I had gone four months without a paycheck and my pride was no longer calling the shots. I was in a position where I couldn’t blame the economy, the president or fate. In the words of Led Zeppelin, it was “nobody’s fault but mine.” I had lost my job because of selfish, poor choices but at this point, more than my job was on the line…my marriage was at stake.
In the not too distant past, in what feels like another life, I betrayed the trust of many people, most importantly so the trust of my wife. Honestly, I don’t expect ever getting over the infinite ache of hurting my best friend like that. Somewhere between the borders of anxiety and regret, guilt had possessed both my piety andIf pride.
In rebuilding our lives, I just wanted a job that brought a sense of esteem and purpose but that would not be for some time. Thankfully, God had plans for my heart long before He had plans for my wallet.
I landed two interviews, one at Caribou Coffee and the other at Target. Caribou never called back, but Target did and I landed a position working in their backroom, pulling and stocking merchandise. I vividly remember leaving the drug test place, driving back to my brother’s house where we were staying at the time and being overcome with emotion.
I wept for the rest of the ride as I realized that I was starting over, literally earning a little more than minimum wage. I was crying from my self-pity as reality shook me out of the disillusionment I had been trapped in. I pulled into the driveway as the song, “Take My Hand and Walk” by The Kry played on the radio. It felt like concrete gripped my hands and feet…I didn’t want to go inside.
Amy was anxiously waiting for me at the top of the stairs interested in our financial future. The pain of my previous decisions were still fresh and she was very sensitive still to my every word and action. I walked up the steps, looked at her and could barely get the words out through my tears…”I got the job.” Now here is where my wife is the most amazing, phenomenal woman to grace this broken life. Here is where I, as a man, humbled, shattered, bruised from self-inflicted wounds and having wounded her deserved nothing. But this was her gift…she reached out, embracing me deeply, leaned into me and whispered, “I’m proud of you.”
If ever in my life I have known mercy, it was here in this moment. Two years later, this gift of mercy remains the greatest tool of leadership she has employed in our marriage.
A quick Google search on ‘leadership tools’ is a recipe for information overload. The very word ‘tool’, in the context of leadership, can hint at Machiavellian power struggles, just another manipulative accessory for climbing a ladder. I would hesitate to use this utilitarian word, ‘tool’, if it wasn’t for its perfect definition – something (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession. Even for more abstract enterprises, like “leadership” or “marriage”, there is a gamut of tools for success.
From psychology to technology you will find top 10 “tools” proclaimed everywhere in this digital frontier. Things like vision, mission, personality type, coaching, empowering, social platform, etc. These are all fine and can serve leaders well whether sacred or secular. However, the ‘tool’ I am espousing, when employed faithfully, can keep you out of the rat race or the Machiavellian camp and settled peacefully in the, ummm…Jesus camp.
From this story, you probably already know the ‘tool’ I’m espousing is mercy. What better way to shun manipulative tendencies than to surrender one’s pride and offer something far less lucrative like mercy? What better way to laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry than through the lens of mercy?
Finally, and most importantly, what better way to use mercy as a tool for leadership than to remember a time where you were granted mercy yourself. If I’m anything at all today, as a leader or as a husband, it’s because I was given the unmerited mercy, grace and favor of my Savior and my wife.
May you too one day know the triumph of mercy over judgement.