“I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and spring forth with a mighty faith to do the things that ought to be done by me.”—Charles Fillmore
What does it mean to step out in faith as a spiritual leader? Our spiritual community members look to us as a model to emulate living in faith. We put ourselves under a great deal of pressure to live up to the expectations of our congregants and to model a way of being so others are inspired to live in faith too. Does it help to have these thoughts as leaders? We know that our consciousness dictates the quality of our way of being and our actions. Let’s explore more deeply this question of what it means to step out in faith as a spiritual leader.
Spiritual Leaders Are Not Super-Heroes
Some of us have been led to believe that we need to be a super-hero in order to be a great spiritual leader. Not so. Look at Moses. He did not feel at all confident in leading his people out of Egypt and through the desert. Yet, he listened deeply to the wisdom of God within and had the faith to follow that wisdom. There were times when he had doubts in himself and even in the voice of God. Yet, he kept to his practice of connecting with God, asking questions, and listening deeply.
The word hero originally came from the Greeks, who thought of heroes as “demi-gods,” which is probably why we often interpret hero to mean super-hero. However, over the ages, the term has come to be defined as “a person who is admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” and “one who shows great courage.” Stories and mythology often reveal how heroes and heroines direct their words and actions toward the greater good.
One of Unity’s Transformation Experience practices is Maria Nemeth’s “Card Exercise,” which can be facilitated with your leadership team and congregation. In the first part of the exercise, each person writes down a list of people whom they admire and consider to be noble. Then they write down the qualities they see in each person on their list. Finally, participants identify a subset of qualities from the list that most resonate for them. The final product is a personal card that lists “Who I Have Come Here to Be.” The qualities we recognize in others are the qualities that we already have within ourselves. We must have the courage and faith to embody each quality of being.
“Real faith people are, quite simply, usable for larger purposes because they live in and listen to a much Larger Self.”—Richard Rohr
Extraordinary leaders demonstrate courage. The word courage comes from the Latin cor or “heart,” and the French word corage, meaning “of the heart, innermost feelings.” We are courageous when we feel our fears and move beyond them by depending on the strength of God’s Love within our hearts. This is the process of listening “to a much Larger Self.”
The image of the Twin Towers collapsing on 9/11 is indelibly etched in the world’s consciousness. My young daughter and I watched the news that morning as we prepared to go to school and work. I moved immediately into prayer for all concerned, and after I dropped Grace off at school, I drove to work while thinking about how to lead my organization of 500 people through this crisis.
Because my organization was comprised of technology professionals from around the world, we had Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and people of many other faiths and ethnic origins working side by side with each other. I felt frightened, shaken and deeply sad about the events, and at the same time, I knew I needed to be present as a leader to help my organization move peacefully through the experience. I meditated for a few minutes and then wrote an email to send to everyone in our various locations around the U.S., India and Pakistan.
In the email, I said that there were close to 7 billion people in the world, 99.9% of whom only want to live together in harmony, have productive work to do, and enough food for their families. I said that though we didn’t know who had committed this terrible action, we should not come to any judgments about our neighbors and colleagues because of their ethnic or religious beliefs. We must continue to collaborate for common purposes and support each other through this crisis.
I received many responses from my colleagues that day, telling me how my message had calmed them and helped them to see the situation with a healthier perspective. We as spiritual leaders can show up in a crisis to be a calming, healing presence. By listening to Spirit’s voice within, we will be guided and provided with the right words to say, the right actions to take.
Trusting the Invisible
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”—Alan Watts
We must trust ourselves to the invisible-but-palpable energy and love of Spirit. In our everyday lives we will encounter challenges and paradoxes. Sometimes answers and solutions will not come for months or years. Like the swimmer trusting herself to the water, we must not try to “grab hold” of God. Instead, we can choose to relax and immerse our conscious awareness in the Infinite. Surrender is the most powerful prayer. When we set an intention for a positive outcome and then fully surrender to the Intelligence of God, we will find ourselves buoyed up and floating. In this state of being, we are able to help others to float and swim toward their dreams.
Principle is Not Bound by Precedent
Part of our responsibility as spiritual leaders is to help others see beyond self-imposed limitations. Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile in 1954, and within a few weeks two Australians ran sub-4-minute miles. Now, the 4-minute mile is standard for middle distance runners. Spirit does not impose boundaries of consciousness—we do!
What steps are you taking to let go of what was accomplished in the past and what you see around you? As healers, we are trained to see beyond appearances. We don’t need to outline the results—instead we open ourselves and others to infinite possibilities so that Spirit can reveal the highest possibility. Exemplary leaders, with gentle strength, show others how to move beyond limitations.
In closing, how does courage and faith show up through you as you lead your ministry? Are you allowing your noble qualities to be expressed in all of your actions? How much do you live in and listen to the Larger Self so you can be used by God for larger purposes? How often do you choose to surrender to the Infinite so you can help yourself and others to float and swim freely? Do you have enough faith in God and Principle to live a life that is not bound by precedent? My affirmation for all leaders is that the answers to these questions are a resounding “Yes, very much so!”
“Because we fail to realize that Principle is not bound by precedent, we limit our faith, to that which has already been accomplished, and few ‘miracles’ result. When through intuition, faith finds its proper place under Divine Law there are no limitations, and what are called miraculous results follow.”—Ernest Holmes