These leaders are giving me valuable seconds of their time. They are among our nation’s best leaders. They are looking at me, their Chaplain. A few seem impatient while hearing the specific word I share. Perhaps, their wariness is the result of previous violence done to their faith, or the culmination of an intellectual process, or the adherence to a different philosophy or theology. I hold this in tension with the importance of what I’ve been asked to share. I don’t want to come across preachy.
The Commander’s Update Brief (CUB) is a meeting during which the key leaders of the battalion report the activities of their companies and sections to the Battalion Commander (BC). It is critical. As the Battalion Chaplain, I advise the BC on religion, morals, and morale of the unit as well as the coordination of Religious Support (RS) to the unit. At the end of each CUB, the BC has me provide a “Word of the Day.” This “word” is accompanied by a few brief thoughts which are intended to encourage these leaders and, subsequently, their units.
I care about each of these men and women. Any reluctance one of them may have to listen is important to me. They are important to me. God’s Kingdom is given to such as these. Christ built the church on men and women like these. I want these words to be received without seeming smarmy, preachy, or heavy-handed. I believe God’s Spirit is working through this “word” at varying degrees with each person. Therefore, I focus the “word” on our shared concern: our Soldiers and our nation.
I experience a personal sense of vulnerability and tension as I speak. I choose to let my guard down and accept indifference, skepticism, and rejection…as well as the chance for a breakthrough. That’s the nature of unconditional love; it’s vulnerable and strong. It often comes with the feeling of discomfort or the fear of seeming absurd to peers, subordinates, and superiors. Yet vulnerability is a catalyst.
Henry Nouwen states that the “…Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”
This is what my calling is…to offer my vulnerable self to these leaders. I realize the fullness of our situation; I recognize that these leaders are offering their vulnerable selves to me, too. It is symbiotic. Our strength is through being vulnerable Soldiers.
I hope sharing the “Word of the Day” doesn’t get easier. I perceive that the more vulnerable I feel indicates the more on point the day’s “word” is. Isn’t this true for all ministry and leadership?