The Baby-boomer anthem by that laid-back California troubadour Jackson Browne has always said it best:
“Running on-running on empty
Running on-running blind
Running on-running into the sun
But I’m running behind”
(Running on Empty, 1977)
Leadership often seems to have that sense of no matter how hard one works, one is always behind. Leadership in the church is frequently about managing process without closure. There is always one more call to make, one more meeting to take, one more thing to do. We run and run and run…and run out of gas…and we become exhausted from all the running. We find ourselves as leaders empty.
But is that such a bad thing? Recently two writers, Gordon Cosby and Sister Joan Chittister, have given me new insight into the importance of emptiness. Cosby, in a 2001 interview said, “Our culture promotes a constant filling up, but our disciplines will draw us toward a greater emptiness, so that we can be better prepared for obedience and, ultimately, for finding our place in God’s plan finding true relevance.” Sister Joan, in her book, “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” (Eerdman’s, 2005), encourages Jesus followers to cultivate the spiritual discipline of detachment – of letting go – of emptying in order to gain that which is greater.
If we “run on empty” because we are obsessively trying to control our world, we will fail. But if we run on empty as a means to unburden our souls from all that crowds us , to unclench from our tendency to hoard, then as leaders we discover true freedom, and the ability to be the non-anxious presence required of good leadership in our post-everything world. – JPW