Are you a woman who leads? Maybe you don’t see yourself as a leader, but God has you leading someone right where you are. Maybe it’s your kids, your friends, or the teenager next door. Maybe it’s a Women’s Ministry, a team at work, or a small group. This series—led by our women’s ministry specialist, Kelly King—will help you no matter where you lead, and whether you’re leading one or one thousand.
Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” As someone who enjoys hiking in the mountains, I’ve learned that part of the journey is taking time to stop along the way to see how far you’ve come. Not only does stopping allow you time to catch your breath when the oxygen gets thin, but it gives you an opportunity to see the trail behind and observe the progress you’ve made.
As this year comes to a close, it’s easy to consider how quickly the months have flown by. It’s much easier to consider the possibilities of a new year rather than reflect on the year that’s coming to a close. Yet, as this year winds down, how about stopping for a moment and reflecting on the path you’ve just walked?
One of my favorite questions in Scripture is found in Genesis 16:8. Hagar is pregnant with Abraham’s child and runs away from the mistreatment of Sarah. (Read more about the tumultuous relationship between Hagar and Sarah here.) As Hagar encounters the Lord near a spring in the desert, she is confronted with these words, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” The Lord took the initiative and sought her out. He met her in the midst of her circumstances and gave her direction—even though it wasn’t an easy path. As a leader, what can you learn from this story as you close out 2018 and look toward a new year?
First, the Lord knows you, hears you, and wants to guide you on your leadership path. Have the past 12 months been difficult or full of accomplishments? Most leaders have probably experienced both. Take time today and reflect on the past year. Make a list of what you’ve accomplished and where you’ve fallen short of your expectations. In both the good and the bad, your performance doesn’t change God’s love for you or His calling on your life. Praise Him for the achievements, acknowledge your shortcomings, and recognize He can use both for His glory and His good.
Hagar acknowledges this when she responds in verse 13, “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” El-roi means “the God who sees me,” and it is the first time in Scripture this name is used for God. As a leader, God sees you, and He has not forgotten you.
Second, recognize fruitfulness can take more than 12 months. We live in a culture where results are expected quickly. We want to see immediate results from our efforts. We’re impatient and forget fruitfulness is the result of praying, planning, and pruning. For instance, an olive tree can take five years or more to produce its first fruit. Full production can take six to eight years. These slow-growing trees can take up to 80 years to reach stable yields! As a leader, it’s easy to be critical of the past 12 months and feel like you’ve only taken baby steps. Yet, God’s timing may take longer than a year. Recognize your future fruitfulness is dependent on the foundation you build now. You can celebrate the little successes knowing the future is in His hands. Hagar was promised Ishmael’s descendants would be too numerous to count. Your spiritual descendants can be numerous too—you just may not see the results right away or even in your lifetime. Your leadership legacy is the step-by-step obedience of your entire life. If the Lord gives you 80 years, what fruit will you produce?
Personally, this lesson is a familiar one for me. In the past 12 months I’ve volunteered to lead the ministry to women in my local church. On top of my full-time work responsibilities and being a new member of my church, I’ve often felt like I’ve failed. I know where I want it to be—yet it will take a long time before I see results. I know the right steps to take, but I’m often reminded my journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Each step forward is a cause for celebration. Even when I need to take a few steps backward, my first assignment is investing in people’s lives and making disciples, not creating a personal kingdom of accomplishments.
Finally, submit the next 12 months to the Lord and surrender your own agenda. If you’re like me, I’m fond of creating lists. Whether it’s a weekly to-do list, a grocery list, or a yearly list of goals and objectives, I can get absorbed in my personal plans. I take great pride in crossing off each line of my list and can easily get frustrated when I don’t see progress.
Lists are not necessarily bad, but they can be a misguided if your plans aren’t made with open hands. In other words, your goals for the next 12 months may be filled with great ideas, but if the Lord chooses to direct your plans in another way, how will you respond? As a leader, Proverbs 16:9 is a good reminder: “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Where have you been and where are you going? Like Hagar, let’s not lead with just commitment, but let’s lead with obedience and surrender to God’s plans in the year ahead. Keep walking up your personal mountain one step at a time, but don’t forget to enjoy the view along the way.
Are you ready to lead well? Sign up for the ministry to women newsletter to get monthly content specifically for leaders here. Get training at events like YOU Lead around the country and Women’s Leadership Forum this November in Nashville, TN.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Women. She and her husband, Vic, have been married for more than 28 years and have enjoyed serving together in ministry both teaching in student ministry for 25 years and teaching young married adults. They have two young adult children, Conner and Courtney, and a son-in-law, Gaige. They enjoy kayaking, having people in their home, and cheering for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A good day includes mocha lattes, Mexican food, and shopping for bargains.
Want to read more from Kelly? You can purchase her new book, Ministry to Women, here!