When I was 15 or 16, and sitting in church, my Sunday School teacher (I do not remember which one) – during a pause in the sermon, whispered to me: “One day that could be you up there.” Perhaps it was a spontaneous whim that compelled his words; I doubt he remembers saying them to me, and I am not sure he even remembers me at all. I remember nothing else that he taught me. But that one sincere remark made a profound impression on me.
My early role-models were thinkers and speakers – men of enormous moral integrity and courage. To suggest that one day I could stand alongside them was – to a very self-conscious and angst-ridden teenage boy – a profound statement about my potential. I started to see myself as powerful. As I said, I don’t know if he understood more about me than I give him credit for, but his expression was a captivating affirmation of my dreams, my worth, my sense of self, a revelation of my identity in Christ. I am deeply grateful for how the Holy Spirit moved him that day.
Today I am not a preacher – although that comment did prompt me to investigate the possibility seriously. I am a teacher. One driven by a sense of divine purpose and an unshakeable belief in my ability to be effective. I know God equips those he chooses, and I do not doubt I have been chosen for His work – no matter whether that is – in human terms – significant work or not. And much of the credit must go to a nameless teacher who spoke to my heart.
There is a lesson in that for teachers and leaders everywhere. Losing himself in that moment, and catching a glimpse of a Kingdom vision, my Sunday school teacher spoke words that would resonate in my heart for years to come, and that would begin to shape me in incredible ways. It was a remarkable testament to God’s ability to work through us even we are not consciously ministering.
I believe the mark of an effective leader is the ability to help others unlock the doors to their hearts. Once you can awaken Godly desire in others, and help them to see their value as children of God, you stir a force that is unstoppable.
Sometimes it only takes a few words that speak straight to the desires of the hearer’s heart- the part that longs for an opportunity to live life significantly, but is suppressed by doubt and brokenness. A leader must speak words that challenge the listener’s self-imposed restrictions, and promise a life of illimitable weight. Leaders that change the world are those who help others recognise the power in themselves.
I look for opportunities to do that. It is not always conscious, although sometimes – I can proudly testify – it is. I have a sober appreciation for the power my words hold to shape futures by providing opportunities for young people to recognise their own capacity to be influential, and by encouraging them to take ownership of that power.
I fail dismally. A lot. Many of those I have counselled seem to leave school as broken as when I met them. But on sheer statistics I am bound to get it right a few times. I hope that one day somebody will look back, long after she has forgotten me, and remember words I no longer remember speaking myself. And I hope she will say: that day you lit a fire in my heart. Perhaps the shackles – the mind-forged manacles – did not break that day, but they were significantly weakened. And I know I am not God, I am only human. But I am not merely human. I am a beloved child of the God who spoke the universe into being. I am significant. I am powerful. And the world had better watch out, because I am on a mission!