the shape of leadership

Honest Imperfection

The power of living and ministering with authenticity

Kayla Marcantonio on June 5, 2018

I’ve always admired successful women leaders who haven’t skipped a beat during pregnancy. They write and publish best-selling books, run multimillion-dollar companies, and preach the house down at conferences while pregnant. I always wanted to follow their strong examples when and if that same season came my way.

That season is now here, and I’ve performed much differently than I expected. New ambitions are replacing the gold standard of motherhood I once wanted to achieve. The devotional book I thought I would start this year no longer seems as urgent as finding time for a nap.

The discipleship projects I wanted to complete by the end of April will have to wait until sometime in late summer — or, let’s be real, maybe even 2019. And my teaching and preaching schedule has met with some unforeseen prenatal interruptions.

There’s nothing wrong with my pace. I’m relishing in all that a mom-to-be should. Still, you know how it goes when reality intrudes on your plans. It’s in these expectation-shattering moments, though, that I’m thankful for the authenticity I find in Scripture.

David regularly opened up about his disappointments and personal defeats in the Psalms. Ecclesiastes sums up the raw emotions of realizing what’s important in life and what’s not. And let’s not forget about the biggest confessor of all time. From calling himself the worst sinner (1 Timothy 1:15) to writing about his thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), Paul candidly confessed his human frailties.

The life of faith and leadership includes ups and downs, gentle paths and rugged slopes, deep valleys and breathtaking summits. Whether it’s a pregnancy or another kind of journey, we shouldn’t expect only mountaintop moments.

We shouldn’t overlook the value of being vulnerable, open and human.

There is victory in Christ, so we celebrate the triumphs of those who model overcoming power, dedication and trust. Personally, though, the stories that have brought me the most hope in this new season are the real and the raw — the sore and sensitive accounts of those who followed Jesus even when they were frustrated, drained, aggravated and tired.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The King James Version of this verse uses the word “faults” rather than “sins.”

Even beyond sins and moral failings, there is something about talking through our human struggles. Healing, recovery and restoration often come as we share our burdens with other Christians. Honest conversations can bring valuable perspective.

When we hear that others have gone through the same thing, we come to understand that this is human, this is normal. We hear about how God has worked in situations just like ours, and our faith rises as we remember that He can handle this far better than we can.

As I navigate each new season and challenge, such honest conversations often keep self-pity and disillusionment from stealing my joy.

Thank you, high-level leader, for opening up about the small group involvement percentage at your church. Where I thought I was missing the mark, you made me feel normal.

Thank you, friend in the ministry, for telling me the most recent instance in which you felt nervous before speaking. You made me feel normal.

Thank you, pastor, for sharing about your life changes after having kids — and how your pace before and after has never been the same. You made me feel normal.

And knowing I’m normal and human is the best gift you could have given, for it knocked down the wall the enemy was building in my mind. Your genuineness made me stop questioning myself and instead start focusing on the Lord.

There are many attributes we should strive for within both leadership and ministry. Resiliency. Vision. Inner strength. Preparedness. But we shouldn’t overlook the value of being vulnerable, open and human. The story of your setback may be what sends a peer or follower back on a path toward triumph in Christ.


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