Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

When Life Takes a Left Turn (Revisited)

My life with my youngest daughter has been an uncharted adventure. Born with a serious case of spina bifida, she has definitely had her share of challenges. We have learned over the last 18 years to face unexpected events with flexibility and grace, trusting the Lord to steer us toward His will. My daughter is currently in the middle of another concerning health issue. As we prepare to take her to the hospital for an extended stay, I dusted off this article from nearly two years ago. It is as relevant now as when I wrote it. May it encourage you, as it has me.

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The car was packed and ready to go. I had one more stop to make before heading out of town to a leadership retreat, a gathering I had eagerly anticipated for weeks.

The night before, my daughter had gotten a splinter in her arm. It was a random mishap. She was on her way to worship rehearsal. While maneuvering her wheelchair across the threshold of the church entrance, her arm merely brushed up against the door post. I was able to remove an inch of the splinter before it broke off under the surface of her skin. I scheduled an appointment with our doctor to remove the rest. Once that was taken care of, I would be on my way as planned.

That’s when my plan took a left turn. The doctor’s assistant tried hard to cover concern with an air of professionalism. After examining the depth of the splinter, she declared, “I’m not comfortable conducting this procedure. The splinter is embedded in her muscle and will need to be cut out. Your daughter needs to go to the hospital.”

Leadership is an extension of our lives. Every day there are numerous possibilities for our well thought out plans to take a left turn. One moment we are heading in a certain direction. The next we find ourselves in circumstances leading somewhere we hadn’t planned on going. Left turns require special attention; our responses to them sets the tone for what happens next.

As conflicting emotions whirled inside me, I was acutely aware of my response choices, and that my daughter, family, and medical staff would be influenced by my choice. How would I respond? What kind of influence would I exert?

I could assign blame. It was my daughter’s fault for being careless. Or the person responsible for building maintenance. Or the medical personnel for being incompetent. I could wallow in self-pity. This happens every time I plan something. How unfair! I am just a helpless victim! Will I ever get to enjoy anything? I could lash out in anger. If I’m not happy, nobody else is going to be happy! Someone do something to fix this, and do it now!

Instead I chose to rejoice.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV). In the midst of this left turn experience, God was near. His Spirit rose up within me, giving me courage, strength, and joy.

No matter what happens, I am not a victim. Through Jesus, I will always be victorious. While events may not unfold as I would like, my God is in control. He is never taken by surprise. I trust that He loves me dearly and is actively at work on my behalf and for His glory. What about you?

My daughter looked at me with anxious eyes, and said, “I’m really sorry, Mom. I know you were looking forward to going.”

I returned her gaze and replied, “You are so much more important than this retreat. If Jesus wants me to go, I will get there. Let’s walk this out together with Him.”

As we drove to the hospital, we burst into laughter, struck by the absurdity of the situation. We expressed our trust in our loving Father to work His plan through this unexpected event.

The x-ray machine at the hospital could not detect the splinter. Finally the staff located it by ultrasound. After three attempts they removed the culprit–a piece of wood about the size of a toothpick. Six hours after embarking on what was supposed to be a simple task, I delivered my daughter home, her arm mended with super glue and Steri-strips, and her heart touched by God’s loving presence. I eventually left for the retreat, four and a half hours behind schedule, my heart overflowing with gratitude and peace.

The way we respond to the left turns in life is crucial. It sets the stage for how well we lead our families and followers. We bring who are–strengths, weaknesses, and all–to our leadership environments. As leaders we must always remember we follow God’s lead.

Are you following God’s lead? Are you walking with Him? You can trust Him to work out the details when life takes a left turn. Rejoice! The Lord is near!

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV).

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I acknowledge my dependence on You. I struggle when the unexpected enters my life. In the midst of the ups and downs and the twists and turns, help me to place my trust in You. Help me lead with confidence as I remember that You are always with me and directing my course. You have the mercy and grace I need to walk this out. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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