The Spiritual Art of Delegation

idsBy Joe LaGuardia

In Exodus 18, shortly after God liberated Israel from Egypt and led them into the desert of Sinai, we find leader Moses contending with all of the conflicts and concerns that these new pilgrims faced.

There were disputes over limited resources, complaints about living conditions, and doubt about whether God was going to pull through for the nation.  They knew God had a plan to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey; the question was when?  Frustration and anticipation raised great angst among the people.  Only Moses was able to intercede.

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, recognized the deep needs of the people and Moses’ own frustration.  As a patriarch over a tribe, Jethro was sensitive to the needs of leader and followers alike.

“What is this that you are doing for the people?” Jethro asked Moses, “Why do you sit and lead alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening” (v. 14)?

Jethro’s question hinted at Moses’ crisis of leadership: Moses’ issue did not relate to anointing or authority, it related to his inability to delegate.  And lack of delegation eventually causes burn-out.

“What you are doing is not good; you will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you,” Jethro lamented (v. 17-18).

Ours is a culture of independence and the self-made man, a culture in which we go it alone and not ask for help.  We too have a problem with delegation, and we face the same kind of burn-out that threatened Moses.

Our reasons for not delegating are many.  For one, we have trouble delegating because we over commit. We have trouble saying “No” and setting boundaries.  We fill our schedules with things we think we ought to do or should do.

Before we know it, we are exhausted by week’s end, and even church attendance suffers as a result.

Another reason is that we don’t trust others to do the work that needs to get done.  We have two sayings in society that communicate this issue: “It’s easier to do things myself,” and “If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.”

It may be true that, when you delegate, the task at hand may not get done to your standards or just as you would have it done.  In most cases, however, the task at hand will get accomplished one way or another.

Take laundry for instance.  I used to do all of the laundry for our household–I’ve been doing it since I got married.

Now that my children are older, my wife wanted them to fold their own laundry.  “It’s not going to get done right,” I argued; but my wife insisted.

Turns out that we were both right: My children do not fold the laundry perfectly, but it gave them a sense of responsibility and cut my laundry time in half.

I simply had to “let go,” and let my children do it their own way.

That brings up a third reason we can’t delegate: We like to have a sense of control.

Moses felt a great sense of burden and responsibility for Israel.  As God’s representative, he led them out of Egypt and communicated God’s promises to them.  If they all fail, it falls on him.

That’s a lot of pressure; and the more pressure assigned to someone, the more control is needed to maintain the status quo.

Jethro’s advice pointed out the obvious: The Israelites had to take responsibility for themselves and their accountability before God.  Moses did his job, now the Israelites had to do theirs as a holy nation before the Lord.

Delegation is a learned art for sure.  It doesn’t come either naturally or easily.  Yet, it is a spiritual discipline that, if learned, can increase our stamina and vitality.  It can encourage, rather than hinder, our very ability to lead and live according to God’s fullest potential for our lives.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…

Youth-soccer-indiana

With violence overwhelming Paris in the last few weeks, a half-dozen police officers and ever more innocent citizens shot dead across the nation, genocide in Nigeria, Cuban people held in political hostage by a perplexed, American Congress in gridlock, and a controversy over a Muslim call to prayer at Duke University that incited the Reverend Franklin Graham to opine that Duke’s inclusive policy is a form of affirming Islamic extremism, it seems that peace is hard to come by these days.

Not four weeks out from Christmas, a time when we ask for God to bring peace on earth, we see the worst of humanity plague politics, communities, and nations across the globe. I fear that our only hope for peace lies, not with those of us who are old enough to understand the hymns of peace that we sing, but with the next generation who have the power to craft a future not divided by race, culture, or religion.

This is what happened last month in Haifa, the northern-most coastal territory of Israel, when 200 children from different cultures and religions gathered to play a game of soccer.

It was December 15th, and the event was organized by the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould.  The event was intentional and brought together various soccer leagues from Jewish, Muslim, and Druz communities in honor of the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War 1.

The children knew full well the significance of the event, and they rallied enough support from parents, other professional soccer players, and politicians to make the event a historic day for Israel-Palestinian relations.

Melanie Lidman, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, documented the story and quoted Zouheir Bahloul, an Arab-Israeli soccer announcer as saying, “Here, we have an island of equality, and we need to develop projects like this…especially at this age.”

A few children were also interviewed.  One child, age 11, stated that he wanted to play in the tournament to meet new people and make new friends.

While we adults cower, react, respond, and act out in fear, our children have an uncanny way of building friendships across barriers and seeing the humanity in those who are different than they.  We need to learn from their example.

All of this took place near Mount Carmel, the mountain famous for the prophet Elijah’s showdown with the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18), a series of caves that acted as Elisha’s spiritual retreat center (2 Kings 2:25; 4:25); and a symbol of beauty for the author of Song of Solomon (7:5).

Not very far from that location, near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus challenged his disciples to follow in the footsteps of children: “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

Humility is something that we Christians are called to model, but we have to recognize that it is not a virtue we can force on others.  There will always be people who seek destruction, violence, and vitriol as a means to a dastardly end; if we respond in kind, then we are no different and humility will escape us.  God only holds us responsible for our holiness and our reactions to others.

A week after the protests and controversy at Ferguson related to the killing of Michael Brown, a group of us asked the youth at our church what they thought about race relations.  The children–ranging in ages from 11 to 15 years old–were clueless as to why such conflict between the races even existed.

One white youth who has an African-American best friend said that all of the people he knows at school have moved past issues related to race, sexual orientation, and even religion.  It seems that those conflicts are our problems, not his and his friends.

On that Israeli coastal plain half-way around the world, we see a model for how to do reconciliation, Christian or otherwise.  We can see it in the smiles of laughing, playing children.  We can see it in the collaboration of teams that work together for healthy competition.  We can see it in the innocence and joy of our beloved young people, whom I hope will craft a world far removed from the divisive–and divided–world in which we find ourselves.

Love keeps no records of wrongs

candles“Love does not insist on its own way, it keeps no records of wrongs.  It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)

Are you able to forgive and keep no records of wrongs?

Not a week after bombs filled Boston with smoke and tears, a group of 28 Israeli and Palestinian women, mostly Christian with a handful of Muslims, took a pilgrimage together from Bethlehem to Acco in northern Israel, about 113-mile trek.  It was a part of an ongoing program sponsored by the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center that seeks to cultivate, among other things, dialogue, “soul-searching and friendship forging.”

In Acco, they spend four days with a facilitator, Dr. Janan Faraj-Falah, a Druze women and professor of gender studies at Haifa College, who encourages the women to be honest but also seek out new ground in building peace initiatives and relationships between their two communities.

In one deeply moving meeting, for instance, a Palestinian women expressed the idea that many of her friends still have their keys to homes that their families once owned before being kicked out of Israel in 1948.  She like to help them, she said, get back to their original homes and make their way on their land.

A Jewish woman countered with a similar sympathy, noting that those very homes were the ones that the Jews now cherish since they can’t go back to their original homes in Egypt.

Heaviness hung in the air, and silence filled the room.  Obviously, emotions were high, but the two found common ground in the fact that women in the Middle East are largely displaced one way or another.  Displacement takes shape in others ways: domestic abuse and the lack of civil rights continue to plague women’s initiatives throughout Middle Eastern culture.

Discussion like this goes on for a few days, and before long, life-long enemies become friends, and people who are used to demonizing one another find things in common that let them deepen their bonds of history and heritage.

There is animosity at times in the meetings, sometimes they need to take a coffee or lunch break from one another, but it’s a start.  Forgiveness does not always come quickly, nor does letting go of the score-card of who hurt who fade so easily; yet, if Israel and Palestinian women can help change the idea that two people world’s apart can’t live together in peace (because they can), then so can we.

Love keeps no records of wrongs.