This week, the leader of the free world gave his final State of the Union speech to America. In tradition, the political party opposite that of the president provides a rebuttal to the speech. This honor was given to the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Haley, who rose to national news with her fervent campaign to remove South Carolina's Confederate flag from the capitol, was chosen to speak after the Presidents speech. Lots has been said of her speech...tweets for deportation from bestselling authors, race baiting commentary from the DNC chairwoman, unimpressed co-workers gabbed about how scripted it was and establishment elite demanded that the American public be smarter. Yes, lots has been said about the pros and cons of her speech, but it is also clear that very much has been speculated about who she is. As is the nature of politics, impressions are made quickly and hard to reverse...my hope is to alter some of the brittle ones.
Now I will be the first to admit that I didn't invest any attention to watching the SOTU given by Obama, I did view the "highlights" afterwards. But given my viewing attendance at 4 of these in the past 8 years, I believe I am well briefed on the latest version of the speech and able to comment.
The first thing I want to point out about the Governors response is that while portions were clearly scripted, it had substance to it. The one thing I am sure we can all find common ground on is that Obama is a charismatic speaker. And while he speaks of grand things for our future, he ignores the detriments of the present. Now if you were listening to the governor’s speech, you would have heard her speak of the complications of the day, the burdens of healthcare costs and the unrest of citizens of various cities. If you go further into Haley's public service, you'll find she tackled these issues in her own state with results. In my book, "Heroes of Faith", I write about the governor’s road to the statehouse and her past and accomplishments since elected. Haley followed through with her campaign promise to do what was in her power to rid the state of South Carolina from the burden of Obamacare. She led a coalition of 30 governors in a written plea to Washington, imploring them to reconsider the expanse of the healthcare law. When that failed, she championed with results other reforms such as Medicaid managed care, Tort reform to protect those who serve, better transparency between doctors and patients and endorsed a free market. This past year, post the tragic shooting at a Charleston church, Haley fiercely and with much clarity in the matter endorsed the removal of the Confederate flag; a symbol that has been so divisive in the history of her state. She also praised the prayer vigils that took place as a time of restoration.
So while many thought Haley as idle as Obama on that night, her responses to the issues of the day set her apart and provide substance to her words.
But above all, Gov. Haley embodies the American dream that seems to be slipping away from so many. In Haley's memoir, "Can't is not an Option", she describes the choice her parents made to emigrate to America from India, the struggle to assimilate into the new culture, and the bravery needed to overcome the racism that was to be endured. Yet through it all, her parents reaffirmed the blessing of America to her and her siblings . They valued the opportunity to pick up the ball and run as far as you can with it. Haley carried that tradition with her as a legislator, bucking the status quo and calling for more efficiency. Even though she was labeled a trouble maker by some and demoted, she fought for what she believed was right. With a chic air about her she ran for governor and won; twice. Her ability to maintain and respect her heritage, promote American values and defend opportunity has made her a respected public servant and a heroic American. I belief she was chosen to speak that night because she embodied all of these qualities. She is the American dream.
Nikki Haley is a servant of class and substance. She rightfully spoke that night of a brighter future, a realistic future and a hope for a safer future. She transparently took some blame for her parties fault in America’s problems and encouraged acceptance and restoration.
In closing I’ll say this. Pick up a copy of Nikki Haley's memoir; take some time to read it over. Get to know the person within from her own words. As mentioned above, she is the proud daughter Indian parents. But at the bottom of the cover of her memoir you'll notice this line:
"My American Story"
"Love is Patient. Love is Kind"
Are you restless? Are you self-controlled? Have you developed a thick skin? Are you articulate? Are you organized and efficient?
The above are questions that should be asked of and by any individual who hopes to spiritually lead a group of people. Of course they must also adhere to and be motivated by the word of God, but for this blogs purposes, let's focus on the above traits.
As a guy in my 20's who desires to be used of and by God to promote his Kingdom, who struggles daily with pride and understanding God's plan; I often have to ask myself one or more of these questions each week. I have leadership ambitions that are beyond what God currently wants me to do, and it is hard to dream big only to have a continual "wait" to my prayers to be used. John Piper says this about spiritual leadership:
"If you want to be a great leader of people, you have to get away from people at times to be with God."
If you are like me, you've probably been asked a lot of the above questions already and have had to prepare an answer for them. But what does it look like when you ask yourself these questions? Alone. Just you and God.
Often thought to be a form of discontentment among believers, restlessness simply could be the opposite of inertia. I think it pleases God to provided some with a restlessness; a craving for growth, whether its personal or public. Philippians 3:14 and Hebrews 12:1-2 talk about running a race that is set before us. Not staying immobile, but moving forward towards Christ.
Leaders long for the day they will not be hindered by their inabilities and their limitations. But sometimes the things that dominate us most and cause us to react, are the things that have control over us. 1 Corinthians 6:12 tells us to not be dominated by anything. When we appropriate control of our passions and inabilities to God and recognize him as having given them to us, we can claim victory.
If you set out to lead others, you will be opposed at some point. Are you ready to handle this humbly? 5 years ago i was incapable of handling any sort of feedback; good or bad. It still is a struggle to hear feedback on a project i have fully thrown myself into. But God calls us to seek His, not man's approval in Galatians. This is not to say that we have no obligation to adhere criticism. You'll want to be sure it is justified though.
Have you seen the Academy Award winning picture, The Kings Speech? In the film, King George VI must learn to articulate his thoughts and overcome his speech impediment. Sometimes leaders don't have the easiest time articulating. They either are great thinkers or great speakers. rarely both at the same time. Some leaders rip apart the opposition; some woo their followers. Spiritual leaders must learn to address others with compelling arguments, without appearing argumentative. Paul continuously prayed for clarity, Jeremiah lacked the skills when God called him to be a prophet as a boy and Moses was granted Aaron as a mouthpiece. God will provide. Just ask of Him.
Organized and Efficient.
This has truly been my greatest skill. I could spend hours organizing and reorganizing the things in my life. I dust my ceilings with a broom and constantly am making lists in my head. At work I struggle to sit in meetings that seem to lack conclusions. I plan months in advance and I plan to re-plan on a moments notice. Sometimes I struggle with being more efficient though. Am I doing to much and compromising my work? Could I have read that article while I brushed my teeth? (probably not, but these thoughts have crossed my mind.) Spiritual leaders are not the jellyfish of the sea-they are the dolphins.
So now that you have mine (and John Piper's) insights on spiritual leadership, ask yourself the above questions. Most importantly remember this.
"Those who wish to lead, must at one point be led."
"Love is Patient. Love is Kind."
Resources: The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. John Piper.2001.Minneapolis, MN.