20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. 21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. 23 He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.
We love stories like this, don’t we? Chuck full of vim, vigor and valor. Dripping with drama. Movie-worthy exploits. Front-page news. These are the books that sell quite frankly. Books that appeal to the “inner hero” stirring up the romantic ideals and best-case scenarios that latently pulsate in the underworld of our soul day in and day out.
We all want to think we would descend into a pit on a snowy day and kill a lion with our bare hands. Going to a hard place under inclement conditions to perform an impossible feat of strength…who doesn’t want to live that story? So we buy these books hoping to learn some secret that will turn us into “Benaiah” or “Jabez” or “John-Doe-Secret-Bible-Hero”. These books sell, especially with catchy titles that point toward adventure, success and heroism.
But I want to write a book with a different slant:
“Sleeping on a pillow in a boat on a stormy day.”
Somehow it doesn’t have the ring that Mark’s book possesses…the sexy curb appeal. But alas, this would be my contribution to libraries across the land.
By now, your mind has probably already located the passage of Scripture where this title derives its context. It speaks of a time in Jesus ministry that I can’t stop thinking about lately. It is one of Jesus’ highlight ministry moments, in my opinion, though it looks like one of his lowlight moments where he is exposed as a lazy lard of a leader.
The story is found in Mark 4…check this out…
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
I’m not sure why this story grips me so, but there something here that penetrates to my core. I think it’s the ability of Jesus to rest, to be at peace, to sleep so soundly in the midst of chaos, to pull away from the forefront and head below.
We are taught as leaders to be at the helm, and here Jesus is in the stern. We are taught to lead in the storm, and Jesus sleeps in the storm.
Picturing Jesus sleeping on a cushion calms me.
It doesn’t sell books quite like killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day, but I wonder if there isn’t more to leadership than savage feats of strength under inordinate amounts of stress produced in life or death situations. In my mind, life or death situations don’t always present themselves in the form we are looking for or feeling for. They often are found in the stern, below the deck, out of the panoramic gaze of panning cameras.
The best leaders understand the power of the pillow.
They get rest and relaxation. The can say, “Peace, be still!” to life around them because they know how to live in that place themselves. You can’t have a peaceful effect on life around you when you’re wound up tighter than a snare drum living a life of frenetic and manic energy. All you can speak to the waves is something like, “Hey, I know I have no right to tell you to calm down being that I’m the most non-calm person on the planet, and I know I can’t tell the driven wind to subside from the hyper-driven place I live from, and I sure as heck-fire can’t whisper a storm into submission when my life is nothing but a stormy quall itself, but can you please, pretty please, stop and be still?”
“Sleeping on a pillow in a boat on a stormy day.”
This is the kind of book I would write today ‘cause this is the kind of leader I want to be. I want to know when to be intense, and then I want to know how to out-rest the best of ‘em. I want to know when to live with unbridled passion at the helm and then to live with shameless relaxation in the stern. And even when the boat is about to capsize, I want to sleep like a baby knowing God is in control. I want to lead people in such a way that makes them restful and peaceful.
So, look on the bookshelf for this new release in the coming years. In a world where normal doesn’t really sell anymore, I hope to pitch a different story. And maybe this is what makes the life of Jesus so compelling…how normal he was.
Make me a normal leader, God.