Taking the interstate home tonight I was startled to see two ducks–mama and baby–on the inner shoulder of the freeway. For a moment they waddled farther onto the road and I silently yelled at them for their stupidity. Then just as quickly they turned tail into the grassy median strip. I zipped past and breathed a sigh of relief when they were safely beyond my line of fire. Fluffy duckling killing would not be on my list of memorable events this day.
I pondered those ducks. What in the world were they doing in the middle of the interstate? How did a duckling manage to get out there without getting killed in the first place? I’m pretty sure he didn’t do it alone. No, he was following someone. Someone older. Someone he trusted. And mama duck led him right into the line of fire. Bad choice. I don’t know the end of the story–will they survive their foray beyond safe territory? I can only imagine how frantic they probably felt stuck between one whizzing car after another–towering over them, bearing down upon them–and all they wanted was to get safely back to the lake on the other side. What a terrible predicament. And all because a leader and a follower made poor choices.
This year I was mama duck to a large group of impressionable ducklings who were all making crucial decisions about how to live their lives–which roads to take, which roads to avoid–and they learn from my example. My duck encounter today caused me to ask again, have I led well? Can I say with the Apostle Paul, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9)? It was a mantle I chose to wear this year, and one that weighed heavily upon me. As the year came to a close, I felt a sense of relief to be able to lay it down. Not that I will live any differently, but just that I’m not being scrutinized so closely. I think James, possibly the brother of Jesus, knew that pressure. He wrote, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways…” (James 3:1). And Jesus turns the pressure up even more: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
I just got done watching Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Here is a modern text-book example of someone who is followed, someone who is hands down the center of attention. What is he teaching? And an even bigger question to me–why in the world would anyone want that kind of attention, that kind of pressure to perform? It’s seriously intense. I’m thinking the answer is, it has to be a calling. The pressure is real. And it is right. When we dare to teach others we are dealing with potentially hazardous stuff. If we just rush in beyond our ability, beyond the truth we know, with our own ideas and agendas, we may find ourselves trapped between two deadly interstates with a trusting young friend alongside. That is a place I hope never to find myself. It’s common to face pressures to lead, to “do something important;” but sometimes it’s better to wait, better to be silent–better a sitting duck than a dead one. Before I lead, let me test myself. Let me weigh my words carefully. Let me live a life worthy of the calling I have received before I presume to lead others into theirs.
By God’s grace I wore that mantle, and I pray I wore it well. If you are wearing that mantle, may His grace also abound towards you. And if you need to sit it out for awhile, may His grace abound to you even more.