Human (beings)

I watched as she stood beside him, hands in her pocket and head up so she could read the words. I watched as they sang the songs oblivious of each other.
I watched as she sang every word and didn’t care that she was the only little person in our row standing. She didn’t care, she never does.

I remembered in that moment the conversations we are having with this one, how she passionately wants to become a church leader. A dream she has had since she was 6. So excited and so determined. She is already dreaming of the people she will reach – ‘those who wouldn’t fit into a ‘normal’ church, she says. We welcome this dream with open arms.
She is 9 years old. Whatever she does, whatever path she takes she is born like the rest of them to make a difference.

As the music played and the congregation sang I stood with my eyes closed in the hall with all the kids and the distractions and I prayed for her heart. Leadership can be harsh.IMG_9135

Being a person of influence in any form can bring such a joy but with it brings its own pain. It brings hard work, discipline, a soft heart and tough skin. Leaders become leaders because they are passionate about being part of a change. I believe all of those who go into leadership do it because they have a love for it but know there will be the rough along with the smooth. Recently however, I have been impacted by the way people in any sort of leadership position are treated both in the face to face and the social media. The grace or so it seems is becoming less for getting it wrong and being a human (being). People forgetting as they throw their words carelessly that they are speaking to people who go home and try hard to not let the comments or the emotions affect their presence with their family. I have heard words that have been said without any thought just weapons to wound. Like their hearts are stones and ‘they should be able to take it’. This happens everywhere. The school gate, the doctors surgery, the political world, community and in the church.

This is what my girl will have to face. Or does she?

I want to challenge this in each of us. Let us be a generation where we value each other so strongly that we think before we speak directly or behind backs. Lets be a generation that are quicker to think about that person being a human with a heart that can be hurt. Lets be a generation that considers that the person you have just shouted at will ponder over your words whether they are truth or lie.
Lets be a generation that doesn’t make conflict attacking but does it well with kindness. Where we honour in public and challenge in private. Lets not use our own stuff to project onto those that we dehumanise because they are in leadership or in some sort of influential role. I have seen firsthand the pain behind social media jabs to those who I love and decided be game changers but that means they are open to the worlds negative opinions. It breaks my heart.

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I would love to know where did it all change and we think that we can treat people in any sort of position with such unkindness. Where we think that it was acceptable to call a politician a muppet or to shout at the teacher at the school gate. Where did we think it was normal to say such unkind things behind the back of the people in any sort of influence because we don’t like or agree with what they say? What about nurses who lay down their lives for others but are shown such disrespect and impatience. When did we get to the stage that the youth leader could lay down their love of all that they do because their heart couldn’t take one more criticism.
Leadership is a privilege and a position I have never taken lightly. As leaders we welcome challenge and critic when done well. We have never feared that.

When we were prayed in four years ago I made a promise to myself that I would lead as authentically as I could, be real with the highs and lows. I want to keep doing this, it gets harder each time you hear the gossip and the whispering.

Lets work harder with each other, bearing with each other, loving and protecting, challenging in respect and honour.

I believe this is possible, I have to. I want my kids to change the world. IMG_0168.JPG

The note.

Kids first word! The best right! We all wait for this moment. Some longer than others but the waiting is done. The first word anticipated and then shared on all social media sites for all to know. It’s a milestone to be remembered and celebrated.

The Mitchell kids started to talk and haven’t stopped. They have this amazing gift of articulation. From a very early age they have been able to describe in great detail how they are feeling and why they feel like that. Even our 3-year-old can tell me when his heart hurts, when he feels angry or sad and all the emotions in between. We are so thankful for this, a counsellors dream I am aware of that but it can also be a such a pain especially when those feelings expose our weaknesses as parents.

Which this week it did……..

This week was a particularly busy week for us. A family crisis, a few extra things in the diary. We knew our kids would feel the sting of it. We tried to protect them and give all that we had but there wasn’t much left. We knew we were fobbing them off.

Then I got. The note.IMG_0101

It was handed to me with a vulnerable shaky hand because she felt she tried to talk and it didn’t work. We weren’t hearing her and she needed us to hear her. So brave. I opened with fear and trembling. I knew this wasn’t I love you note.

And there it was, my fears and darn it – ‘I thought I had this sorted’ moment. Our 9-year-old saw my weaknesses and my failures and called them out. Not to wound or to damage but to fix. She needed us to be present and she understood why we couldn’t be but that no longer mattered. Jessie loved our relationship more than that so braved what many of us wouldn’t and fought harder.

As I read the note, I realised a had a few choices. All of them came at once, and they all involved how can I get out of this? None of these choices involved the truth of what I had to do. The ugliest one I thought about was explaining to her and making her see why I was doing all these things.  That but….but…..but….moments. Avoiding the painful truth that I was wrong. My daughter didn’t need me to avoid this, she needed me as a parent to take responsibility.

And so I did. In my weakness He is powerful. I felt very weak at that moment.

So I took the note and one by one I went through the list and apologised, I asked for her forgiveness and I gave her a chance to talk, really talk. I listened probably for the first time this week to her. It was not easy. Suddenly I understood the bad behaviour, the tantrums, the fights. I had let her down and there was no excuses left.

No matter when this happen in our lives it’s never easy to hear what you have got wrong. Where you have failed another person you love. It hurts and it exposes our weakness. We want to explain it away, justify our actions, our words and thinking. Sometimes it involves only a sorry and I let you down conversation. I  feel I need to get better at this. I feel we all need to get better at this.

My daughter needed to tell me how she felt, there was no arguing with that. I needed to hear her and understand how she felt. We both sat in the room vulnerable, hoping for a solution and I needed to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

I did. We did. We have solutions in place. but mostly I am hoping Jessie knew she was heard and her feelings respected. I am more and more convinced that’s what we all want in these times; I am so proud that my 9 year old was brave enough to fight and risk the conversation. I hope I am as brave as her.