When we were kids we had a house that was set on a huge rock. The basement was basically a passageway dug all around this boulder. One game we played was “Cave Expedition.” Half of the kids were blindfolded (usually the smaller ones), the others not. Each seeing kid would lead the blindfolded one around the rock making spooky noises, taking in the musty smells and occasionally colliding with hanging laundry! Mind you this was well before the days of XBOX 360! You had to follow because you could not see but as long as you could reach out to the rock you knew where you were and could lead yourself if you lost your guide. We would then change roles and the leaders would be followers.
Go to any university, college or even high school and you are bound to find a leadership program. Institutions of higher learning love to tout their ability to identify, form and graduate leaders!
But where have you seen programs to learn how to be followers? The assumption is that if you’re not a leader you’re automatically a follower. But that’s not the case. Following is an art, as we see in the scriptures.
Most amazingly, today we have a majority of people who neither lead nor follow—they are simply independent operators, otherwise known as individuals. To be a leader or a follower you have to be part of a group, a community, a family, even a gaggle of kiddies, bored on a summer afternoon and in need of a cave expedition.
Ultimately you can’t be a leader unless you are willing to be a follower too– you have to be both.
My own experience of teaching these now fairly many years have shown me that I have to follow students as much as to lead and direct them if I am to be effective. Indeed the art of teaching requires one to multi-task, to be a leader and a follower. I applaud students who suggest different and better ways to do things, and rejoice when they learn enough to stand up and teach or gain the confidence to share the knowledge they have. I also applaud those who seek advice on how to write a better paper.
The readings today are about leading and following. We are not asked exclusively to do one or the other, but to read the signs of the times and choose the appropriate role, now one, now the other. John and Jesus come to lead but the people are unable to follow. In the first reading from Isaiah we hear Isaiah God counsel the people to follow so that their progeny may lead.
Whether it’s a trip through an imaginary cave on a warm summer afternoon or our life journey in faith we must both lead and follow. Advent, though purple, is not a monochromatic season (take it from someone who has trouble matching vestments). We are asked to act so that wisdom may be vindicated. To lead is certainly to act – but so is to follow. In faith let us do both as we await the coming of Christ who asked the disciples on the beach to follow him so that they, too, might become leaders.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook