An Invitation to the Table By Andrea Leigh Capuyan
Leadership: An Invitation to the Table
A good friend recently shared this about leadership, it is being invited to have a seat at “the table.” I have heard this metaphor before, and I like it. It resonates because it captures the necessary and essential element of connection, fellowship, and comradery which happens when folks gather around a table, seated together, looking at one another face to face caught up in conversation and breaking bread. For those leaders already seated at the table, it is important to consider the offer we are extending to others.
Pondering more on what my friend shared, I am struck by the importance of an invitation. For me, far too often I come to the table ready to act. I am looking for problems to be solved, results to be examined…action-oriented. Our readiness and responsiveness as leaders need to be balanced by an invitation and a pause. Far too often, I am tempted to jump to diagnostics and a prescriptive without first, listening and learning. Listening and learning…we say that’s good leadership. It’s not enough to want it. We must seek it. It must be our habit, our daily practice. There must be an invitation – to ask for others’ opinions, to value different voices, to seek out new faces. There must be a space at the table to welcome others. Focus on cultivating fellowship, so walls come down, folks get comfortable, stories are shared, and compassion grows.
Perhaps we minimize the importance of the word fellowship. We do not imagine our table being a place of communion. Instead, it’s all suits and ties, portfolios, and power points. Yet, when I think of the Lord’s Table, the fellowship imagined is truly mysterious. Imagine our God sat and ate and talked and perhaps even laughed around a table of conflicted hearts, joined by one who would deny him and one who would betray him. Enemies and friends. Equal access. Sharing together. Nothing hurried. And every life impacted and changed by the others there. Around a table of hidden agendas, our Lord invited participation. It is a powerful lesson for me as a leader, creating space, empowering others…releasing defensiveness.
A Personal Pause
Sometimes when I envision the leadership table, it is a flurry of activity. Are the places all set? Are the chairs all comfortable? Does everyone have what they need? Focused on the needs of others I can be easily distracted and detached. I get caught in a cycle of over-functioning, so I avoid the hard stuff…fellowship, relationship, reflection. I wonder if that was a dangerous pattern in Martha’s life…always scrambling to serve, to help, to supply, to fix…she could avoid being present. She could keep all her many pressures bottled up and locked away. Day by day desires turned into demands. When you can only see dirty plates and empty glasses, how exhausting must the table be?
In this time of Lent, the invitation to come to the Lord’s table is not for refreshment or revelry. It is for reflection. This is the season not of feeding. It is an invitation to fasting. To hunger. To be empty. To release. In this time of Lent, we are not being sent away from the table, rather we are being invited to put down our knife and fork and sit with open hands. As a leader, we cannot welcome others to the table if we don’t first take a seat for a personal pause. It is an invitation to watch and to wait.
Lent gives way to renewal. One day our fasting becomes feasting. It is the promise of His provision. We will be fed. Consider this promise from Isaiah 58, the culmination of our patient reflection and preparation.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Perhaps the promise of restored strength is what you need today. Pause. Reflect. Receive.
Reflection for You
You are being invited to take a seat at the table, to pause, to wonder. Take ten minutes today to reflect.
- What is distracting you when you are listening to others?
- What is interrupting your thoughts when you are talking to God?
- What are the pressures that are weighing on your mind?
- What excites you about the work you do?
- What are you learning from the folks around your table?
- AND…who needs to join you at the table?
Andrea Leigh Capuyan is the Executive Director of Laurel Pregnancy Center. Andrea holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from York College. She is a Credentialed Christian Nonprofit Leader with Christian Leadership Alliance and a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional.
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