Confessions of an Aspiring Jesus-like leader

Confessions of an Aspiring Jesus-like leader

I’m Not There Yet

I’m not often tempted to pat myself on the back. At my age, I know know better. It would make my shoulder hurt. (Don’t ask me how I know that.)

Nonetheless, if I’m ever tempted to try – again – another simple but painful experience, God should deliver me from the temptation.

Despite more than a decade devoted to teaching people how to Lead Like Jesus, when it comes to me being a Jesus-like leader myself, I’m not there … yet.

How do I know? Here’s the backstory.

There is a famous prayer composed by Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, which serves as a great example of a Christian turning his or her life over completely to Jesus. It’s called Suscipe (Latin for “receive), and it’s all about asking Jesus to receive us completely. It goes like this:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

that is enough for me.

I choke every time I try to say it, which is fairly often because it’s a pretty common communal prayer in my Catholic tradition. Always I encounter the same stumbling block.

I cruise right through asking the Lord to take all my liberty (what there is of it), all my memory (what is left of it), and all my understanding (however lacking). But then I see the next phrase – “and my entire will” – and my throat tightens into a knot.  

My “entire will?” Seriously. Ooh, that’s a toughie.

Yes, I know all that I am and all that I have is a gift, freely given. And yes, I’m acutely aware that if the Lord does not actively will my life in the next moment, it will be over. Pfft! Gone.

The Scriptures are rife with references to the fact that the Lord is the source of everything, everyone and every moment. For example, in First Chronicles we read: “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (1 Chr. 29:14). In First Corinthians, Paul speaks of “one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6). And James tells us: “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).

In my head I know this. I’ve known it for a long, long time. I happily acknowledge it. I’m grateful for it. So what is my problem?

Apparently, I’m a pretty willful person.

In his prayer Ignatius asked only for the Lord’s love and grace. That should be enough for me too. And in principle I’m good with that.

But give away my “entire will”?

I still swallow hard at the words. I’m working on it. But I’m not there yet.

So I guess I should ask for something else – forgiveness. Yes, I need that. And I’m asking for it too.

Lord, I ask only for your love and grace and forgiveness – oh, and for a little more patience, now that I think about it.

I’m not there yet. And frankly, I’m not seeing a lot of progress. But I am working on it.

With the Lord’s love and grace and patience, it could happen. I’m praying. I’m trying. I’m hopeful.

With the Lord’s love and grace and patience, it could happen.

And I’m mindful of Paul’s blessing, making it my own: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Learning to Lead Like Jesus, it seems, is a lifelong quest … and a gift, like all the rest.

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Owen Phelps

Dr. Owen Phelps is Director of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute and author of the book, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus: Introducing S3 Leadership — Servant, Steward, and Shepherd. He has presented Lead Like Jesus Encounters in Canada, Uganda and India, as well as all across the U.S.


He formerly served on the faculty of the College of Business & Management at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, and was a consultant on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Communications Committee for about a decade. He has served as a consultant to church organizations from Vermont to Texas. 


Dr. Phelps was an award-winning writer, columnist, editor and publisher with a multi-state publishing company before he began work in ministry. He has written several articles and contributed chapters to two books devoted to issues of faith-based organizational performance.


He and his wife Jane, a CPA, have been married for 49 years. They live in Durand, Illinois, and Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, and they have five grown children and 17 growing grandchildren.

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