They arrived one evening at an AIM staff retreat and we sat up talking till 3 a.m. that night and the next in our cabin. In the morning I’d stagger into the plenary sessions with the staff and I’d try to look inspiring. It was tough to look the part of a leader on just a few hours sleep.
The four of us had a lot in common. We’re all leaders walking with a limp. At middle age with varying large and small successes under our belts, we’re still struggling to find our voices. We believe in the vast potential of the next generation and we want to raise them up to greatness. We love orphans and want to help them. We want to see the kingdom planted around the earth and are tirelessly optimistic about it.
And none of us has ever had much experience with a good model of authority or covenant.
There was a magic in the cabin that night and our natural bravado led us to boldly exclaim, “Why don’t we make covenant with one another?” And so, not having a clue what we were doing, we spoke preliminary words of commitment and hope to one another.
Subsequently, there was the matter of our families who had to be introduced to one another and given an opportunity to begin dancing this dance of corporiety with us. I’m sure to our wives it felt unnatural and forced. To grease the skids, we went on a vacation together away from the children. We laughed and talked and caroused.
And three years later, we look back and say, “Wow, we had no idea what we were in for. How do you do this thing at a distance from one another? How do you build trust when you’re already distracted by the responsibility of a family? And when we break trust with one another, how do we pick up the pieces and start up again? Are there limits? When do we call a halt to this thing?”
We’ve messed up pretty big along the way. We’ve caused each other a lot of pain. We go through seasons where we may not like one another. Some of my other covenantal relationships where proximity isn’t an issue and where it’s just pure friendship are a lot easier sometimes.
But, so far, we’re all still at the table. I’m in Colorado Springs today and we’ve been meeting with alumni from the World Race who are asking the question, “How do you do covenant?”
Most of the time we just look at one another, scratch our heads and answer something like, “We don’t know, but hang out with us and we’ll let you watch us as we try to figure it out.”