I had agreed to speak at a seminary for a conference with the theme of “The Leadership of Jesus.” I wasn’t sure what aspect of Jesus’s leadership they wanted me to focus on during my session, but I liked the idea and figured I could adapt my talk to the specific session when I arrived.

The time grew near, and I received a little more information. Uh-oh. I was speaking late on a Saturday morning. I’m not sure how I had missed that detail, but it was going to be an issue. The church where I preach has a Saturday afternoon service, and I couldn’t speak at the seminary and drive back in time to preach at church. Flying wouldn’t work either—airport time, and all that. Backing out of a commitment was something I absolutely hate to do, but it looked like the only option here.

Then I had the brainstorm.

A member of our church flies helicopters as a hobby. And I’d always had a hankering to take a copter ride. Here was the perfect chance to kill two birds with one stone. He could fly me to the conference, where I would step off the whirlybird and do my thing. Then he’d fly me back to church. He told me he was happy to help, and it seemed that everything was going to work out.

I met him on a cold Saturday morning, and we lifted off into the wild blue yonder. I was having a blast, and not just because copters are cool. It’s a little embarrassing to admit (actually this is really embarrassing), but I felt pretty important and prestigious choppering in to speak. At least subconsciously, I must have been figuring the attendees were going to say, “Wow. Who’s that guy?”

It was a snowy weekend, and the hosts had cleared the snow away so the helicopter could land right beside the chapel where I’d be speaking. I did wonder how distracting it would be for the speaker of that moment—all that “whoop-whoop-whoop” of the whirling blades, people holding down their hair, small animals being carried by the gusts. But hey, it goes with the territory for the copter crowd. What could I do? High-powered figures must deal with such dilemmas.†

† Please tell me you know me well enough by now to recognize my use of sarcasm. If I seem to be expressing the opposite of the chapter theme, this generally means I’m being facetious. If you didn’t pick up on that, my writing may be rough going for you. Sorry about that (sarcasm again, right there). If you’re still not getting it, I look forward to your comments on the Internet (yep, still sarcasm).

As we landed, I imagined all the heads craning to see the “bird,” wondering why there was a Black Hawk Down reenactment at their Bible conference. Was the president of the United States about to step off of it? No, just me, but I saw myself strutting in slow motion as I tossed off a cool salute to my pilot.

I stepped inside with about fifteen minutes to spare before my session. An aide walked over and handed me a sheet of paper with the precise title of my talk. My cheeks flushed as I read it: “Leading from a Place of Weakness.”

Duh! Well played, Lord. Well played.

I had arrived with some serious swagger, some extra-strength pomposity, making the gaudiest entrance imaginable, only to speak on humble servant leadership. No cute escapes for this one. It would be dishonest to claim it as a stunt to illustrate my theme, although the thought crossed my mind.

No, I had to own it. My seminar began with a time of confession and acknowledgement of how much I still needed to learn about the subject I was getting ready to teach on.

Jesus gets us like that frequently, if we’re paying any real attention. We tend to revert to the human default, which is pride and self-importance and the deep desire to impress others. Getting to the end of me means coming to the end of my strength. As we will discover in this chapter, our weaknesses create a space that God wants to fill with strength.

Kyle Idleman, The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-down Ways of Jesus Begins (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2015).

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