I don’t know if I could have been Moses.
Not because I don’t think I could go and talk to Pharaoh, or because I am afraid of a staff turning into a snake, or because I don’t think I could lead a group of people who grumble all the time. I don’t think I could be Moses, not because of the typical stories we associate with Moses, but because of a lesser known story; his interaction with Jethro.
If you don’t remember the story, let me take a minute to refresh you.
Moses had become the sole arbitrator of tension and conflict among the Israelites. Moses would wake everyday, take his seat as the judge and the arbitrate till evening. People would line up and mill around all day hoping Moses would get an opportunity to hear their case. When Jethro saw this he pulled Moses aside and said, “Your going to kill yourself! Pick out some people you trust to do what you are doing.” Jethro proceeded to outline a system for Moses to put in place so that he could serve solely as the judge between God and the people.
No longer would Moses be the sole arbitrator of the people. No longer would he be looked to for all the decisions. No longer would he be seen as the guy with all the answers.
That’s where it would be hard for me to be Moses.
It would have been hard because the moment Jethro would have rolled out his idea I would have known he was right. I know it would have made complete sense and it should be done.
And that’s when the voices would start.
“You idiot! Why didn’t you think of that?!?”
“How can you expect to lead the people if you couldn’t see that obvious solution?”
“Am I fooling myself in thinking I am the one God has chosen for this role?”
Much of my identity has been rooted in how well I perform. It isn’t just about performing well, but it also about being better than others. I have to be honest and say there is an inherent competitiveness to much of what drives me. The competitiveness naturally leads to a winner and loser. And if I am not the smartest, if I don’t come up with the solution, if I am not the strongest chain in the link then I am the loser. My identity then is based on how well or how poorly I perform.
This has devastating consequences on leadership. I have always been told that the best leaders surround themselves with the best people possible. But if you are going to do that, then you better be secure in who you are. Because if your identity is based upon being the best, then you aren’t going to put the best people around you lest they outshine you and dethrone you as the best. Our anxiety has a profound impact on how we operate in the world. More acutely, our anxiety can influence us to not make decisions that should be made because of our need to preserve a false identity we believe about ourselves.
I have yet to meet the person who is not allowing themselves to be defined by a false identity. What do I mean by “false identity”? As I noted above, my identity was often based on how well I performed. But that’s not who I am. I am not how I perform. That is a false identity. I am an adopted son of the most high God. I am the brother of Jesus. I am someone who was created for a unique purpose in the world. That’s the identity that should shape me. That’s the identity that should dictate and drive my actions in the world. Far too often I forsake my true identity for the false identity, and when I do, my leadership becomes as effective as a flashlight against the sun.
The only way I could be Moses and accept Jethro’s advice without hearing those demeaning and demoralizing voices is if my identity is found solely in Christ. Only then can I be who God has created me to be. Only then will I lead out of who I am rather than out of fear or anxiety.
And here’s my guess, the effectiveness of leadership laws or tactics or steps will pale in comparison to leading out of who God has made me to be.