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Centered Part Seven: The Leader Who Follows

I am a follower

The car is a rental, the foreign city is on another continent, and the people don’t speak your language. Then, your sole contact pulls out from the curb and waves for you to follow. Have you been in this position before? I have. It was during a short-term mission trip that Cheryl and I led in Greece. Near the end of our time, we needed to journey into Athens to a hotel on the edge of the old city. We were a band of four cars. The local missionary took the lead, followed by two more team cars with me at the end. Incredible as it sounds today, I did not have the address, name or contact number of this hotel: nor did I have a reliable contact number for the missionary.

Everything was fine on the highway journey south; however, the challenge began as we neared Athens, a city of millions. The traffic was completely unlike anything I had ever experienced in North America; even the controlled frenzy of Southern California can’t compare for intensity. The rule of the road was: the larger the vehicle, the greater the right of way, but one could overcome this handicap by being aggressive and quick, very quick. It was “war on wheels,” with the ultimate soldier being the road-warrior truck driver. Our missionary had lived in Athens for many years, so he was well acquainted not only with the layout of Athens but also with the driving habits. He had adopted all of the practices so vital for coping with the intimidating roads; unfortunately, I had not. To make matters worse, he drove as though no one were following! I got the feeling that signalling was a sign of weakness, so forays into bumper-to-bumper traffic were often made with little or no warning; and red lights triggered the command to attack. I did not want to race through in my little car, especially when I was fourth in the convoy. I began to utter the name of Jesus under my breath and jam my foot to the floor, leaving behind a cacophony of horns, not so much angry at having been cut off as having been bested by a wide-eyed foreigner.

Our lead car fearlessly careened through side streets built hundreds of years ago for foot travel, antiquated store fronts battled back by squeezing in to protest our presence. On and on we fought through this sprawling paved battlefield. I continued to chase in blind faith, with absolutely no idea where we needed to land to capture the flag and rest our bodies. One more ancient alley dared us, and our lead took up the challenge. We fought through this concrete gauntlet, but when it was my turn to explode into the skirmish of the main road there was simply no room. Absolute dismay overcame me as my companions disappeared into the fray. My little steel steed with its conscripted passengers was utterly and completely lost.

I’ll spare the detail of how we rejoined our team; except to say that hours later, prayer and good sense reunited us. It was humiliating to discover that we were within minutes of our destination, but how could I have known? My missionary friend had little to offer in consolation; I got the distinct impression that he was even a little put out that we had inconvenienced the team. I wasn’t overly upset with him; how could he know what it meant to follow?

We can lead only as well as we have learned to follow

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