Encouraged to lead

In the Christian dating sphere in which I spend a lot of time, the conversation comes up regularly about how women can encourage men to take the lead and to be stronger leaders. They express wanting to be respectful in how they present the encouragement. Well, while I was at a singles conference in Colorado Springs recently, one of the ladies gave a perfect example of how to do just that.

A group of about a dozen of us set out to hike up Pulpit Rock. Thrusting up out of the earth, Pulpit Rock offers a couple different experiences of varying difficulty. We chose the more difficult, which involved some climbing near the summit. When it was time to head back down, there was a little bit of hesitation about how and where to start our decent. Where again was the spot where we climbed up?

It was at this point that Lindsey spoke up. “Well, Brad’s really good at forging a new path. Why don’t you lead the way, Brad?”

There it was. That was all I needed to hear. I wasted no time in stepping forward and being the first to head down the slope. I could do this. I knew I could do this. One person believed I could do this. So I did this. There was no question in my mind.

I also wasted no time in thanking Lindsey for her kind words, encouraging confidence, and supportive trust. She had done — in my mind — exactly what men need from women as respectful encouragement to lead.

She called out the ability she had seen in me. She affirmed it, acknowledging that she knew I would be a great candidate for forging the path. She then called me to live into those attributes she had seen in me. She had set the bar for me, and told me that she believed I could reach it.

Men love to be issued a challenge. If I say to a guy that I can beat him in a game of one-on-one, it won’t be long before he’s playing me to prove me wrong. If a guy next to me at the stop light revs his engine, I’m likely to hit the gas hard once I see green. (Although, if I’m smart like Marty McFly, I’ll put the car in reverse first.)

When a challenge is made, the bar is set. Sometimes, the bar seems too high. If that’s the case, some men will give up before even trying. (I’ve certainly done that before.) But, if there is someone there to tell the man he can reach that bar, he’s much more likely to try; especially if that someone is a woman he loves.

Certainly, this framework would be a great way to encourage anyone to take the lead. But, I think it is especially effective for men.

To be chosen

It has been a while since I have expressed any deep emotion via my blog. I think a big reason for that is because I get the feeling that people will assume I’m pining away for Stephanie, whereas I and everyone close to me know that is not the case. But nonetheless, I have spared the world from my laments. I’m about to break that streak.

I find myself lonely today, and in recent days. It’s not that I don’t have those in my life that love me. It’s not that I don’t have God. It’s not even about being single that has me lonely.

It’s that I don’t have someone around who chooses to love me.

Every year, I recognize around the holidays that I feel lonely. I haven’t really spent a lot of time in the past trying to figure out why. I guess I just always assumed it was because of being widowed. But, that’s really an unreasonable conclusion to me anymore. While there are certainly the occasional times when I miss Stephanie, for the most part, I’m pretty accustomed to life as it is now.

But today, I think I’ve figured out the reason for my loneliness: it’s that I don’t feel chosen. During the holidays, all of my friends are spending all their time with their families. Of course, I don’t blame them. After all, I’m spending all of my time with my own family.

And I have an amazing family. It’s pretty much the best family, I would argue. My parents. My brothers. My kids. I wouldn’t ever trade them for anything. And I know I’m loved. But we’re family. Love kind of comes with the job description. Friends, on the other hand, only really stick around because of their choice to do so.

When I was still married, I constantly had someone around who had chosen to love me. Even when we were at odds, I knew that she had chosen to love me for the rest of my life and I to love her for the rest of hers. But now, I don’t have a best friend.

And unfortunately, I’m part of my own problem. I know there are so many people who love me and do choose to love me. But I hate to make people feel obligated to me in any way. I hate the thought of asking someone to be there for me. I would find it hard not to question if they really wanted to be there, or if it was only because I had asked. Maybe I don’t always do a good job of accepting another person’s love for me. I want to tell them “I’m fine” and make it believable so they don’t feel obligated to give me the time of day. I don’t want obligation. I want to be sought after and chosen.

And so, I rely on the one source of love that is truly always by choice and where I know I’m never an obligation even when I ask: God.

Deuteronomy 7:6b — “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

I’m a treasured possession, and I seek solace in that.

And for those of you who have loved on me — acquaintances, friends, close friends, family — I say “thank you.” Nothing I’ve said here takes away from the fact that you have loved me well, and I am forever thankful for you. I hope that I have also done well to show others my choice to love them.