Mike and I went back home to Colorado for Christmas.It was cheery and wonderful and holy-Moses-freeze-your-nose-hairs-and-clench-your-butt-cheeks cold. My nose and butt cheeks are still recovering.
Our flight back to San Diego was ugly-early on Christmas morning. At 5am Mike and I stumbled into our rental car and turned the heat on high. It was night outside, so Mike drove while I watched for Santa.
On a normal morning, the airport commute would take a little over an hour, but it snowed all Christmas night, which made the roads white and treacherous at 5am.
Immediately after merging on the highway, we got stuck behind two side-by-side snowplows that acted as arbitrary escorts. As we followed behind them, the speedometer barely inched above 30mph and we prepared to miss our flight as time ticked away.
With the heat on high, all of the residual scents of the rental car seeped through the upholstery: stale cigarette smoke, musky cologne, and resurgent human farts. I blamed the resurgence on Mike, even though I knew he wasn’t responsible. Someday he will find this as funny as I did.
The drive was frustrating because the road only opened up as fast as the snow plows cleared. We couldn’t circumvent the plows, but even if we could, the only safe road was the road behind them. Following was our only option and somehow it felt unjust, especially when we were in a hurry.
Most of the time I would rather be reckless and brave than patient and safe. I think it’s some sort of condition that comes with youth and restlessness.
We drove slowly and made our flight by a single, frozen nose hair, which I suppose means that we made it on time.
After boarding the plane I recalled a closely related devotional from a few days earlier.
“My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when the time is right, the way before you suddenly clears– through no effort of your own.” (JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young)
I thought about this in the context of New Year’s Resoluting, where we cast out nets of dreams and goals as arrival points for next year. I like resolutions for how they make me feel like a leader of my own life. But every time I cannot control the speed of arrival, I assume it means I will miss it altogether. I am a leader who doesn’t like to follow.
The most humble and patient leaders I know are Mike’s parents Kevin and Katie DiFelice. And I think they are humble and patient because they have learned to respect the snowplows ahead of them… until it was their turn to lead the way. They have cultivated humility that makes them leaders without saying so. And now they are snowplows that I eagerly follow. Their leadership makes me want to follow closely, just to be more like them.
The two leadership attributes I admire most, humility and patience, are byproducts of waiting behind someone else. Humility assumes that you don’t deserve first place, and patience assumes your turn will come in time.
It makes me think that the best way to grow and mature is not always to blaze my own trail, but to get behind someone who already has. Maybe following is the most effective way of learning to lead. Because getting behind great leaders (who we will call “snowplows”) illuminates how much I have to learn, which might be the whole point.
While most of the time I would rather be reckless and brave than patient and safe, snowplows mercifully come along every once in awhile to block and lead at the same time.
So I’m trying out this new resolution in 2013, one that places me in a passenger seat behind a snowplow that makes the way safe.
I’m resoluting to follow and trusting I’ll arrive on time.