An Emotional Roller Coaster

Emotional Roller Coaster

Rewarding things in life often come with a mixture of ups and downs. Achieving anything of significance will often begin to feel like an emotional roller coaster.

Recently one of our good friends posted on social media about the emotional roller coaster that often accompanies foster care.

A better friend might have offered compassion and support. However, a snarky object lesson was the first response to cross my mind:

“Have you ever accidentally found yourself on a roller coaster?” I asked. “To ride on a roller coaster, don’t you need to drive to an amusement park, purchase tickets, stand in line, and then step into the ride? When the ride is over, don’t you have to exit the ride? If you want to ride again, don’t you have to intentionally repeat the process?”

Mountain Tops and Dark Valleys

MountainThere was probably a more supportive way to frame my response to our friend, but I believe the concept was still valid. Often the most meaningful things in life will have their ups and downs. They will take us to the highest mountain tops and through the darkest valleys. These highs can be exhilarating. The dark valleys can be terrifying. The lows can be infuriating.

Foster care can be an incredibly meaningful and rewarding endeavor. It can be an amazing way to offer hope, protection, and stability in some of the darkest circumstances. With that said, it requires working with people and systems in our broken world. At times working with people can be incredibly challenging. At times working with systems can be equally challenging.

My point to our friend was, the emotional roller-coaster ride of foster care isn’t something we accidentally find ourselves in. It’s a circumstance we intentionally put ourselves in. It’s a circumstance we continue to put ourselves in each time a child comes or goes.

We intentionally subject ourselves to the terrifying valleys or infuriating lows knowing the positive impact our mission can bring.

Finding Purpose in the Sewer

In “Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace“, Debra Moerke paints a vivid picture of one of these dark valleys:

Lord, I don’t get it. What is my job? I’m obviously not doing it well right now.” I thought I must not be doing God’s will because I was uncomfortable, hurting, and suffering. Oh, how little I knew! I have since learned that sometimes we are totally on track when we’re suffering and hurting and miserable.

I’m not one to claim supernatural visions on a regular basis, but right then I sensed God saying, “Okay. You want a good picture of your job? This is your job.

I was in a sewer pipe, standing ankle-deep in raw sewage. Trudging through the filth in the dark, the only bit of light filtering down from the slits in the occasional manhole above. The vision was so vivid I could smell the stench.

SewerI came to a metal ladder that went up to a manhole. God said, “This is your job. Freedom and life in me are through that manhole. Your job is to stand here, and when someone comes by, you are to put them on this ladder. You are to do whatever it takes. Fold your fingers together and hoist them up by their foot. Kneel down in the sewage and let them climb up on your shoulders. You do whatever it takes to get them on that ladder, get that manhole cover moved, and get them into the light. That is your job.” Then God asked, “Are you willing?” It sounded like mission impossible. “Even though it can be a stinky job? When you are alone? Ankle-deep in poop? Are you willing to man the manhole? Are you willing to serve me by serving others?

Surviving the Darkest Valleys

Moerke penned the words above after an incredibly dark valley. After fostering a child in their home for many months, they were required to say their goodbyes, and the child was reunified with her biological mom.

A short time after leaving the Moerke’s home, this precious child’s life was cut short by a horrific act of abusive rage. This tragedy of this death left the Moerke’s with more questions than answers. They were confronted with the reality of brokenness in both people and systems. The tragedy left them questioning if their mission was worth the pain. It was a long and painful process, but the evaluation and refocus on their “why” brought them through the valley.

Much like foster care, a leadership role will often require seasons of slogging through some messy sewers. It can require traveling through dark valleys. It can require putting our own needs aside for a time to help others thrive.

Leadership and the Emotional Roller Coaster

You may not be a person of faith, but as leaders, a higher purpose is absolutely essential in enduring the dark valleys. When we can determine the driving motives behind why we lead it will often carry us through the dark times.

As is often the case, as soon as I presented my witty object lesson to our friend, I realized I needed to hear the same message. I found myself lamenting the ups and downs that come with leadership. I may have even thrown a bit of a temper tantrum as I protested the unfairness of my challenges. Similar to Moerke, I had convinced myself that I must be doing something wrong as a leader because I was uncomfortable and frustrated.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Jim Collins describes the leadership characteristics they found in 28 companies that made the transition from good to great. The leaders of these good to great companies were rarely high-profile, charismatic leaders. The character of those that led companies to greatness contained a unique combination of humility and fierce resolve.

As leaders, if our “why” is solely focused on our own personal gain, our leadership will rarely produce long-lasting results. Formulating our “why” around something other than ourselves is essential for what Collins calls Level 5 Leadership. When we combine this humility with a fierce resolve we are able to endure the emotional roller coaster of leadership.

Are you struggling with the emotional roller coaster of leadership? Take a step back and revisit the driving motives behind why we lead. If it’s focused on our own personal gain it might be time to reformulate our “why”.

 

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