Hi! My name is Lindsey and I am a leader. There, I said it.
Many of you reading this will wonder why that was hard for me to write. Well, please indulge me for a minute while I fill in the backstory of the journey I’m currently on. Hopefully, all will become clear.
May is my favourite month of the year – not least because it is my birthday month. In a few days I turn 36, and in those 36 years, I’ve had some amazing opportunities to serve God in unexpected ways – ways I have sometimes resisted.
I had a happy and privileged start in life. I grew up in a beautiful part of England, in a happy Christian home. I excelled in school, sport, and enjoyed opportunities to lead others. As a result, I received a scholarship from the British Army to attend one of the top universities in the UK.
By the end of my studies, a flare-up of pre-existing joint problems meant that a career in the Army was no longer possible – this was my first experience of my body limiting what I could achieve. Little did I know it would not be the last. But the military training I’d received, along with a good degree and postgrad, meant my career path options were varied and promising.
It was also around this time that I met and married the man of my dreams – an international sportsman with a cute, Irish accent and a passionate love for Christ! I’m not sure we’d have got together if I’d stuck with a career in the Army. So I began to see this ‘limitation’ as a gift from God. Especially as being discharged on medical grounds meant I didn’t have to pay my scholarship money back!
It wasn’t long before my thoughts turned to the day we’d have children and I was unexpectedly torn regarding my choice of future career, ministry calling, and how my leadership gifts fit in.
So, I looked to what I knew, what I had observed from my own parents.
Like many couples of their age, my parents had demonstrated a very traditional division of labour but I also witnessed great love and respect in both directions. As children (both boys and girls) we were pushed equally hard to excel academically and aim for a professional career. However, I also suspected that my mum expected this all to take a backseat when children came along.
And along mine came – three bouncing baby boys!
Was marriage and motherhood to be another limitation I was to face and learn to embrace?
I started a new job when our eldest was about nine months old. I was already pregnant with our second. It was a step down the career ladder and was meant to be just one or two days a week doing political research for a Christian organisation. But a couple of years in (and now with two boys) my colleague heading up the political advocacy work left and I was asked to take on her role. I wrestled over whether to accept as she had been full-time but I managed to negotiate part-time hours to fit with still being primary caregiver for our boys.
Whilst it placed limitations on both my roles – as mum and as employee – my husband and I felt it was the right way forward for our family.
Soon, this went from two and a half days a week to four. But still, that wasn’t enough. After a few years, I realised that the job really required someone to commit to full-time and more. It wasn’t the sort of job you could do part-time and managing the limitations on both fronts (work and home) was becoming impossible.
So, I made the hard to decision to leave a job I loved, not to go to another, but to be a stay-at-home mum. I was confident I could continue to use my various gifts in the home and by serving in our local church. And I did, to some extent.
Then we decided to have another baby. I was content and distracted by the new addition to the family. Until I received a phone call. It came from a former boss who heard I’d left my old job and wanted to know if I would come to work for him in his new role at Biblica. “No, Stephen, I’ve decided to stay at home with the boys,” was my answer. To which he replied: “Not even one day a week?”
Oh, how could I refuse?
One day a week to just get the old grey matter firing again – how perfect. Thank you, God!
It quickly became two days a week, but I was happy and managing the ‘limitations’ of combining work and motherhood well. Until I wasn’t well, that is.
Once again, my body became the limiting factor, but this time I didn’t consider it a gift from God. I fought it and pushed back.
I thought I could be super woman if only my body would behave. When I was well, I could achieve so much at home and at work but whenever the next flare-up happened I would crash and feel like I’d failed everyone. My health issues got more complicated and serious. It did at least force me to start seeking God’s strength rather than relying on my own. Yet again, God was using this limitation to draw me to Himself and His calling on my life.
Even though it was tough at times, the job itself was a great comfort. I was helping people read the Bible – all of it, not just bits and pieces. And in this, I too discovered a fresh understanding of God’s amazing story of redemption. An amazing but messy story.
So, you’re probably still wondering what this has to do with my opening line. Well, in the midst of all of this mess, God spoke.
Totally unexpectedly, I was asked to consider taking on a major leadership role – Biblica’s Executive Director for Europe.
Surely this was madness.
I had left one busy job after struggling to combine it with my attempts at motherhood, I was dealing with serious health issues, I would be stepping into the shoes of my mentor, and I was young and female in a very ‘older-male’ dominated world.
And yet, in many ways, it was my dream job. Just not one I ever expected to come my way, not one I felt qualified for and not one I felt I could say yes to.
After all, by deciding to work part-time and take less senior roles over the years to fit with my other role as ‘mum,’ I thought this opportunity was out of reach, a question I would never have to consider. I was content to let go of earlier thoughts of becoming a leader in Christian ministry but in the process, I’d become self-conscious and embarrassed by my desire to take a lead whenever the opportunity presented at home, at work, at church.
God did an amazing work in me (and my husband) over the next few months and despite everything, He made it abundantly clear that this was the next step of faith He was calling us to as a family. The Biblica Board even allowed me to take on this senior role part-time. But one thing I felt God say very clearly was that He wasn’t promising success in human terms or that it would be easy.
More than 18 months since taking this leap of faith, I can finally admit to myself that I am a leader. I am no longer conflicted in claiming that as one of my titles but as expected it hasn’t been easy balancing the multiple limitations presented by being part-time, being a wife and mum, having on-going health issues.
There have been times when failing to be the mother, wife, colleague, leader, or friend I want to be has really got to me. There have been times when I have called out to God, “I can’t do this!” But as I continue to read His Word, time and time again, He shouts back, “But I can. Lean in on me”.
So many of the ‘heroes’ we read about in the Bible – if we read their whole story – have far from smooth journeys. David’s story, in particular, has challenged me in the past year. We are not called to a life of comfort, and limitations aren’t always bad. Limitations on our human desire to achieve or do things our way and in our strength, can force us to lift our eyes to God.
Do I think my kids miss out on some things because I work outside of the home? Yes. Do I think I could work more effectively if I didn’t have kids? Yes. BUT… God has given me both and I think both benefit from the other – one of our biggest projects this year wouldn’t have come about if I hadn’t helped my kids learn to read. Even poor health can serve to put everything in perspective and prevent us from thinking we’re responsible for the outcome of everything.
In life, we will be given many, seemingly conflicting roles and titles. Most of us will have to face up to the limitations our human bodies or circumstances place on our desires. But God asks only for obedience. And to obey, we have to listen to the call. What better place to start than by immersing ourselves in His Word?