Sometimes, most of the time, I’ll admit, I prefer being alone. I can entertain myself without getting bored, and most of my best ideas and insights come from being alone. But there are times when I look around to discover myself standing alone, and it is a complete surprise. Last week, while eating at Chic-fil-A in Love Field, Dallas, waiting for my flight to Denver, I read in my Daily Bible from Daniel 10, about his last grand vision from God. It says, “I, Daniel, was the only one to see this. The men who were with me, although they didn’t see it, were overcome with fear and ran off and hid, fearing the worst.” (10:7, MSG)
I wrote in the margin of my Bible, “That is a hard part of leadership, being left standing alone.”
Apparently Daniel didn’t start out the day alone, but when the vision started it was so frightening the men who were with him fled even though they didn’t actually see the vision. Something scared them. Maybe it was the energy in the air, or Daniel’s reaction, a sound or vibration, who knows, it doesn’t say. But Daniel was left standing alone.
And so, when reading this, I thought about the two opposing sides of leadership. Leaders cannot function without community, yet leaders are often alone. Leaders cannot lead, cannot succeed, cannot know or understand God’s will, on their own. They need other people, valiant men and women. Not only that, but being a leader means intentionally bringing other people alongside. It is an obligation.
Yet, so often, the leader is left standing alone, especially when the scary visions begin.
One of my greatest leadership revelations of recent years happened on the porch of Sam’s house in Ann Arbor, MI, when I was writing and thinking about my calling, trying to put it on paper, meditating and praying on the idea of being a lifelong pilgrim for Jesus, when out of the blue I prayed, “God, I don’t want to finally find you, standing alone.”
I don’t want to find myself standing before Jesus and hear him say, “Well done, Berry, you searched for me your entire life, and now here you are, with more understanding and insight than most.”
It was in that moment I realized what had been true all along but I didn’t understand it or know how to articulate it. My life’s calling was not merely to pursue God, which is what I thought, but to bring people with me. I could imagine Jesus saying, instead of congratulations and well done, “Let me see who you have with you.”
But yet, there’s Daniel. He was left alone when the visions began. So much of leadership means being alone, whether setting up chairs, or making coffee, or studying to put together a talk, or gassing up the bus at 5:00 AM, or walking hallways all night looking for leaks. At some point, the number of people willing to stay gets very small. In Daniel’s case, they ran away.
There is another thing about this. Daniel didn’t remain standing before the vision because he trusted God more than the other guys, or because he wasn’t scared. In fact, verse 10:8 says he was “left alone after the appearance, abandoned by my friends, I went weak in the knees, the blood drained from my face.” (MSG)
Daniel stayed because that’s what leaders do, they stay. Daniel stayed because that’s what people who want to hear from God do, they stay. Even when they are frightened and weak in the knees.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32