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Let Your Light Shine Before Others

Light Shine

February 3, 2014
Lallene Rector

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and the call that God places upon our lives to be leaders.  Being a “leader” was not part of an identity I could connect with for the better part of my adult life. Sometimes, however, the realization of a leadership dimension in one’s life just sneaks up on you. For a long time, it was other people who were leaders. They had the power to inspire and to speak well publicly. Leading meant people expected something of you. It meant accepting responsibility and the consequences of mistakes that can become very public, never mind the possibility of outright failing. It made me anxious and worried me about whether or not I could deliver. 

Many persons have had these feelings about leadership. We also know well the initial responses to God’s call of some of the great leaders in our biblical narrative. I think of Moses and his objection about not speaking well enough to influence Pharaoh (Exodus 6:30).  Jeremiah also protested he could not speak well because he was too young (Jeremiah 1:6-7). 

It’s easy to turn away from these biblical examples thinking that “leadership” is only for men or for those with big public jobs. Actually, the developmental processes of growing up mean taking increasing responsibility for one’s own life and the various roles we will come to play in our communities (parent, partner, worker, volunteer, friend, and/or as baptized Christians). We will inevitably become persons to whom someone will look for guidance, example, inspiration, expertise, and/or decision- making. 

The text from Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” tells us not to hide our light under a bushel, but rather, “Let your light shine before others . . .” (Matthew 5:15-16). As Christians, we lead not by hiding our light, but by letting our light shine and by being a witness to the faith we hold.

I am just returning from the annual Association of Theological Schools’ seminar for presidents. Each morning for three days, devotions were lead by Father Ronald Rollheiser. Many of you know of him through his numerous publications on Christian spirituality. He is a theologian and the President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio.  My fellow seminar participants and I received his daily homilies with great appreciation. Briefly, I share the leadership insights he presented to us:

  1. As Christians, we are called to a greater righteousness than the Scribes and the Pharisees. It is not enough to keep the commandments and to love those who love us. We must also love our enemies. In leadership, this means absorbing the tension in the system around us and not giving it back. We absorb, and we turn the other cheek.

  2. Part of our role as leaders is to bring life and light in order to keep our work together in the community from going flat – something like the way in which Jesus provided wine when it had run out at the Cana wedding lest the party go flat. It was a gathering that served the heart of the community’s life (and, let’s not get sidetracked by any suggestion that alcohol is the way to bring light and life).

  3. Leaders are called to be compassionate just as Christians are called to be “perfect” – not without flaw (a Greek understanding), but rather with compassion (an Hebraic understanding). We are to be “non-selectively compassionate” in the way that God brings the sunshine to all. We strive to love all persons and to treat equally those for whom we function as leaders. No favorites. No “less-thans.”

We learned at the end of our seminar, after Father Rollheiser had departed, that two days earlier his brother had died. He requested our leaders not reveal this information until he had taken leave of us. He was concerned we would be distracted from more fully receiving his devotions. I suspect he was correct about this. While there is no inherent right or wrong in his request, it does strike me that yet another part of leadership is the call to consider first the well-being of others, and sometimes at our own personal expense.

I close with one caveat. There are all kinds of leadership. Some forms are public in what appear to be those big important jobs. But, some of the most powerful and profound leadership we see takes place in the quiet, day-in and day-out servant leadership of devoted parents, dedicated school teachers, persevering small church pastors, faithful Christians, and all persons in the trenches of life who let their light shine in small acts of kindness.  

Where is the leadership in your life and how are you letting your light shine through it?



# Shirley B. Lindsay 2014-02-03 11:42
I appreciate your comments very much and send wishes of joyful love to you that your presidency may one of JOY!
I graduated from Garrett in 1964 and the years I spent there are some of the best of my life. My passion is leading spiritual growth workshops. My husband and I live in the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff area. News from Garrett is always of interest.
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# Lallene.Rector 2014-02-09 15:37
Thank you, Shirley. It's so good to hear from you and to hear that the years at GBI in the early 60's were some of the best for you. I, too, loved my graduate days. Stay tuned and please stay in touch - we love hearing from our alums! And, if you are ever in the area, give me a call and we'll find a time to visit.
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# Lilly Lee Ju Hee 2014-02-10 10:32
Dear Dr. Rector
Thank you so much for sharing the message of Father Ronald Rollheiser.
Yes it is so true that leadership is the call to consider first the well-being of others...
Praying for your leadership
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