We like to think of every person as a leader. We all have influence with others. But what enriches that leadership? What gives it substance? We love an ancient word of wisdom on being a reservoir from Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century French abbot who worked as a reformer of the Cistercian order:
“The [one] who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself ... Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare ... You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”
Alan grew up going to a man-made lake to enjoy boating and water-skiing. What had once been a river that entered and left a valley had, thanks to the building of a dam, become a reservoir able to hold 300 billion gallons of water to benefit and bless the surrounding community. But how does this idea of a reservoir speak to our lives, our influence, our leadership? Consider this description of the life and leadership of Jesus:
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)
The crowd surrounded Jesus. They longed to learn from him. They yearned to be healed by him. Jesus had a full plate, more full than your plate or mine. But no matter how busy Jesus’ life and work became, he often withdrew to pray, to enjoy time alone with the Father. These were his reservoir times. Jesus listened to the loving voice of the Father, rested in the loving presence of the Father and was refreshed and filled. There Jesus remembered who he was and what the Father was actually inviting him to say and do. He speaks of this dynamic in the gospel of John:
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (John 5:19-20)
How might we follow Jesus in this reservoir dynamic of his life and leadership? How might we learn not only the what of following him, but the how, the why, the way?
We can learn how to treasure the goodness God is always pouring out to us, storing it up like a reservoir of abundance out of which we might bless and serve others without becoming empty. We can make space to let God fill our souls to the brim in relationship to him. This is how Jesus was able to accomplish all that he did. He often withdrew to receive love from the Father, to learn from him.
We've created a Leadership Reflection Tool with a few questions that you can use to dig a little deeper into this idea of becoming a reservoir. We hope they encourage you in your journey to becoming more of a “reservoir” leader. Fill out the form below and you will be taken directly to the download.
CLICK HERE for this free resource.