Choosing Not to Run Away from Leadership

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“This is the unparalleled power of resurrection. Not only is the future open; the past is transformed. The possibility of forgiveness…means that one can begin to reclaim the past as a friend rather than as an enemy. Life does not need to be lived running away from regrets or running away from death. This is true freedom – and a new power.” From Samuel Wells. Power and Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection 

So many of us feel trapped by our past. This can be especially true in leadership. We regret our mistakes and past incompetencies, our rash decisions and gnawing indecision. We second-guess, hide and blame, and wish to forget past conflicts. For these reasons we may be tempted to run away from leadership, even when we are needed the most.  

In the passage above, Samuel Wells mentions two things we often run away from: regrets and death. Christ’s resurrection changes how we understand those things. Easter is the defeat of death; we now see death differently. But what about our past and our regrets? Easter changes that too.

Think of the disciples during the final days of Jesus’s life. Many, if not most of them, could have faced a massive amount of regret about what happened to their friend and teacher.  But soon after the resurrection, these disciples were deeply changed. They could not change the past, but their past was now seen as part of an even larger, more truthful story of God’s salvation. In a mysterious way they were given their past back, seen now as one important step in the story of God in their lives. Their mistakes were still their own, but those things no longer held the same power over their lives.

The good news is that God stepped into our absolute worst situation and changed the story. When we look back at our own past, instead of being trapped by our regrets, instead of running away from our lives, we can choose not to run. We can face anything now because Jesus is risen from the dead. Of course, we will still feel regret for the sins we’ve committed, but we no longer have to spend our lives running away from our regrets as if we have no hope. Our past has been transformed.

This also means that we do not have to run away from leadership. In fact, we might not grow as leaders until we face our past mistakes and receive them as a gift. Through humility, encouragement, and hard work, we can face the present reality. By not running away, we are likely to find that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is inviting us into a better story and a more faithful future.

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Rev. Justin Snider serves as the Associate Pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Danville, IL. He grew up in Tuscola, Illinois, and is married to the Reverend Miriam Snider. They have a son, Samuel, and a daughter, Katie. Justin received his education from Greenville College ('02) and Duke Divinity School ('06). He was appointed to Saint James UMC after serving five years as pastor of Emmanuel, Zion, and Armstrong United Methodist churches near Marshall, Illinois. During part of that appointment he served as a co-pastor with Miriam. Justin's interests include include running, reading, traveling, hiking, biking, watching sports, and running some more. Justin is a fan of the Chicago Cubs, thus he has a theology of hope amidst long-suffering. Justin's duties at Saint James include preaching, teaching, crafting ministries for young adults, and helping to reach new generations of people.

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