what to do in dry Seasons: Part One

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…)   

Alicia Britt Chole

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.

Join the discussion

alicia britt chole April 12, 2016 at 5:51am

The endnotes were inadvertently omitted in the posting. :-)

1 John 14: 16-17 and John 16:13.

2 Lawrence and Frank Charles Laubach, Library of Spiritual Classics (Beaumont, Tex.), vol. v. 1, Practicing His Presence (Beaumont, Tex.: SeedSowers, 1973), 26.

Jenn April 6, 2016 at 11:51am

Thank you for sharing this. I was reading in a book called Spiritual Seasons and the author Mark Buchanan talks about how that feeling of wanting more is of course there. Jesus has created that feeling so we keep our eye on Eternity and on Him. A good reminder for us type A leaders out there. Thank you!

alicia britt chole April 2, 2016 at 12:19am

Jehanne D. -- Oh, I wish I could share a cup of tea with you. Sometimes ancient writers referred to the type of space you are describing as a threshold. It's not something you can create but it is an invitation to a new dimension of relationship with Jesus. If I could offer one encouragement it would be to further explore the disciplines of silence and stillness. It's not remotely an emptying of our minds but focusing them upon Jesus. Perhaps 2-5 min. a day to wait in His presence simply because He's worthy of waiting upon. I find that the dust begins to settle and I see Him and my path more clearly.

alicia britt chole April 2, 2016 at 12:15am

Jesusmypeace, Cassie Brown, Margie Coursey, Narelle, and Stina--thank you so much for your generous responses. I am praying for you each by name this morning that your longings for a deeper well of intimacy with God will be filled to overflowing!

alicia britt chole April 2, 2016 at 12:10am

June, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

Marisel March 31, 2016 at 8:59am

Absolutely beautiful and true. God has been my most trusted life coach- He loved me back to life- in ways that the best mentors, leaders, role models simply could not...He coached me to write Lean Into Grace: Power Up for a Fierce & Fearless Life last year as a testimony to His immense and transformative love. Thank you for the courage to speak this truth. Another great resource on the topic is Wayne Cordeiro's Divine Mentor.

Stina March 30, 2016 at 5:12am

Wow. I just said to God that I don't want our relationship to get stuck in one place but always evolving and that I don't want to go from event to event, and just prayed that He'd show me how our relationship could deepen. And then an email came from Propel, and instead of procrastinating to read the articles I just clicked right away to this. This was such a blessing to me. Thank you!!

Narelle March 28, 2016 at 6:03pm

Beautifully written, inspiring me to keep going to my source of life - Jesus who fills me and sustains me more than anything else! Thank you.

Margie Coursey March 27, 2016 at 11:23pm

I agree - beautifully written and such a powerful message. Thank you!

Cassie Brown March 27, 2016 at 2:04pm

This is so much of what I need right now, right here, I love the articles because although I can see the patterns of the problems finding the solution is so hard. You guys go the extra mile to get the solutions.

Jehanne D. March 27, 2016 at 3:44am

Wow, this article is helping me in more ways than you can imagine! I have been talking to God about the same thing and asked him what needs to be changed. The same thing is: my zeal is gone. Am I depressed? No. Yet, I'm seeing a counselor. Used to be excited about my job, plus I could feel and tell I was making a difference with my interactions with co-workers and customers on a spiritual level. Now everything feels like routine. I'm just here. I know everything about my department, could do most of the tasks with my eyes closed. For the ones I couldn't do, I know who to go to get them done. I'm longing for a career growth I feel that I am not getting from my job. I expressed my desire to grow to my supervisor. What he has to offer is a promotion. The promotion is a title and more money, but doing the same things that I am currently doing. So, I'm looking for another job asking God at the same time for guidance. I lead a women's group since 2013, but this year is the 1st time where I am not zealous about it. Most of the women grew spiritually and gone into different endeavours. We are in a dry season where barelly people attend our meetings. Now, I'm asking God if I should dissolve the group to join a Women In Business networking group so that I can get mentored by other women and become motivated in my leadership. I thought about going to conferences, even seeking for a mentor. I told God that I want change, motivations. I'm restless. I feel like there is something more I can do. Oh I volunteer once a month at a women shelter. That too does not feel fulfilling anymore. Thought about doing a different volunteering. Please pray for me. I wake up every morning reading the bible wanting to spend time with God before I start my day. What am I missing?!

Jesusmypeace March 27, 2016 at 3:32am

Thank you so much, it is so helpful for this season of my life !!! God want to mentor me in the present by His Holy Spirit. I don't need to be a mult-itask leader, God want to reveals Himself to me in order I could mentor eseally others.

God bless you !!!

June March 27, 2016 at 1:23am

This is exactly where I'm at! God presented this to me because He knew what I needed. Thank you for helping me center on the issues of my heart.

Alicia Britt Chole March 26, 2016 at 3:12am

Stephanie, yes--there is no substitute for a well-watered soul. God help us to set an example for the next generation of leaders that is more sustainable.

Alicia Britt Chole March 25, 2016 at 10:29am

Thank you, Stacy, for your encouragement!

Stephanie March 25, 2016 at 9:11am

If only more leaders could read and believe this first, and THEN read leadership books. No substitute for a well-watered soul.

Stacy March 24, 2016 at 6:56am

Wow!! This is exquisitely beautiful!