulness/

It’s been coming more and more apparent that Christians and maybe people in general have no idea what to do with the concept of the self.  Concepts of the self our shaped by so many different cultural and philosophical sources, yet we so often want to simplify the self into one box.

Is the self the embodiment of carnality, selfishness, and pride?   Those who treat sanctification and maturing as a losing of self as the life of Christ takes over would seem to take this position. Here’s a couple snapshots from the post above:

“I’ve said this before but let me say it again: there is nothing in the gospel or about the gospel that encourages me to focus on me. Nothing! It’s never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ “the author and finisher of our faith” and center our eyes on ourselves. Never!”

“Any version of “the gospel”, therefore, that encourages you to think about yourself is detrimental to your faith-whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience.”

“Sanctification is forgetting about yourself.”

Those are strong statements.  And if the self is only that which needs to “go away” or be eradicated or destroyed, all of this would probably be right on.

Only – we need to be careful when we talk about self because it’s not just a theological term equated with depravity and corruption of sin.  Self involves identity and the image of God – those things that shape who we are and how we relate to those around us.

Self does not always equate to selfishness, self includes things that can’t and should not be forgotten.To forget yourself in this way actually brings up some associations and elements of eastern religions (such as Buddhism among others) where true spirituality is found through a detachment from self or the world or other things. Sanctification and maturity for the Christ follower is more holistic than the self-forgetfulness paradigm would reinforce.

Now where I agree with the author is that a person’s eyes are to be always on Jesus.  And we are not to be self-absorbed and narcissistic in where our focus is. Many would be far better off if they heeded some of this advice to take their eyes off the self and kept them on Jesus.

But it is a logical fallacy that keeping your eyes on Jesus means the forgetting of self.  To equate spiritual maturity with the degree to which self is forgotten is really unfortunate and I think it’s destructive and towards the dehumanizing side of things.

We live life out of our sense of self, it’s an existential reality.  We can’t do anything outside of that reality that we have a self and it has different dimensions to it that shape our identity.   We need not forget ourselves just to keep our eyes on Jesus.  It is when we see our selves as our master that we run aground and fail to remember that we can only serve one Master.

Encouraging people that true spirituality is a rejection in ways of who they are where they just lose themselves in Jesus is profoundly unbiblical in my mind and actually unspiritual too.  It’s an attractive thought to many and it sounds so spiritual and amazing – except for that it’s not.  There’s a lot of movements in the history of the church that haven’t done so well with the rejection of a lot of the parts that make us human. Equating this perspective of self-forgetfulness with the “true gospel” when it’s framed the way it is I don’t think is super helpful to those seeking to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind.

There’s a piece here to where such a philosophy (and it does have philosophical and not just “biblical” underpinnings) is also often ethno-centric.  Majority culture folks don’t often think about identity – because they don’t often have too.  For evangelicals identity is mostly viewed through almost an exclusively positional lens:  who you are in Christ and who you are outside of Christ (which is of great importance). Part of this is because evangelicals haven’t always had to reflect significantly on identity with its majority culture roots so self is simplified into one or two boxes.

That’s one dimension and many are on a journey to find themselves and understand who they are.  And I would agree with the author and others that we can only discover who we really are in Christ, but I would add also that it can only happen as we enter into who God has made us and how we have been shaped and what it means to keep Jesus the center out of who we are. It doesn’t help people enter into their God-given identity to establish as spiritual the absolute forgetfulness of their identity.

That – and I’m pretty sure Jesus worshiped out of his human identity, not in spite of it.

It is a beautiful thing that when we are in worship and we enter that space where we are freed from self-obsession and self-worship and narcissism to be in Christ and experience Him as the source and Master of our lives.   But those moments are meaningful only in the context of our self, our sense of identity that He has been sovereignly at work shaping and revealing to us.

We fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2) out of our self, our identity, not because we are in increasing measure forgetting ourselves.

So don’t self-obsess, but don’t self-forget.  Your worship will flow out of your sense of self, not out of it’s destruction or disappearance.

But I rejoice that we can fully agree that our eyes must be on Christ alone if we are to be anchored in His presence and will.  I have no doubt the worship and Lordship of Christ is a shared goal.  I’m just pretty sure Jesus wants to bring my self to the party and not leave it behind.

 What thoughts do you have?  How would you frame sanctification as it relates to “self”?

Maturity is Contextual

Have you felt like there were some situations or places where you really felt like you were growing?  Strong, healthy, empowered?

And then maybe you also find yourself in other situations or places, but you don’t feel like those descriptions are true.  Maybe there are places or situations where you find yourself weak, anxious, powerless, angry, or maybe even just young and immature.

I believe Maturity is Contextual.

What does that mean?  Well it means there are some places you might actually function pretty maturely and there are others in which we find ourselves giving expression to various dysfunctions and immature behavior that maybe we had forgotten existed or that we’re not aware of yet.

I think a majority of folks have a paradigm of maturity that is linear – you grow or mature and it’s kind of like a static thing that you take with you wherever you go. You don’t regress…you keep climbing the mountain of adulthood.  It’s kind of linear in that it’s like a straight line on a graph. Maturity = growth and transformation over time.

I think there’s a kernel of truth there.  But we also in some ways are different people in different places.  Each context or situation is a different emotional system.  They are made up by the unique collection of people and players.  What’s important for this discussion is that each setting we might find ourselves in, the pressures upon us and the challenges to our identity and maturity vary greatly because dynamics change with different people.  So authority relationships, family, gender, ethnicity and race, and host of other factors shape our experience of our contexts.  And you know what – different situations often tap into different things. Sometimes we don’t have to grow up in some places because people don’t make us.   However we can’t get away with those same things in a different context because the expectations are different.

This is part of why even grown men and women can feel and act like children or adolescents when they return to their parent’s home.  Or maybe it’s why even very mature and experienced leaders can’t speak up in the face of perceived authority.  Whatever it is – we don’t act the same across the board.  Therefore we develop differently in differently places, because those places call us to grow up in different ways (except for those places which work to not let us grow up at all in the first place).

I worked with short-term international mission teams for about five years so I got to work with students and staff of my organization before, during, and after significant and often intense cross-cultural experiences in various places around the world.  It wasn’t uncommon during a debrief or conflict mediation session to hear someone express in frustration, “That wasn’t me.  I don’t know what happened.  That wasn’t really me.”

Now we all know that feeling and understand what’s being communicated there.  But I always tried to ask the question, “Well, who was it then?”

Sometimes we regress, a situation or team or relationship or dynamic draws out the worst in us.  There’s often flat out sin involved too as a result of immature reactivity.  Usually there’s also an exposure of areas that are immature – that haven’t grown up yet.  And it’s hard to integrate those immature moments, those childlike moments with those experiences in which we feel like we’re on top of our game and where we feel good about ourselves and what we want people to see and experience from us.

Maturity is contextual in that it is through unique contexts and situations in which we are formed and shaped and challenged and exposed.  Yet maturity is not purely contextual as we seek to integrate our sense of self, allowing us to become someone who is consistent, who embodies integrity and wholeness, and who can embrace the challenge to grow up as a result of whatever challenge that comes. I’m speaking here more on a developmental level rather than on the theological/sanctification level.

Who we are is not “somewhere in between” our best environments and our worst.  Who we are is both.  Our underlying character gaps and our immaturity or vulnerable to sin areas are exposed more in certain settings – and they should drive us towards grace and humility and learning.

But we should be mindful that in our best environments – we might have a false sense of confidence about just how far we’ve come.  I’m not talking about pride per se.  I’m talking about a monstrous blind spot that comes from failing to recognize that we function really well in some contexts and situations because our weaknesses are not tested in those moments or places as they are others.  This is why people in power can go a long way and maybe never really recognize how many glaring holes in their character are really there.

So as you think about your own growth and development – recognize that it’s fluid, it’s environmentally influenced, and it’s a sign of maturity to do the work of integrating your self as different contexts experience you differently. That’s where you really experience grace and exhibit authentic humility as a person and leader.

And remember this warning – you might not be mature in the setting in which you function most.  You might simply be lucky – lucky that you’re set up in a situation in which your true character just isn’t tested or challenged or exposed.  We have seasons like that.  But those seasons come to an end sooner or later and we’ll have a test of our character and convictions. Our maturity then may be exposed both by the situation…and then how we respond after we find ourselves in the light in new ways.