I went to a workshop for women in leadership last week, driving to another new area of town for the opportunity to receive encouragement, support and the opportunity for growth. I will admit to feeling isolated at times in this new state. It was healing to be together and to meet new people.
In preparation for the workshop, we all had to take an inventory that would help us to be aware of our particular leadership strengths and weaknesses. (Some people call weaknesses, 'growing edges', I suppose in order to avoid using the word 'weakness.') I was fascinated to learn in what categories I am strong, and a little disheartening to see that one of my particular 'growing edges' was in "Risk-Taking."
But I knew that.
Maybe it's even in my DNA. I remember being terrified to get on my first bicycle. It seemed way too tall for me, and there were no training wheels. So it sat there, in our garage, until my sister finally learned how to ride it. It took a long time, but I finally got up the courage to confess to a friend of mine that I didn't know how to ride a bicycle, and to ask for her help. She had a little bike, and we took secret practice rides every day for a week, until I finally got up the courage to try the big one again.
I have never secretly yearned to jump out of an airplane, never gone hang-gliding, and have not gone wilderness camping. I do not jump into new experiences eagerly. I have perfectionist tendencies and I fear failure, even though I know it is necessary. It's a bad combination, I know.
So, I looked at the results of the inventory and my heart sort-of sank, but I also was not surprised. I am risk-averse. I like to be safe. I don't like driving unknown places (something I have been doing a lot, during the past few months). I don't like it when the 'check engine' light comes on in the car. I don't like it when I am unsure of the outcome of my endeavors, which is more of the time than I want to admit. I don't like being very far out of my comfort zone.
I confessed to one of my colleagues my risk-averse nature. She laughed and said "risk-taking" was her highest score. I tried to think of some small risks that I could practice taking, so that I could get better at it.
And then I thought this: I'll bet my congregation is sort of risk-averse too. It's possible.
One strategy is to get a really courageous, risk-taking pastor in here to jump out ahead of them and show them how it's done. That could work.
But another strategy could be to use my weakness: to say, "I'm not very good at this either. So let's start practicing together." I'm thinking about this possibility, that there might be times when it is actually a good thing to use your weakness, that it could even be a strategy.
It's funny. When I think back again, to my risk-averse childhood, there is one place where I was not risk-averse: in the water. I'm not a great swimmer, but I have always loved the water, ever since I was little and I first learned to float. Every year at church camp, I pushed myself to swim the maximum number of laps so that I could be allowed to swim out to the middle of the lake. I learned to jump in and make a splash, to do a simple dive, and loved to play in the water. For some reason, I was not afraid, like I was in so much of the rest of my life.
So, as of today, I have two strategies:
Use my weaknesses.
And get a bigger baptismal font.