Cleaning the Cobwebs
LEADERSHIP REALLY MATTERS
REV. JAY HANSON
The other day I was sitting in bed reading a book when my son Jacob, a high school freshman, came in the room to talk to me about the busy schedule of the week ahead.
Before he started speaking, I noticed him standing in front of me looking up at the corner ceiling with a questioning look on his face. I turned to see the object of his attention and was confused – all I saw was the empty corner of my bedroom. He pointed up at the ceiling and said, “Mom, are those COBWEBS in the corner?” I got up, took a closer look, and was horrified to see a virtual network of spider webs stretched across the corner of the room and reaching out in all directions onto the ceiling. I then began to look around the room and I was alarmed to discover they were not only in one corner of my bedroom, but little bits and pieces of cobwebs were all around the room.
As the reality sunk in that I was not only providing a home for humans but also for little eight-legged creatures (that were surely dropping from the ceiling in the middle of the night to crawl on me as I sleep), I was at once embarrassed, repulsed, and grateful. While cleaning my bedroom ceiling I began to wonder if this was an isolated issue or if my entire house had been overrun with cobwebs. Had I been blind not only to the problem in my bedroom, but had the spiders claimed territory in other rooms of my house? As I looked around the house I discovered that my cleaning was going to be much more exhaustive than I first thought – these little nearly invisible cobwebs could be found in nearly every room in the house. A virtual community of spiders had become squatters in my home! What I thought was a clean, orderly house was in reality much different when I began to look for cobwebs.
As I cleaned, I reflected on life and leadership. These pesky cobwebs made me aware that my problem might go even deeper. There might actually be cobwebs cluttering my leadership and ministry if I would only open my eyes and pay attention. Below are six observations about cobweb cleaning that go beyond simply cleaning the corners of my house.
- We need occasional seasons of cobweb cleaning in our life and ministry. Over time we accumulate cobwebs that clutter our seemingly organized, functional life. The webs start small and harmless but quickly gain traction and invite unwanted critters into our lives. In my personal life, those critters answer to names like pride, insecurity, jealousy, or bitterness. In ministry, they look like inward focus, misalignment, competing agendas, or apathy and can set up house and move in uninvited.
- We all need an honest cobweb identifier – someone to tell us the truth in love with no condemnation – who can see what we no longer see. When the cobwebs are small they can only be identified by someone with a different perspective, looking through a different lens and from a different vantage point. We’re often tempted to try to identify our cobwebs by ourselves, to avoid accountability and vulnerability. But what we fail to realize is that we are no longer capable of seeing everything about ourselves by ourselves. We were created to need each other and to wade into places of truth and vulnerability in trusted relationships.
- We need to be ready to receive the truth with thankfulness. When someone points out the cobwebs in our house (life, ministry), almost instantly our egos rise and scream, “Go clean your own house!” We want to return the favor and point out all the cobwebs in their house and we often expend a lot of energy looking for reasons to discount what they’re saying to us instead of dealing with the truth of our own situation and thanking them for their observation and perspective. Whether or not cobweb identifiers have our best interest at heart, we can still learn from all of them with the right attitude. Anytime someone teaches us something, we can choose to respond with thankfulness.
- Realize that it’s not as bad as you might think. Initially you might be tempted to assume that everyone else can see your cobwebs and they’ve been silently judging you. You might feel like a failure for allowing those cobwebs to develop or your mind can run away with you and make scope of the cobwebs and the length of their presence even worse than it is. Take a breath – everyone has cobwebs they can’t see. You can’t change your past ignorance of your cobwebs, but you can do something about the future.
- Examine the scope of the problem and look for patterns. If a cobweb is in the corner of one room, chances are they are in other corners of other rooms in your house as well. Don’t just deal with cobwebs in one area of your life or ministry and assume that it’s not a systemic problem. Most problems have a root cause that creates systemic issues in multiple areas. Be willing to do the hard work to search for cobwebs throughout your life and ministry and change your habits, thinking, and motivations to prevent it from happening in the future.
- Create a regular rhythm of looking for cobwebs. Look for inconsistencies, get to the root of the issue when you are offended or defensive, notice shadows and dark places where things are a little fuzzy, and ask a trusted cobweb identifier for regular feedback. Deal with the cobwebs regularly and often so you can continue to become more like Jesus and help others discover His calling on their lives.
Jay Hanson, Lead Pastor, and Anne Bosarge, Multi-Campus Director, serve at The Chapel Ministries. They love sharing about the ways God is moving in their church. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for more information.