Most leaders know their leadership styles and personality profiles—and they are still “thirsty.” Rattling off the letters of their MBTI (Myers–Briggs Type Indicator Test), and discussing their “situational leadership default quadrants” have been valuable exercises for sure—and they are still thirsty. This conference was refreshing, and that series was inspiring—and they are still thirsty.
These leaders are still thirsty because spiritual satisfaction is not the fruit of an improved skill set or an enhanced knowledge base. Spiritual satisfaction is the fruit of ever-deepening relationships: with God, with ourselves, and with others. By divine design, we are spiritual and relational beings. As such, there are deep longings within us that can only be watered by relationship + time.
This is one of the many reasons why I love my God-assignment as a spiritual mentor of leaders. I guide leaders into greater depths of thirst-quenching relationship + time with a holy, loving God through an intentional offering of relationship + time with imperfect me.
For thirty years, I have had the extreme joy of providing intentional soul care for truly extraordinary souls. Their ages have ranged from 17 to 75. Their addresses have wrapped around the globe. Their occupations have ranged from engineering to neuropsychology and music to law.
Before the turn of the millennium, these beautiful souls most often referred to me as their discipler, or their mentor. More recently, they call me their spiritual director. Though the titles have shifted, my assignment has remained unchanged: I stay present to God while staying present to others in an intentional posture of listening prayer.
In other words, mentoring for me is devotional.
Mentoring for me is the exhale of intimacy with God.
The thirst for sustainable intimacy with God is the common thread that weaves together the hundreds of leaders and learners who have requested spiritual mentoring over the decades. Though often successful externally, they recognize an internal restlessness for something “more.”
Many speak of discontentment with a seemingly stale spiritual state. Some express bewilderment about disciplines that once took them to the depths, but now leave them unsatisfied in the shallows. A few are aware of an off-centeredness or a devotion that has lost its bearings. While still others recognize sinkholes in their souls indicative of vulnerable fractures at their very core.
Whether clothed as discontentment, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, or danger the thirst is holy.
The restlessness is invitation divine.
The ache is ageless.
Its author is God.
God is ever-forming us. The leadership collapses of our day are not the result of too few books in our libraries, or too little prowess in our pulpits. Rather, collapse often reveals a lack of attentiveness to our own formation. As leaders, we dream about the future well but mind the present poorly.
We study and speak to help others grow but resist the sacred silence and stillness that our spirits crave. As we go through part one and two of this series I will share three convictions that have guided and continue to guide me as I encourage leaders to actively attend to their own formation. In part one I will cover the first and fundamental conviction.
1. God desires to personally mentor us.
When my daughter tells her daddy, “I’m thirsty,” he would never (ever) respond: “Well kid, it rains a lot around here. So keep your eyes on the sky and when it rains, open your mouth and catch as much as you can.” When Keona says, “I’m thirsty,” Barry places a pure, thirst-quenching substance in a transferable form, and hand delivers it to her.
Yet, when we as leaders cry from the depths, “I’m thirsty,” our self-counsel is often, “Well, it rains a lot around here. So I’ll keep my eyes on the heavens and hopefully find myself in the right place, at the right time, to be watered by the next outpouring.”
Then on we go, from event to event…devoted and faithful while our souls look less like gardens and more like deserts. All the while, like a good Father, God stands ready to place a pure, thirst-quenching substance in a transferable form, and hand deliver it to us.
God longs to mentor us: literally, not figuratively.
God longs to mentor us: not in random raindrops that we gratefully catch while serving, but personally, by His skillful Spirit.
The Holy Trinity has provided everything we need to spiritually advance: Jesus (our sacrificial Messiah) said that the Father (our loving Maker) would send the Holy Spirit (our master Mentor) to guide us into all Truth.
In mentoring leaders, I am confident that the Holy Spirit is at work, drawing the leader into new depths of intimacy with Christ. Therefore, my role as a mentor is less about bringing something new to the table and more about helping others attend to something ancient at the table: God’s Spirit.
Attending to the Holy Ancient is a challenging endeavor in an age addicted to all things new and tweetable. In the words of Frank Laubach, it requires a “gentle pressure of the will” to take authority over the continuous mental motion that has made us soul sick.
A leader’s mind is often in the future while their body is in the present, which, consequently, can cause them to view today as a means to tomorrow. “Stick your mind to the present” is a phrase leaders often hear from me. Though we can remember God’s presence in the past and anticipate God’s presence in the future, we can only practice God’s presence in the present.
One of my primary goals as a spiritual mentor is to model for others this initially strenuous discipline of willfully living in love-inspired attentiveness to the God who longs to mentor us.
(to be continued…)
Dr. Alicia Britt Chole is a speaker, leadership mentor, author, and founding director of Leadershipii.com, a non-profit devoted to the soul care of leaders in the church and marketplace. Her books, Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours and 40 Days of Decrease, address the fruitfulness of barren seasons and sacred decrease.