The new academic year has begun, and with it we have experienced a flurry of activity. Students are returning to campus. Faculty are in the classroom, charged for a new year. It’s so invigorating!
I am savoring this season with its passion and hope. And I recognize that once it gives way, I will return to the same space all leaders occupy: basic, un-sexy, practical reality. With that, countless questions will be brought to me: Why isn’t this technology working the way it should? When will the new office spaces be available? Do we have the students we need for our next class start? The voices will rise, the pace will accelerate, and adrenaline will kick in. We will need to move forward. Instinctually, I am preparing myself to put my head down and grind until commencement next year.
The risk, of course, is that I get rolling and end up in the wrong place when the year ends. If I’m not deliberate about where I am going and what I want to accomplish, I could waste energy and stray far from course. So, I need to know my direction and stay on course. How my going to do that?
Some may consider this surprising, but Jesus of Nazareth shows me the way. Sure, he lived in a different time: society had a different place and slower rhythms. Jesus’ world was not propelled by technology to a breakneck pace. But the stories about him make clear that he carried a heavy leadership burden. Large crowds followed him. Opponents schemed against him. Political intrigue threatened him. And trusted friends betrayed him.
In the midst of all that was going around him, Jesus understood what he was about and what he was supposed to do. The stories about him tell us that the appeals of trusted friends, the demands of the hungry crowd, and the intrigues of enemies could not keep him from his task. The Gospel of Luke says he “set his face like flint toward Jerusalem” (9:51); a maelstrom formed before him, but it would not deter him from when he was called to do.
What allowed him to stay on course? Luke again provides a hint regarding what was going on: it says that Jesus would often withdraw to the lonely places to pray (5:16). Indeed, Luke recounts numerous situations in which Jesus withdrew to get direction when he had to make important decisions.
I take Jesus’ example the heart. I’ve spent my share of time before the academic year started alone, clarifying what is most important and what I need to do this year. I’ve also scheduled breaks that will allow me to withdraw, reflect, and pray–so that I may make course corrections if necessary.
How will it end? I may not go as far as fast. But I have hope that I will reach my goal as I lead in Jesus’ way.
Dr. Drake Levasheff is Senior Director of Azusa Pacific University’s Murrieta Regional Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.