Success in any context requires overcoming obstacles. In our work life or in our spiritual life, to achieve or accomplish anything significant means doing hard things. Doing hard things means asking hard questions. The struggle is part of the transformation.
This is as true for organizations as it is for individuals. People and organizations grow in the direction of the questions they regularly ask themselves. Work-life and personal/spiritual-life…what if these were not two different contexts, but one?
You are the common denominator in both. Growth and maturity are a whole-life proposition.
As the new guy in a ministry focused on developing grassroots leaders in developing contexts, I received responsibility to plan a trip to Africa involving U.S. Christian businessmen. I job was to arrange a series of meetings through one of our successful grassroots “community catalysts” to introduce them to local government and business leaders who might benefit from new technology products they were developing. My job included coordinating the various meetings to ensure these business development opportunities had the greatest chance for success.
It was a “crash and burn” scenario from go.
The government leaders stood us up for our scheduled meeting and miscommunication meant no one had arranged and planned the meetings with local businessmen we had hoped to meet. It was all my fault. My boss, the U.S. businessmen, and our African partner were gracious in their acceptance of the failed meetings, even playing the “providentially hindered” theology card to assuage the pain. But inside, I could not accept that I had so grossly failed in the details of planning and executing a few simple meetings.
Fast forward to 2015.
Working with Food for the Hungry senior leadership, we drafted a long-term two-prong strategy to grow people in spiritual formation and leadership capacities.
Working as a consultant, I helped assess and frame the leadership development needs while Dr. Chris Hall, former Chancellor and Professor of Spiritual Formation at Eastern University and then (July 2015) newly named President of Renovare’ ministry, would shape the spiritual formation lane of the strategy.
Chris introduced fundamentals of spiritual formation to FH staff through a series of retreats in the U.S. and in each FH region between October 2015 and April 2016. Simultaneously, I traveled to the same events to conduct interviews about the leadership needs of the organization.
Chris essentially facilitated the same spiritual formation retreat in each of the four contexts. I was privileged to be present at all four (after all the leaders I needed to interview were in the retreat!)
Chris’s unique facilitation style involved asking a series of progressively more challenging spiritual diagnostic questions. I counted over 75 questions in the first 1/2 day session alone. His challenge was not to engage every question, but listen to the Lord and connect with just a few questions where he may want you to do business.
I took notes during each retreat…at first, honestly, just to be occupied, but then out of increased interest to what God might have for me. Perhaps the diagnostic questions acted like artillery shells softening the target of my hard head/heart. At the third retreat in Asia, a question exploded in me and jolted my soul to attention. I had heard the same or similar question twice before, but I didn’t hear it – my heart wasn’t listening.
What are the cracks in your personality that are keeping you from flourishing in the work God has called you to do?
BAM! There it was…the failed Africa trip came back to me like a bad dream. All the details, all the guilt, all the feelings of letting others down. This time the probe went deeper. The question shined a spotlight into a cracked person and exposed pride, a tendency to attempt to control situations by superior planning, lack of trust…
Jesus’ words to the disciples when they did’t trust him to calm the storm came ot me: “Oh you little-faiths…”
Rathern than criticizing their inability to calm the raging sea, Jesus challenged their inability to trust Him to take care of them and to have their best interests at heart even in the midst of the storm.
The context of work is Life and life is Work. Knowing the obstacle is half the battle. That’s what hard questions do. This side of eternity the cracks will always be there, but Jesus came to expose and heal cracked personalities.
…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
What about you? What has God been saying to you that you are not hearing?
The fruit of asking and answering the hard question is human flourishing.
(Chris Hall, Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 2015)
What hard questions are you asking yourself?
Want to Learn More?
Food for the Hungry has developed a series of resources and devotionals to help people like you ask the hard questions. 4 Relationships That Will Make You Whole can be used with a group or individually. It can help you learn about the four vital relationships that God planned for you. As Food for the Hungry teaches our program participants, if any one of these relationships is broken, you cannot have the fulfillment God has planned for you.