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Slowing Down to Lead with Integrity pt. 3

Slowing Down to Lead with Integrity pt. 3

When we slow down, we begin to see with new eyes.

A few years ago during my time in seminary I was supporting my family by working as a MRI technician at a local hospital. One of my key roles within this job was scanning and caring for HIV positive patients from the aids clinic each night. One night I sent for a patient who had been diagnosed with HIV. She was 20 years old, frail, and in the end stages of dying from this horrible disease. When the patient arrived she was dirty. It was evident that the care she had been receiving was less than human. Even her intravenous line which was once in her arm was now hanging outside the skin simply attached by a small piece of tape.

As I had done many times before, my training simply kicked in. I evaluated her condition, recognized her basic needs, started a new IV, and we were off to scan her brain. About midway through the test I pulled the patient out of the tunnel to inject contrast for the next portion of her exam. As I was pulling her out I caught a glimpse of her face. She was crying. I realized that prior to that moment I had spent almost 30 minutes with this patient, but had not once looked into her face. Her body had become an object, another task on the endless list of responsibilities at the hospital. Her face prior to this moment was like a faceless Amish doll, but now, all of sudden she was human. I suddenly realized in the depths of my soul that I had been functioning as a blind man.

With new eyes we become attentive and aware of all that is around.

“They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the village. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up. ‘I see men. They look like walking trees.’ So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus.” – Mark 8:22-25 (The Message)

Our new eyes help us to truly see the needs of others around us.

As we’ve thought and talked about it over the past two weeks (part one, part two), it is far too easy in 2012 to live overly busy lives.  Detached from both the reality of the world around us and our own journey, we attempt to embody limitless lives functioning more like an unlimited data plan from Sprint rather than as a human being. Within this busyness we simply miss others. Often the needs, hurts, and even joys of those around us are simply overlooked because our pace does not afford the ability to see. When we slow, we realize that featureless faces all around are actually expressing emotion. We are now a part of their world.

Our new eyes see the presence of God all around.

Whether we’re willing to slow and see it or not, God is at work both in us and those around us. More often than not, we miss it, because we’re simply too busy to notice, and we haven’t done the best job of equipping ourselves with the tools to help. I can honestly say, practicing the spiritual art of attentiveness did not show up in my Seminary curriculum. When we slow by positioning ourselves in solitude, practicing silence, or intentionally withdrawing from busy opportunities, we begin the process of becoming attentive to the things of God. We see God for who He is, and what He is doing in us and humanity.

Our new eyes help us to see our own humanity.

When we see others with new eyes and God for who He is, our own position becomes very clear. It is with new eyes that we see our limits in a more profound and freeing way. These limits help us to recognize our need for God and the broader community. We are finite, our capacities are limited. Our need for God and others is the same as those around us.

Here are some practical ideas for developing new eyes:

  • Take time to look into people’s eyes (nothing weird here, just granting them respect as one created in the image of God).
  • Plan space for “nothing” into your daily calendar, don’t fill every time slot.
  • Create space on both sides of meetings, allowing time to treat people with respect rather than as objects in your grand ministry vision.
  • Pause every few hours, pull away from your desk, take time to listen and feel your own breathing.
  • When meeting with people, schedule time to listen, hear more than just the business at hand, be present.
  • Take time to move slower around your work space. Be attentive about walking slower and taking in all that is around you.

Gripped by the reality of my own blindness, I took a few moments to regroup outside my scan room. I re-entered the room seeing from God’s perspective rather than my own. For the first time that evening I looked at my patient and spoke to her by name, Alice. As soon as I said her name, she lit up. With streams of tears still running down her face I decided to do what I had always been trained not to do. Take off my gloves.

I took my gloves off, grabbed Alice’s hand, and simple held it. Alice now turned her face towards mine, and in a very weak voice said, “no one has touched me with their bare hands in over two years.” I’m deeply thankful for Alice, because she helped me begin to see with new eyes. When we surrender to our limits, give ourselves permission to slow, we begin to see with new eyes.

Editor’s Note: This is the last post in a three part series on the topic of “Slowing down to lead with Integrity.” You can read the first two parts of the series by clicking the links below:

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.