One of my favorite books as a kid was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. As you may remember or imagine, the titular tree keeps giving and giving--at greater and greater personal cost. The tree loved a boy, so it loved meeting his needs and granting his wishes. The boy only showed up when he needed stuff, but the tree was thankful for whatever time it had with him.
What love, right? I don't think so anymore.
Is it really love to empower people to sin--just so they'll keep coming around sometimes? Is it really generosity if we never expect the ones we love to "get" what life is all about? I realize giving and leadership are not the same thing, but even God gives strategically and intentionally. Peter writes: "And remember, our Lord's patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him..." (2 Peter 3:15, NLT). And Paul writes: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4, NIV)
Something tells me there's a reason there's no classic children's book called The Leading Tree, but I'm tired of being satisfied with just giving and giving of myself. I don't need anything back, but I do want to help people get where they need to go, to become what they need to become, to change what they need to change, and to do what they need to do. That's leadership.