Don’t Forget Who You Belong To

When I became a father, I started doing something that my dad always did. Isn’t it funny how that happens? You end up turning into the Old Man at some point. But in this case, it wasn’t an accident. I did it intentionally.

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Every time one of my kids leaves for school, or heads to a friend’s house, or leaves my presence for any extended period at all, I pull them aside, grab their little face in my hands and remind them of something. I’ll whisper, “Don’t forget who you belong to. You belong to Jesus and to me.”

My dad used to remind me of the same thing when I was a kid. It was as predictable as the sun coming up. Every time I’d head out somewhere, he’d always remind me, “Don’t forget who you belong to.”

It made an enormous impact on me, obviously. (Because now I’m inflicting it on my kids.) But it would be difficult for me to over-state how significant the expression of love, care, responsibility and value of the family name was conveyed in that simple phrase. Even as a small boy, I would finish my dad’s sentence. And you know what happened when I became a man? I remembered.

Now, with my kids, I find myself wanting to communicate the same thing. I’m intentionally trying to express how much I love them and how much I care for them. I’m also being careful to inculcate in them the value of being a responsible person—to remind them that their name means something. I want to steep them in the notion that integrity is a precious commodity, and a scarce one at that. “You belong to Jesus, and to me,” reminds them both of their eternal value to God and of their earthly significance to Dear Ol’ Dad. I tell them this because I want them to know that they BELONG—and nothing could ever change that fact—for Jesus or for me.

I dropped Brody, my six-year-old son, off at school the other day. I did what I always do. I got down on my knees, grabbed his little face in my hands and said, “Brody, don’t forget who you belong to. You belong to Jesus and to me.”

And you know what he did? A little grin creased across his lips and he quickly grabbed my face with his little hands and replied, “Don’t forget who YOU belong to, Dad.” And with that he wheeled and went into class.

If you don’t think you’re being watched by your kids, think again. Every little action and encouragement, every voice inflection, every look, it’s all being imprinted on the hearts and minds of the little people that follow you around. Be careful what you’re writing with your words and actions. They’ll quote it back to you someday, one way or the other. Make sure the chapters you’re recording are worth reading by the little boys or girls under your care.

One of these days, they’re going to grow up. And they’re going to start writing their own pages and modeling what really matters to your grandchildren. And the loudest voice they’ll hear ringing in their ear—for good or for bad—will be yours.

If you’ve never done it, give it a try. Get down on your knees in the next little bit, grab a pint-sized face in your hands and with all the love and care you have in your heart, tell that boy or that girl: “Don’t forget who you belong to. You belong to Jesus and to me.”

They’ll thank you for it some day.

REACT: What expression of love has made the most significant impact on you? Leave a comment below.

Never Go Wrong Going Low

Try searching for a leadership book on Amazon some time. What you’ll find is a treasure-trove of some 100,000 book titles, all pushing their particular take on the mysterious keys to leadership.

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There’s plenty of books on the subject, a direct result of a hungry reading public, seemingly starved for it. There’s nothing wrong with leaders. I consider myself one. There’s nothing intrinsically bad about being a leadership learner either. The world needs better leaders. In fact, one could argue the world faces a crisis in the category–a global dearth of skilled trailblazers. That being true, perhaps we need those 100,000 titles. Or, maybe we don’t.

Something’s broken in how we look at this leadership thing. Maybe our hunger to dig up bigger leaders has actually unearthed their darker angels. We’ve all seen the grizzly undercarriage of this locomotive. You may have been run over by it. Maybe you’ve done the driving. Either way, there’s no shortage of leadership horror stories for us to share with one another.

What’s at the center of most citizens in Leadership World is the clamor to influence wider, build bigger and climb higher. It’s a drive to lead more people, get more production out of the resources around you, and become the bigger dog. There’s a lot of competitiveness in most leaders I know. We tend to treat people as commodities to be used, rather than gifts to be stewarded. Leadership can devolve quickly into emperorship. And God forbid two emperors start eye-ballng the same territory. The dog-fight that always follows, and the fur that always flies, will prove the better man or woman. The last dog standing always wins, right?

Isn’t that the sub-plot of most leadership books you read? How do I win more? How do I accomplish more? How do I build my brand or my portfolio or my renown?

But it isn’t working—in the long run. Short term victories are ending up in losing seasons for many leaders and the circles that follow them. Maybe we need a different paradigm. Maybe what we’ve been doing is building leadership with the wrong blueprint, the wrong model. Maybe, we need a different Book.

Jesus is the most influential leader the world has ever known. His book is history’s best-seller, going away. But what He modeled in leadership left just about everyone in His circle scratching their heads. He said if you wanted to be great (in the real Kingdom), you had be a servant. He showed that real Lordship didn’t arrive on a white, kingly stallion, but on a lowly donkey. When people hurled insults at Him, He made no retaliation. When they made threats, He held His tongue. When given the choice of personal advantage or self-sacrifice, He always chose the humble path. He always subordinated His preferences to His Father’s plan.

There was (and is) something compelling about the meekness of Jesus. He had all power at His disposal, yet restrained Himself. He exchanged the wealth of Heaven for the poverty of earth, all so He could give to you and me. He experienced loss, so you and I could win. And because He allowed Himself to be brought low, you and I are lifted up.

Jesus drew up a different blueprint for real leadership. And it’s one that has stood the test of the centuries. Try it on for size. You can never go wrong by going low. When you and I put on the Christ-garment of humility and servitude and lead from that posture, what we will glean is the fruit that only His plan can produce. You’ll be set free to enjoy true generosity. You’ll encounter the freedom that comes from selflessness. Any other picture of leadership is just a warped facsimile of the Jesus-original.

When you experience the counter-intuitive truth that your life is made better when you help other people win, you’ll discover what tens of thousands of the world’s books have failed to calculate: that there is richness and fulfillment in leading from bottom. As you follow the model of Christ, and take your personal descent into greatness, let hope rise, knowing that what awaits you is a reward you could never build for yourself. It’s buried beneath your feet as a leader. Dig down deep and lift the ones you’re leading along the way. Your personal greatness will be defined by how fully and how consistently you gave yourself away. Because when it comes to leadership and influence that really matters, you can never go wrong going low.