When we are exploring leadership in Pioneer settings, we often talk about ‘leading out of who you are’. Whilst we need to understand that we are not our role, pioneers are often described as having ‘the gift of not fitting’ or being able to see the world differently. So understanding who they are, and how they have been shaped and influenced, is a key part of the leadership journey. In this blog post, Beth Honey, one of the Pioneer Enabler team, shares her reflections on this.
When I got married I was only 24 – but I liked the idea of changing my name back then – perhaps I would be more hesitant now. Maybe I would be more attached to a name that I had lived with for more years. Maybe I have blossomed into more of a feminist. Certainly, my identity has broadened and strengthened in the past 17 years. But the surname that I have acquired, certainly as well as the husband that I partner in life – is not one that I am disappointed in – Honey.
I like the name Honey. It is not just a sweet name. It is a name that is one to savour. It is one that customer services remember. It is one that garners comment. It is one that teachers remember – mostly for good reasons. It is a reminder of a land flowing with milk and honey. It is a reminder of plenty and of survival in the wilderness. Of a wild prophet who lived on honey and insects. Of a wildness that perhaps we would do well to recover sometimes.
I have seen the phrase Wild Honey written on postcards, and even have it on a small, treasured toy van at home now. I would secretly like it on a leather jacket and perhaps my next tattoo now I am nearing that middle years marker. Who was that prophet who sought God’s sustaining in the wilderness – Honey in the wilds? Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is near. Here is the lamb of God. The one who is coming? I won’t be worthy of tying his shoe laces! Who am I? I am his cousin by birth, a prophet you may call me, but he will baptise you with the holy spirit – with fire, not water.
Why did people flock to John the Baptist? Were they looking for a repentance, for reassurance? Were they seeking the Messiah, for zeal? What was attractive about him? Why did people remain loyal to him even after Jesus began his public ministry, and I wonder how that was between Jesus and John? We know that John enquired about Jesus even while imprisoned. And yet, we know that John remained focused on knowing Jesus, and who he was.
How wild would it be if we sought once more to know our identity so clearly.
In pioneering we so often need to know clearly who we are. We can only know what are we called to do, in the place and space that we are in, when we know ourselves. Knowing clearly who we are helps us attune to What is God calling us to and what our community needs to do in this place. It is one thing to say we pay attention to the voice of God and to reattune to listening to the spirit at work in the world so we might act, but knowing ourselves helps really discern where God is calling and why we might be hesitant or even dismiss a sense of call. Perhaps we are a little more Paul, a little more Peter in our style, but maybe we also need to be a little more Wild Honey – a little more John the Baptist too, calling in the wilderness – prepare the way….
Pioneer Enabler: Restore Cumbria