I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences. Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss when God called me into ministry. After we were forced to sell our business and basically start over financially, God called me to serve Him – starting with nothing.
I entered ministry limping.
The truth is, the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.
They may have had a failure which crippled them for a season. They may have messed up. They may have made a mistake. They may have lost their way. They may have been injured by others. And, as a result, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward, never to be the same again.
If this is your story – if you have a limp and you’re in leadership – I want to offer some encouragement by sharing a few suggestions.
Here are 5 ways to lead well when you have a limp:
Don’t hide your limp.
There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’ve lost their way – or will some day. They need your guidance. They need your encouragement. They need to see by example they can get up again and move forward. You don’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’t pretend it isn’t true, either. Your story is your story.
Your limp may be God’s way of keeping you humble. Rahab of the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me the past is my past – I can’t change it or hide it for long. A great leader never forgets where they came from.
Don’t be a martyr.
No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. You had a setback. You made a critical error. You sinned. Others sinned against you. Don’t wallow in your misery forever. It’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership. One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Look it up – recognize it’s true – and deal with it. It’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.
Allow your limp to strengthen you!
You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or, you can let it keep you from ever being whole again – and never realize your full potential. Grace is available if you will receive it. There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things”. But, let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.
Be empathetic toward other limpers.
There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp. Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.
Keep limping across the finish line.
Don’t give up. Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They cheer on others who limp. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. And, in the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things.
Limp well, my leader friend. Limp well.
Ron Edmondson is an author, pastor, blogger, leader, and most important to me, a close friend. Check out the church he leads and you can read more from Ron on his blog or follow him on Twitter here!