The snow and ice here in Atlanta this weekend reminded me of one of the times in my life I’m least proud of. It was the year before I surrendered my life to Christ and I was as lost as an Easter egg in tall grass on Monday morning. We were living in Charlotte, North Carolina and I was head of a sales branch of AT&T Information Systems. I was totally involved in self-worship disguised as career worship. A winter storm came and piled up about 6 inches of snow and everything stopped . . . that is, except for me. I left my little kids, my wife, the sleds, the warm fire and the hot chocolate and went to the office. There was almost no one there . . . which really irked me. “Where is everybody?” I thought. “What’s wrong with these people?” “It’s a new sales year.” “We’ve got numbers to make!” I wrote down the names of everyone who came to the office, did some paperwork and went home.
At the next office meeting, I brought the people who came to the office that day up to the front and presented them a t-shirt inscribed with “I go in the snow.” In reality, I wasn’t recognizing their sacrifice as much as I was shaming those who stayed home. It’s unbelievable to me now . . . that I could be so insensitive. I wanted people to risk their lives (well, maybe just their cars) to brave the icy roads and show up at work, even though there were no customers to call on and no crises to manage. It was unadulterated ambition . . . pushing myself and others to show their commitment to ‘the cause.’ Snow is so rare in the south, yet the thought of freeing myself (or my employees) to share that special experience with family never crossed my mind.
As men, it’s easy to turn our jobs into idols. We convince ourselves we’re sacrificing for our families and ‘just doing what we have to do,’ but it’s often more about our competitiveness and our desire to achieve, to win, and to be recognized. A lot of the business trips and meetings I attended during those years could have been handled without me being away from my family. And today, with the internet and video conferencing, there’s real opportunity to be home more. But we have to ‘want to’ . . . to be willing to do things differently . . . to say “no” more and take a little risk. In the 10 years after Jesus found me, I traveled more than ever, but my motivation was different. I trusted God with my job and the outcomes of things. I no longer lied to myself . . . I traveled in collaboration with my wife and kids, not in contention with them. I was much more discerning and courageous about what I said “yes” and “no” to. God blessed the ‘work of my hands’ in ways I could never have imagined when I was driving myself and my people to ‘go in the snow.’
Charles Spurgeon says that “Jesus is the pattern and the model after which we would sculpture our character.”
How would Jesus have led his employees?
I can see Him pushing a sled easier than I can see Him at the office.
Scripture: But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice’ . . . (Matthew 9:13a)
Mentor Tip: Willingness to be a different kind of leader . . . a compassionate leader, only takes hold when a guy trusts God with his work. The only way your mentees will grasp this is when they see it modeled. And that starts with you!