About a month ago, ten-year old Annie volunteered to participate in the school science fair. My overwhelming pride for her elective spirit was quickly replaced with overwhelming tension headaches as the science fair drew closer. Annie wanted to do an experiment that would help us learn what was making the glaciers melt. After a month, I concluded the glaciers were melting because of my rising blood pressure. I tried to talk about variables. Annie wanted to talk about the pictures on the poster board. For every reminder I offered to check her melting ice, I received an eye roll in return. With one last exasperated plea, the ice finally broke. “Annie, you volunteered for this – why am I worrying about it more than you?” With tears streaming down my beautiful angel’s face, she somberly replied, “Dad, every time you talk to me about this project, it just makes me care less about the glaciers.”
Ouch. As my former teacher, super-wife gently excused me from our makeshift kitchen lab, I thought about how my focus on Annie’s success actually chilled her passion and her confidence. It may have also triggered some memories of other times in my leadership where I helped someone to “start without confidence” and “bury their talents”. Does my zeal for success include a method to unleash others’ creativity? Am I open to discovering the magnificent variables God has planted inside those I lead, or do I embark on the experiments only I can control? Do I lead others simply through projects or do I point them to a deeper yearning to know how God works in them and through them? I may not have helped Annie save the glaciers, but the experiment confirmed my hypothesis that I have a lot more learning to do.