Capsaicin is the active agent in chili peppers. It's what makes them HOT! And they've found several other ingenious uses for this spicy substance. One being, they turn it into a liquid or creme that you can rub onto sore muscles and joints. The heat goes deep my friends. And it works! [And if you ever unwisely get this liquid fire in your eye, just start screaming like a girl. We'll all understand.] The trick with using this remedy is surviving the first day. Because when you initially apply it to your skin, it will at some point in the first 3-18 hours begin to feel like someone immersed that area of your body in lava. But ironically, when you wake up the next day and it still burns and you think, "There is no way in holy Hades I'm putting anymore of that evil sauce on my body!", that's exactly what you have to do to make it stop burning: Keep applying heat! No, I don't understand it. But it works. The very thing that makes it stop burning is the same thing that made it start burning. Go figure.
Last night I met with many of our Life Group leaders. We talked about some of the tensions that come as we invest in people and disciple them and equip them to step out into leadership. And leading groups of people - being the one who takes responsibility for corralling and fostering community and pushing spiritual growth - can be a tough road. A very long, tough, rocky, frustrating road. And as a leader of leaders, our natural tendency is to want to make that road smoother - to make the pain go away or to turn down the heat. We want to make it all better. But here's the reality: We can't.
If I'm being honest, we probably could. But we can't! It won't ultimately help. In fact, the very thing(s) causing the frustration, the burn - the things that are making the road so rocky - are the tensions that will bring growth, endurance, patience, and conviction. These are the things that God allows in our life to refine us - not just as His people, but in order to be the leader that He's calling us and shaping us to be. In his book, "Life Together", Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes the statement, "It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated." Our leaders are going to face frustrations and heartache with the people they're leading. This isn't something to be fixed - it's part of life.
Let me put it this way:
Leaders can't just bail out when things get tough.
And leaders of leaders can't bail out their leaders when things start to get tough. We can't pity them or smother them in sympathy. We have to lead them. And we have to let them know that the heat they're feeling is OK. Sure, it might burn. But the only way through the burn is to keep walking through it.
Have you been tempted to bail?
Press on! Keep going. Don't give up.
2 Peter 1:3-9