05 February 2021

We all need someone to lean on. As followers of Jesus, we know that we can lean on God at all times, but it’s helpful to surround ourselves with good people to share the journey with. Major Val Mylechreest shares how encounters with the ‘wise and wonderful’ people in our lives can alleviate the pressures of life and leadership.

I’m writing this in January 2021, and we have just welcomed a new year in with a third lockdown in the United Kingdom. Impacted once again and even more seriously, we are in another phase of isolated living. It is winter; days are short, the nights are long and people are ‘over it’. Only the brave dared wish each other a ‘Happy’ New Year. How do we begin to lead during such times? How do we find the balance between being empathetic and understanding and at the same time speaking positively of steps of faith bigger than our fear? 

God has given me a mantra for my personal leadership. I am called to live, to learn, to lead and to love. So, the South London Divisional Headquarters invited our corps and frontline officers to our regular team Zoom ‘coffee and chat’ meeting. We had the biggest attendance to date! I invited people to share how they were feeling and one by one they shared their fears, concerns, darkness, sadness, apprehension and doubts. It was a beautiful time of sharing as we encouraged each other to leave that ‘word’ and current emotion ‘in the room’. We prayed that God would continue to bless us and journey with us as we do what we can to bless and journey with those that we are called to lead.

Leadership is about being authentic. As we met with our officers, there were no marketed strategies or latest leadership books and TED Talks to offer. It was simply about living with them, learning alongside them, leading them through the darkness and more than ever loving them, no matter what they were experiencing. Gender, colour, experience, whatever age or stage – all of us have the opportunity to influence and lead. Leadership is a natural part of family, friendship, community, church and also wider responsibilities. We do what we can to get it right and learn from the occasions when we don’t. We see this reflected as we look to women in Scripture: 

  • We start with Eve and Esther. God asks Eve, ‘What is this have you done?’ (Genesis 3:13). Esther is reminded that she is in the right place at the right time (Esther 4:14).
  • We can recount Martha getting her priorities wrong whilst Mary has got it right – how annoying for those of us who identify with Martha! (Luke 10:4-41) I also love that this lesson is learnt and reversed in John 11:20. 
  • Rahab and Ruth couldn’t have been more different, but God was able to use them both. They were influential and acknowledged for their faith, Rahab being included in the genealogy of Jesus (Joshua 2, Ruth 1:16).

We reflect on these women of God: how they lived, what they learnt, how they led and how they loved. I have become aware, particularly in the past 10 months, of the importance of leaning. Leaning into God and being unafraid to lean on others. To ask advice, to be authentic and to find for myself those who will share my leadership journey. It might be that your current structures and line management do not allow for this to happen in a formalised way, but might I encourage you in your search for wise and wonderful people that you can lean on.

God is your first point of call on this search, and his voice and wisdom can often be sought through the wise. The wise will look like the leaders, mentors, coaches and spiritual directors who inspire and help form your spiritual vision. These individuals should encourage you to step up and out in your leadership.

Secondly, spend time with the wonderful. These are the trusted people you can journey with. Co-workers, colleagues and deep friendships. These may be younger in age or faith and blessed by your personal support and influence. They will often encourage you as much as you encourage them. One of my experiences with the wonderful is during candidates’ interviews – I am always left in awe!
 
A recent wise and wonderful encounter for me was in watching the 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden. May her words encourage us as we live, learn, lead, love and lean!
 
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it. 
For there is always light, 
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
 
(‘The Hill We Climb’, Amanda Gorman)

 

This article is in memory of Ruby Goodwill (pictured, with Major Val) who was a solider at Camberwell Corps, Australia and was both wise and wonderful.

 

Major Val Mylechreest

Val is currently Divisional Commander of the South London Division in the United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland Territory.
She was the Director of Family Ministries for five years and is blessed by opportunities of journeying with women in ministry.
She is married with four grown-up children and seven grandies. Once out of lockdown, she will be spending

time with family and friends. If this could be at the seaside with chips and ice cream that would be even better!

 

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