In Job 32, we are introduced to a person named Elihu. To be honest, he just seems to appear out of nowhere. There is no mention of him for 31 chapters, yet when he begins to speak, it is clear that he had been present in the room to hear the lengthy dialogue between Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.
Shortly into Elihu's discourse, we receive an explanation as to why he chose to remain silent as each of them offered their perceptions about Job and his difficult circumstances. "Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he" [Job 31:4].
Elihu was the youngest one in the room. And perhaps, you may be, too.
After everyone had pontificated, (26 chapters worth, mind you), Elihu finally spoke. And while we do not know all that was percolating in his mind as he listened to the others, what he did say offers a glimpse into what was stirring in his heart.
"I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, 'Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.' But, it is the Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say; Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know. I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention..." [Job 32:6-9 NIV].
If that was not amazing enough, Elihu continues with a level of transparency that fascinates the introvert in me. "For I am full of words, and the Spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply" [v 18-20]. And then... he does.
In many ways, I wish I had come across this passage many years earlier in my leadership journey. There is so much wisdom, and more importantly, so much permission granted for young leaders to "lead as you are led." So, if you are a leader among leaders and you are the youngest one in the room, may I offer some words of counsel?
Be respectful. Honor the age, the wisdom, the experience, and the counsel of those who are older than you. They have seen more, experienced more, done more, and sacrificed more than you could possibly imagine... and here they are, staying at the table, still learning, still growing, and still faithfully seeking the heart of God.
Be attentive. Elihu waited and listened to their reasoning. And though the others may have struggled in finding their words or expressing their point, he still gave them his full attention. While the conversation in the room may go around the mountain more than once and down a couple of rabbit trails, stay present and actively engaged by listening because there is much wisdom to be gleaned. If you find yourself distracted by your thoughts, simply jot down a couple of short-phrased bullet points to get them out of your head so that you can focus on what is being said.
Be encouraged. The breath of the Lord Almighty is within your lungs and you do have understanding and you do have wisdom. You may be the youngest one in the room, but know that what is stirring in your rapidly beating heart may just be the Word of the Lord - the counsel that changes the trajectory of how your organization, your company, or even your church, moves forward in and through what they are facing.
Be courageous. That knot-in-your-stomach feeling is the battle between the Goliath of a childhood lie that screams, "you will never be enough, stupid" and the Mordecai-inspired empowering Truth that whispers, "you are here for such a time as this."
For years, I squelched my voice, listening to the cunning counsel of the father of lies, "Why would you ever open your mouth and speak up when you are surrounded by older, wiser, smarter, and seasoned leaders such as those around this table?" Ironically, I justified my silence in the most spiritual way possible... Scripture. "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues" [Proverbs 17:28]. In reality, I consistently allowed fear to squelch my courage... and my lack of courage to undermine my ability to make necessary decisions.
Be bold and speak up. When the time does come to speak... and it will, be kind, be gentle, be appreciative, be gracious, and be appropriately unapologetic. Breathe deeply, and say what is in your heart. But here's the thing, don't be a jerk about it.
Throughout his discourse, Elihu's focus is on the nature and the character of God, not on what Job or his cohorts were, or were not, doing. In many ways, he was not calling people out on their stuff as much as he was calling them up to their true identity [nod to Graham Cooke]. I find it interesting that at the end of the story, Elihu is the only one not rebuked by God.
My encouragement to you is this, amazing one. You are here for such a time as this... and you have permission to lead as you are led. You are called, appointed, anointed, skilled, gifted, and empowered. You CAN do this. No more apologizing, no more deferring, and no more justifying your silence.
And, beloved, lead with your own voice. You just may have to do it afraid. "And don't be intimidated by those who are older than you; simply be the example they need to see by being faithful and true in all that you do. Speak the truth and live a life of purity and authentic love as you remain strong in your faith" [1 Timothy 4:12].
Though you may be the youngest one in the room, you have what it takes. Why? Because the Spirit of God is upon you and the breath of the Lord Almighty is in your lungs. And as you lead, the Spirit of the Lord will rest on you... "the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, and the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord"... and you will "delight in the fear of the Lord" [Isaiah 11:2-3]. You, indeed, are more than you know.
And if I may communicate the Father's heart: I bless the Elihu in you... and I am so very proud of you.
If you are looking to deepen your roots as a leader, I encourage you to take 11 minutes and listen to this video exhortation called, An Invitation to a Deeper Place. May it refresh you in your leadership journey.
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