You Can’t Save Everybody

When I was in elementary school I made a papier mâché volcano for our school science fair.

I’m not going to lie to you, it was awesome.

It looked like a big brown blob of wet paper, concealing a soup can, overlooking a cardboard city filled with Matchbox cars.

While it may not have looked like much, It would actually erupt if you put baking soda and like, nitro glycerin, or something else in it.

I’m also not going to lie to you about
how “un-Gigliesque” my science skills are.

Before you get too impressed, understand that I had a choice between creating a volcano or a hanging mobile of our solar system.

I, like most of the boys, chose to build the volcano while the girls spray painted foam balls and bent coat hangers out of shape.

Our teacher explained that the boys were drawn to the destructive power of the volcano, while the girls gravitated to the creative order and vibrant colors of the solar system.

While she may have been onto something, I really saw it as an opportunity to play with toy cars.

From that day on I tended to think of volcanoes as a destructive force of nature, bent on the destruction of human construction.

You can imagine my surprise when I was told that volcanoes are actually one of nature’s most creative forces.

I was told this when a scientist came to my school to explain why we didn’t have to be frightened by the recent eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

The scientist explained how an eruption brings new life to old areas.

He showed us a movie about an island called Surtsey. It was an island created by volcanic eruptions and in just a short time, it became capable of sustaining life.

He told us that within just 10 years the entire landscape of Mt. St. Helens could be a thriving ecosystem. It would be something NEW, born out of the death of the OLD.

This made sense to me, except for one thing… “What about the people who lived on Mt. St. Helens?”

When I asked this question, the scientist told us that sometimes people die in volcanic accidents, but in the case of Mt. St. Helens people were given advance warning and most of them made adjustments to their life to accommodate the eruption.

Except for a man named Harry Truman.

Harry Truman, not the former president, refused to move off the mountain.

He’d built his home there.

He was staying put.

The community of people living on the mountain tried to get him to leave with them. The courts and the law enforcement agencies did their best to force Harry to move.

“If the mountain goes, I’m going with it. This area is heavily timbered, Spirit Lake is in between me and the mountain, and the mountain is a mile away, the mountain ain’t gonna hurt me… boy.”

When the mountain erupted, Harry was killed.

His relatives said that it was best that he died in the eruption, because had he been evacuated and then returned to see the destruction of his beloved land, he would have died of a broken heart.

Harry Truman was killed by the “emerging ecosystem” because he chose to stay in the home that he had built for himself over the years.

His love for “what existed” was so strong that he was willing to die with it, or for it, rather than live without it.

Which brings me to the local church.

You can already see the obvious parallels emerging right?

“Change brings about both destruction and creation.”

“Young people bring a creative explosion to the church that destroys the old while birthing the new.”

“Old people hate change, and they’re willing to resist it until death.

As time worn, and often apt, as these cliches can be, I think there’s a richer leadership parable at work here and that is this:

Don’t believe that good leadership, communication, and information will keep your people safe and moving in the same direction.

Leaders communicate with and prepare the people around them for the difficulties of change, even though we know that it won’t be enough to protect and keep everyone together.

Because people still have a choice about following the program.

When we think that good leadership will never lose people along the way, we reveal that we believe we wield more power than we actually do.

Good leadership, communication, and information don’t keep everyone safe and moving in the same direction; they give us the best chance at helping the most people CHOOSE to move safely in the right direction.

Many people would rather die with the old than learn to live with the new, and age can often have very little to do with a refusal to change.

What killed the old dinosaurs killed the young ones too.

Like it or not, cultural volcanoes erupt. some are brought by the young, some by the old. Each eruption gives us the opportunity to point to the places of new creation where survival can best be attained.

Not everyone wants to survive, we do our best anyway.

“I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.”

John 12:24

One Response to “You Can’t Save Everybody”

  1. Cheryl Q January 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    “he chose to stay in the home that he had built for himself…” So true that self-protection eventually leads to death, but surrender and trust lead to life we never could have attained on our own. Being part of the church definitely means availing our hearts to trust the Lord and one another. Thanks for this, Jon!

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