Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Following the leader

I'm not sure whether this is more prevalent in the evangelical homeschooling world, but where I come from there's a fairly strong emphasis on being a "leader." Way back in the days when my folks were first figuring out that I was "smart" and I was making noises about getting a doctorate my parents somehow came up with this grandiose idea that I could be that one positive influence on the university system that left a mark and turned the ship and did awesome things that future homeschooling parents would relate to their children in hushed tones as an example of someone who went far and made waves. Ok, so I'm exaggerating. Slightly.

Even at the time I was somewhat skeptical that I could affect the level of change they anticipated, but years later I can only look back and wonder at their over reaching ambition. The people who change academic history are rare. The conservative types who stand against all the prevailing winds of indoctrination and who make history (for something other than getting fired amid a storm of "tsk tsks") are even rarer. Smarter than your average bear won't work in those situations. You'd need to be scary smart along with being extraordinarily savvy and blessed by God with nearly prophetic vision and stamina. That's a tall order for a girl with decently high ACT scores and an education that, to be honest, could have been better. (And I'm going to stop right here and say that I got a great education by many, many standards. The reason why I'm able to even say this about my education is that I've had the opportunity to reflect and think about education in general and particularly about great books/classical education. My mom did a great job homeschooling us. Truly I am grateful for that gift. However, I think that Christian education has rolled along a bit in the past few years, and I think it's entirely possible that the education my kid(s) receive will as far surpass my own as my own surpassed my parent's. Thanks, Mom!) The point being that my parents were telling a story about how I could become this amazing leader without my actually having the background to make such dreams even remotely feasible. Based on talking with my husband and looking around my facebook feed I suspect that experience is pretty normal for those us of who came out of conservative, Evangelical homes.

In my own life this assumption of leadership potential has led to a lot of frustration. Having imbibed this idea that conservative, Evangelical homeschool types should be leading pretty much wherever they went (Hello, Patrick Henry College!) it's been a hard for me to see and accept that my parents really didn't do much towards preparing me to lead. Not really. Reading "The Case for Christ," taking a semester or two of debate, and being "self-motivated" just aren't enough. Hopefully you can see the tension here. I get involved with a group and feel that internal pressure to become a somebody. I want to walk in the door and have my opinions valued and solicited without having done a darn thing to demonstrate why my opinion is worth anything to anybody in the first place. I'm dead serious. Use a baby carrier three times, and my little "leader wanna be" ego is the size of Lady Liberty. The flip side to that if that when I'm being self aware enough to realize that my ego wants to take over New York I tend to not offer advice, or at any rate do it awkwardly, because I'm terrified that I'm being an officious know it all. However when an opportunity comes up to do something that technically should be within my capabilities I tend to freeze and not try anything because I'm so very, very aware of how much I don't know. The result is that I'm often left feeling awkward and frustrated.

So here's the new outlook I'm going to be trying to cultivate - learn how to follow. That's it. Don't get mad wishing people consulted me or looked up to me more. Don't feel bad about not taking on things I feel are outside of my ability to execute competently. Just follow. Learn. Build up the people around me. Be the kind of person a leader would like to lead. Respect the leader's time and ability. Don't try to curry favor. Just be. Enjoy what I'm learning. Be grateful that God has put other leaders in my life. Consider that perhaps they're the one's sowing seeds that need to grow and bloom in my life.

There's more I want to write about this, but I think I'll wait and do a part 2.

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