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Lost in a Maze of Self-Reliance By R. Scott Rodin

Lost and The Need for the Way Out

Sometimes, leaders lose their way. Amidst personnel challenges, cultural pressures, financial uncertainties, and self-doubt, we can muddle along, unsure of where we are going. Unexpected challenges, unsuccessful strategies, criticism of our best efforts, and rapid change can bring us uncertainty, lack of direction, and even despair.

Do you sometimes feel like you are more wandering (and wondering) than leading? Are you stuck in a maze with no idea where to go next? Here are two steps that steward leaders can take to help them get out.

How You Got In

The first step is admitting how you got in. Our enemy aims to take us off the sure road and lure us into a maze of uncertainty. He does this whenever we take our eyes off Christ, even just for a moment, and look to our strength, skills, and wisdom to get us through whatever challenges we face. The more we rely on ourselves or others in place of God, the deeper we wander into a maze of problems and pressures that ultimately overwhelm us. The first step is acknowledging where you have yielded to the temptation to go your way and rely on your strength.

Self-reliance is the subtle dethroning of God from the center of our lives. This does not happen overtly but subtly. The enemy does not storm in and demand that we deny Christ and take the throne of our lives by force. Instead, it happens in little ways, edging into our lives. It results from a slow loss of daily intimacy with God and most often produces spiritual stagnancy.

We can’t ‘do’ our way out of this maze. Instead, we overcome self-reliance with surrender. The key for us here is that spiritual stagnancy is a symptom of our ‘doing,’ not our lack of doing. The more we seek to ‘do,’ the more we fail to ‘be.’ Douglas Webster writes, “

“Taking initiative is not the starting point for spiritual growth… Instead of a quest for success, there needs to be a rest for the soul, from which life’s meaning, purpose, and significance issue.”

~ Webster, Douglas. Discipline of Surrender. (InterVarsity, 2001), p. 13

Even here, we must identify and avoid the temptation of our ‘doing’ dominated way of life. It is easy here to insert ourselves as the primary actors in this process. By doing so, we undo and destroy what we seek to attain. Hannah Whitehall Smith put it in simple terms,

“In brief, I would say that man’s part is to trust, and God’s part is to work…Plainly, the believer can do nothing but trust, while the Lord in whom he trusts actually does the work entrusted to Him… Your part is to rest. His part is to sustain you, and he cannot fail.”

~ Smith, Hannah Whitehall, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1952, pp. 27-28, 43.

Are you trying to work your way out of your current mess? Are you relying on your strength to solve the issues you are facing? Perhaps that is the root of the problem.

How You Get Out

The second step is the process of how you get out. We must not be duped into believing that if we work harder, we can escape our mess. For the steward leader, there is another way.

My experience participating in a challenge course with some business colleagues illustrates the way out for steward leaders. In one exercise, we were blindfolded and placed in a maze of ropes between trees. We were told to hold on to the ropes with both hands and work our way through the maze to find the way out.

Megan, the young lady who administered this challenge, walked around us saying, “Raise your hand if you have a question or need help getting out of the maze.” At first, this seemed like a polite but unnecessary offer. Pride and self-determination (fueled by a competitive streak we all shared) spurred us on in a frantic effort to find the opening in the maze and emerge from its entangled web.

For fifteen minutes, I groped around in a futile attempt to find the way out. Thinking strategically, I worked the perimeter, looking for that small opening in the rope that would set me free. No luck; the perimeter was closed. So, I worked my way to the middle, taking the counterintuitive route, clever as I was. I arrived, signaled to Megan, and asked quietly but confidently, “Megan, am I out?”

“No, sorry,” she replied.

Now I was irritated. I tried the perimeter again, and my anxiety grew as Megan announced the names of the persons who were ‘out of the maze.’ As nearly half the team had found their way out, my heart raced, wondering if I would be last. Panic (fueled by pride) began to set in. It was apparent that there was no physical way out of the maze.

The entire perimeter was closed. I stopped my frenetic groping and thought about my inability to find my way out. What was I missing? I had to think, try harder, figure it out. “C’mon, Scott. You can do this…” I heard Megan’s sweet offer again, “Remember, raise your hand if you have a question or need help getting out of the maze.”

Did you hear it? I finally did.

Shaking my head at my stubborn self-reliance, I realized I missed the solution right before me. All I needed to do was to hear her voice, consider my inabilities and take a humble posture. This wasn’t a strategic or physical or analytical challenge but a test to see if we would continue to rely solely on ourselves to our absolute infuriation. 

Finally humbled, I raised my hand, and when she came over, I said, “Megan, I can’t get out of the maze. I’m stuck. Can you help me?”

At once, she lifted the mask from my eyes, smiled, and said quietly, “Congratulations, you’re out.”

Our Wise Guide

Jesus proclaimed that he is ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ He promised that after he had ascended, he would send the Comforter who would ‘lead us into all truth.’ Do you believe him? If so, I encourage you to lay your life and leadership into the hands of the one who knows the way and IS the way. Cease your striving long enough to hear the sweet voice of the Comforter saying, “Talk to me, invite me in, ask for my help if you want to know how to get out of this situation.”  

If you ask humbly for the Spirit’s guidance and reject the temptation to find your way out, he will most assuredly set your feet back on a firm and sure footing.

Do you want to get out of the maze? Jesus is the Way.

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R. Scott Rodin is the Senior Consultant/Chief Strategy Officer for The Focus Group. Over the past thirty-eight years, Scott Rodin has helped hundreds of organizations improve their effectiveness in leadership, fund development, strategic planning, and board development. His books and articles have been translated into over twenty languages, and he has taught and consulted with ministries across five continents. He also serves as a Senior Fellow of the Association of Biblical Higher Education and as board chair for ChinaSource.



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