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Break a Leg

Sometimes we must be broken before we are ready to change.

I heard an impactful homily this year from a priest that I greatly respect. He started by calling to mind the popular image of Jesus carrying a lamb on His shoulders. Usually, Jesus is smiling and the lamb looks peaceful and content. At a quick glance these images usually convey a sense of peaceful Fatherly love.

However, the priest said, the reality of that image is different and far more challenging. He said the full message would be understood by anyone who actually lives in semi-nomadic sheepherding culture.

It takes time for a young lamb to learn the voice of its shepherd. Often, a young sheep does not yet recognize or trust the shepherd’s call. It wanders. It goes its own way. It leaves the protection of flock and heads off alone.

For a young lamb, to be alone is not to be free, but to live at the mercy of wolves.

Most lambs will learn to stay with the community of their flock with just a few minor corrections and encouragements. Some however, are very stubborn. In these cases, a shepherd will occasionally do something that might sound shocking. He will break one of their legs. Once the leg is broken, the shepherd will bandage and splint the break with great care. He will then hoist the lamb upon his shoulders.

Now, while the wound is healing, the lamb will spend all of its days closer to the shepherd than ever before – closer than any of the other sheep in the flock. The lamb will hear his voice, share his food, and sleep on his blanket. The lamb will learn to trust and will change.

2020 has broken many legs.

Loved ones have faced illness or death. Businesses have been disrupted or employment lost. Relationships have been strained and may seem broken: at work, in communities, and perhaps even at home. None of us would have willingly chosen what this year has brought. However, there is cause for hope.

When we are broken, we are most likely to change.

When an organization is forcibly disrupted, new possibilities arise. Innovation has room to grow and accelerate. When a relationship with a client, collaborator, or friend faces dissolution, an opportunity for renewed understanding is within reach.

As leaders, we are all lambs. The places where we’ve been broken are the very places in which we are being called to grow.

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